Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: December 2018
Here’s a short selection of some of the best new poems hitting the web this December. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support, featuring work from POETRY, Foundry Journal, Rust + Moth, The Rumpus, and Lunch Ticket. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets are making our community beautiful.
by Hieu Minh Nguyen in POETRY
a Stentor from Carl Magee’s locker
& tried to set myself straight
by becoming a violinist,
but of course, the noise complaints,
the neighbors banging the portraits
off the walls, the boys talking shit,
calling me prodigy, fancy chink —
& I wonder if they’re still having
a good laugh
This poem is a slowly moving snake, and sunlight glistens off of its scales. The entirety of it held confidently in a single sentence, Hieu Minh Nguyen brings an often-forgotten aspect of identity to the forefront: we are just as much shaped by the things we aren’t as by the things that we aspire to be. “Of All the Things” provides a masterclass in breath, of pacing and the enjambment, of memory and of knowing—a vast human history, Venn diagrammed into a poem. Newly crowned as a 2018 Ruth Lily and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, Nguyen has established himself as one of the major voices in the contemporary poetry world.
by A.R. Zarif in Foundry Journal
could you imagine?
how good it will be to have died so long ago and feel like ourselves again.
A.R. Zarif asks the readers to float. Together with the speaker, we drift through the memory of the narrator and their lost loved one, and each smallest vignette offers a brief piece of small talk, subtly weighed for their more grandeur, philosophical implications and emotional ache. Zarif writes, “in 500,000 the Badlands will / flatten “like peaches in the bottom of the bag.”” We are able to understand grief this way: as something strange, unfamiliar, unavoidable, and true.
by Emily Paige Wilson in Rust + Moth
I want to know more about the ghost: how blue her face;
which room she haunts the longest; is her dress
made of willow or lace?
With ghazal-like rhythm, poet Emily Paige Wilson finds longing in the intimacy of grieving. However, the strangeness in Wilson’s imagery, and her fascination with language-as-sound pushes the poem’s momentum as much as the refrain. She writes, “Death was such a sensory experience: spittle that smelled / of sage; skin that sagged like a translator’s second speech,” and we understand the level of care given to the crafting of the poem, a confessional that we have stumbled upon, a private conversation between the narrator and the narrator’s memory, made into something we are allowed to witness.
by Roy G. Guzmán in The Rumpus
Everywhere in Latin America: robe-engulfed children.
We are told our angels are not worth grieving
This poem is an epic blending of form and genre. Roy Guzmán hasn’t written a prayer—they’ve written an entire mass. We see a metaphor exists in form as well as meaning, as they write with centos, borrowing lines from other poets, echoing the poem’s fascination with lineage, heritage, and tradition. How are we to respond to a corrupted morality? How do we help those who suffered heal? With every sentence, the reader asks what the poem sets out to achieve: a questioning. What parts of this story are being told? Which stories are being left out?
by Dalton Day in Lunch Ticket
I’m dancing in the kitchen I’m making a meal
for a person I love a song is playing & what a song it is
Oh I wouldn’t mind being here for a long time
Dalton Day is a master at uncovering feeling with the gentlest of language. The tenderness of their lines is almost surprising, and this poem is no different. The poet light-heartedly jabs at its own narrator, “(eye-roll upon eye-roll),” before offering brief moments of confessional beauty: “Glory be what makes us love the ground / as much as what floats above it.” The poem is one of loss, of reckoning, and eventually, gratitude. Through Dalton Day, readers might learn how to access the kinder, softer parts of themselves.
Bailey Cohen is an Ecuadorian-American poet studying at NYU. A finalist for the 2018 Boulevard Contest for Emerging Poets, the runner-up for the 2018 RR Laux / Millar Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net nominee, he serves as the editor of Alegrarse: A Journal of Close-Readings and as a contributing writer for Frontier Poetry. Bailey's work has been published or is forthcoming in Boulevard, Raleigh Review, The Penn Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Shallow Ends, Boiler Journal and more. He loves everyone Latinx.