6 Poets in the Lake Effect Magazine

Lake Effect is a unpretentious but professionally-produced literary journal based at the Erie campus of Penn State University. Unusually, all staff but the editor-in-chief are undergraduates, and again unusually the poems are coherent, understated and generally successful. To judge from what is displayed on their website, the better pieces follow a common pattern: quiet observation, exact phrasing and an unexpected conclusion. There are no notes on the five contributors I have chosen to showcase here.Devotion by Lawrence Raab can be read here: http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume%2016/Devotion.htm . It starts by posing a question:

The fire’s out of control. On the wall
there’s a Rembrandt, and in your desk
a snapshot of your wife. Which
do you save? The Rembrandt, of course.

And then adds more dilemmas until we make the wrong decision, which allows a moral to be pointed, or rather none at all:

suggesting this story has no moral,
and no point, which is unfortunately
often the case with art today,
where lack of insight seems easily
confused with the world’s apparent
absence of purpose-a common error,

To end with the wry, tongue in cheek:

I’m afraid, of the very young,
who are so impatient, and thoughtless,
and beautiful, and impossible to save.

In Heat by Joan Colby at: http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume%2016/Heat.htm, a simple seasonal task:

Only June and we’re haying the horses,
Last year’s bales almost depleted. The first
Cutting weeks off, if ever. The sky
A flatiron, a whitish sheet
Threadbare with longing.

Picks up echoes of plagues to end in biblical proportions:

Small stingers
Abrade their long-lashed eyes. Sweatbees
Settle on our naked shoulders. The chorus of
Heat raises its ecclesiastical voice.

According to Freud again by Lawrence Raab is at: http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume12/Raab.html also has that matter-of-fact quietness, which passes from the quotidian:

there are no accidents,
though it could take years
of talk to figure out why.  Meanwhile,
your wife has left you.  She didn’t need
to be sure.  According to her,
there are only accidents-

To fate and then the Oedipus story:

It’s enough
to drive you crazy, and you feel like
tearing your eyes out all over again.

Back to Freud, the haphazard nature of life, which we blame of the gods:

as if behind the accidents of life
were the quarrels of gods. 

Though we shan’t know until we pass over to the shadow world:

And this,
according to Freud, reminds us
of something else, once familiar,
but now so far away
we have to die to get there.

Harry Humes’ A World Without Elephants at http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume11/Humes.html is ruminative and exactly observed:

This is where they used to stand
in the shadow of pigeon coop and maple,
their wrinkled skins and small sad eyes.
Sometimes they bugled, sometimes
let out bird whistles, or wept
when they heard the Methodist bells.

And then moves in a surrealist mood as the animals vanish from our memories:

They walked up the alley to the dump
with its rotten tomatoes, apples and pears,
careful not to step on the rats,
drinking black mine water at evening,
every day a little more of them missing,
half a tusk, part of a trunk,
gone the graceful ridges of backs,
and then only that warm place in air
where they used to live, and then
only the graveyard we never found.

Douglas Smith’s The Ceremony of Opening the Mouth can be read at: http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume8/Smith.html
It’s deceptively simple little piece that proceeds, line by line, as the opening indicates:

If God is
a sentence we read
by light,
and if the fall
of that light
spells our bodies
with fear,

To consider the body, its joy in parable, the vagaries of that language that disappears into absence, a river from an unknown source that ends in the mouth which must say something.

for nothing
completes a river,
nothing completes the body,
more than the collapse,
at last,
into something

Richard Jackson’s Desperate Note from Byron’s Palace in Lerici can be read here: http://pennstatebehrend.psu.edu/academic/hss/lakeeffect/issues/Volume10/Jackson.html It’s probably the most ambitious of the pieces, though starting quietly with leaves in the wind and thoughts conjured up:

In the blue wind the leaves begin to think they are birds.
This is when you lean your body against its sorrows.
First as a wave:
The truth is always there with its hidden reefs.
Your touch still hovers over the shore.
A mirror, and what is on the other side of the reflection:

Each wave is
a mirror that washes in a past we wanted hidden.
And then voices roosting the branches, shadows, echoes of someone loved, which are like the tree frogs: :
The tree frogs, after tonight’s
rain, fill the woods. They throw their voices
so predators can’t find them.

And then, very simply, these evocative thoughts are gathered into a pleasing and convincing observation:

The old truths are
falling from the branches. The old dreams wash up
on the shores of our souls. Sometimes I think
the soul is a shadow even gravity can’t touch,
and love is what passes in the mirror as we look away.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *