D.A. Powell

Posted by on 18 09 14 in Criticism | 0 comments

Douglas A. Powell rose to prominence with three collections of poems that documented the gay scene in America and the death by AIDs of well-loved friends: Tea (1998), Lunch (2000) and Cocktails (2004). The style was one he made distinctly his own (and indeed won a clutch of prizes for): long fluid lines, untitled, no capitalization, extended metaphors, double-entendres and a vibrant mix of contemporary diction that included sexual explicitness and gay talk. Take darling can you kill me: with your mickeymouse pillows from Lunch {1} it’s quieter than most poems but is often singled out for special mention. darling can you kill me: with your mickeymouse pillows when I’m a meager man. with your exhaust pipe and hose could you put me out: when I’m a mite splinter a grain a tatter a snip a sliver a whit...

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Juliana Spahr

Posted by on 9 09 14 in Criticism | 2 comments

As the author of eight books of poetry, a volume of literary criticism, and several university posts, Juliana Spahr is one of the better known of contemporary American poets. Though the term ‘political’ is applied rather vaguely -anything from being concerned with politics to being a feminist activist – a deep interest in language, sociological and ecology issues is evident in her poems, which above all aim to be accessible:  ‘communal, democratic, and open process’. {1-3} I look at poems published in the Things of Each Possible Relation Hashing Against One Another (2003), {5} and This Connection of Everyone with Lungs (2005), {6-8} which illustrate these themes. Representative poems can be read on the Internet, and are discussed in Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell’s survey of American poetry. {9} Spahr’s open style is probably best introduced by looking at...

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Susan Wheeler’s The Debtor in the Convex Mirror

Posted by on 3 09 14 in Criticism | 0 comments

Susan Wheeler: The Debtor in the Convex Mirror.

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6 Poets in Subtropics

Posted by on 27 08 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

Subtropics is published twice year by Subtropics, Department of English at the University of Florida. It’s the official literary magazine of the University of Florida, and, though only founded in 2006, has published both notable writers and poems  selected for Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. All the pieces I’ve selected are straightforward, refreshingly original and reasonably successful. The first is Diane Schenker’s Epithalamium, which can be read here: http://www.english.ufl.edu/subtropics/Schenker_poem.html Epithalmium means ‘at the bridal chamber’,  i.e. wedding song, of course, but here the second half the word is taken to be ‘thamalus’, i.e. a part of the brain or the receptacle of a flower. The poem starts: Heap round the inner chamber with sweet- Smelling flowers, lay out wine and delectables, Fresh sets of sheets. Blow horns! Welcome the two ovoid masses That the sensory stimuli...

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storySouth

Posted by on 21 08 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

storySouth is a quarterly online literary magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, criticism and essays. It was founded in 2001, and today enjoys around a thousand page views per day.

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4 Poets from The Stepaway Magazine

Posted by on 7 08 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

The StepAway Magazine is an online literary journal that publishes work reminiscent of Frank O’Hara’s flâneur poems from writers around the world – i.e. immediate, conversational pieces which, as the website puts it: ‘evokes the sensory experience of walking in specific neighborhoods, districts or zones within a city. This is flânerie for the twenty-first century.’ The aim is to ‘become an online repository of walking narratives . .  . in one thousand words or less.’ I have chosen four pieces, the best that I can find of the genre, though they’re not wholly successful. The problem, as I see it, is that we look for significance in description: the detached ‘innocent eye’ soon becomes rather boring.  The places have to mean something to us, through literary or historical associations, because they are germane to a story involving characters we...

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7 Poets in the River Styx Literary Magazine

Posted by on 2 08 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

River Styx originated in St. Louis poetry readings, but the journal of what is now a not-for-profit organization came later, in 1975, though the journal stayed much associated with readings and music thereafter. The website offers samples of work published in the print journal, and these make a welcome change from the norm: original, unfashionable and often witty pieces. River Styx has also been rather successful, publishing many names who went on to become household names on the poetry scene, with poems that subsequently appeared in The Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, New Stories from the South, and Pushcart Prize anthologies. It sponsors two competitions a year for poetry and microfiction. I feature work here that exhibits a good vein of humour – lacking in many professional journals – but would add that it’s also a rather knock-about...

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4 Poets in Quarterly West

Posted by on 17 07 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

Quarterly West is a literary journal published by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The journal was founded in 1976 but has been exclusively an online publication from 2011. The website is attractively designed, and the online poems are often refreshingly different. I start with Saeed Jones’ Scheherazade Sleeps Through the Executions, which be read at: http://quarterlywest.utah.edu/iss_76/iss_76_scheherazadesleepsthroughtheexecutions.html. Saeed Jones has published widely and was a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. The poem is too short to quote much from, but captures attention immediately: There are so many rooms inside her & just as many locked doors, but sometimes when the silence snaps shut, she hears the soft thud. And that ends the immediately comprehensible section. Scheherazade continues to absorb the falling bodies which are arriving: inside her, gagged & hooded, but she wakes a little heavier each morning,...

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Bilingual Concerns: Poetry Kanto

Posted by on 5 07 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

Poetry Kanto is an English and Japanese bilingual poetry journal (print and webpage) that features translations of classic Japanese poets, modern and contemporary Japanese poetry in English translation, and also English poetry from around the world.

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4 Poets in Prairie Schooner

Posted by on 25 06 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

Prairie Schooner, first published in 1926, is a literary journal issued quarterly at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. It publishes writers from across the States, and indeed the world, which makes it difficult to understand why, in recent years, so much of its poetry has descended to well-meaning amateurism. Readers who disagree may do their own reading, of course, but I review here a few poems that seem a little better. Making Lunch (http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/?q=excerpt/making-lunch) is a simple descriptive piece by Joseph Millar where the author, looking out on a bleak winter scene, conjures up the warm Mediterranean world inherent in what he’s eating: I spread out the mustard like a gold map over the slabs of rye Then follows (I summarize to avoid infringing copyright) mozzarella, tomatoes, grapes and olives, and a sunlit countryside: where children run barefoot chasing...

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5 Poets in the Poetry Review

Posted by on 16 06 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

The Poetry Review is the journal of the Poetry Society, the representative of the poetry establishment in England. The Society was founded in 1909 and today has nearly 4,000 members worldwide. Like all such charitable organizations, the Society is much involved in education, readings, competitions, and of course the promotion of poets and poetry in England. The Review is published in paper form quarterly, and the website also provides free pdf downloads of a small number of the featured poems, from which I have made these selections. The printed journal no doubt gives their authors’ biographies and credits. As far one can tell from the selections, PR poems are accomplished, undemonstrative and carefully crafted in a free verse fashion. That conservatism is not necessarily a criticism: indeed what’s praiseworthy is the ‘honesty’ of the pieces, their reluctance to gain more...

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Poetry Ireland

Posted by on 9 06 14 in Poetry | 0 comments

Poetry Ireland is one of those increasingly rare things, a magazine with a distinctive local voice, where the richness of language and an exuberant delight in literary echoes could have hardly come from anywhere else.  With that identity comes limitations, of course. So similar are the poems by the 16 contributors to Issue 30 – discursive, depicting with almost eidetic precision what the eye takes in of the contemporary Irish scene – that they could all emanate from the same pen. Poetry Ireland is dedicated to serving poetry throughout Ireland, and sponsors publications, readings, education and poetry. The poems published on the website today tend to be somewhat discursive, but not prosy: the lines have individual shape and employ a diction rich with literary echoes. When poems fail, the common reasons are language whose exuberance serves no end beyond...

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