Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: January 2019
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 Lauren Camp, Emily Lawson, John Murillo, Chelsea Bayouth, and Spencer Williams. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets are making our community beautiful.
by Lauren Camp in DIAGRAM
Have you seen
how a dried bud moves in invisible wind,
or the pliant and clasping, a beginning
of sunlight, the milk and honey
of sand drifts, the constellation of conscious
and unconscious anticipations, plants
and days? I would learn later it was everything
In “Evidence of Tenderness,” poet Lauren Camp beautifully catalogs wonder. She weaves the magical into the natural, with turns of phrases that are as surprising as they are thought-provoking. In this poem, an ocean gallops, a hawk wings misfortune, and not everyone sees heaven. The narrator inserts themselves into the poem with deeply confessional language, yet still grasps the same obscurity that has crafted into the tone of the poem so honestly. Camp doesn’t just write, “I want from life only the beginning / of the familiar. The gift and the burden,” she teaches us how to be both.
by Emily Lawson in THRUSH
So silver gelatin swells, so the stain
develops. Why shoot this creature’s head,
its sun-bleached horns?
This delightfully brief poem is a prompt in itself: how to take the vocabulary and practice of a certain discipline and, using the poetic form, its enjambments, its strange language, implicate an entirely new thing. The poet Emily Lawson takes only the space they need, playing with sound, packing together a wild array of startling combinations of words into a perfectly rectangular shape, reminiscent of a portrait, which, other than the title of the poem, is the only thing that would remind the reader that this poem, still, is about photography—something that I had to reassure myself of during multiple readings. I’m in awe of this poem’s technique, its brevity, its light.
by John Murillo in American Poetry Review
It ain’t enough to rabble rouse. To run
off at the mouth. To speechify and sing.
Just ain’t enough to preach it, Poet, kin
to kin, pulpit to choir, as if song
were anything like Panther work. It ain’t.
An epic poem, a sonnet sequence, an elegy, a quote-based ekphrastic. It is hard to focus on just one of the many crafts poet John Murillo weaves into his masterful work in the latest APR, but we do understand the obsession with a single moment. The poem is such a wise consideration of history, not looking at isolated incidents, but considering the whole of an occurrence all at once. Each sonnet, prefaced by a quote from a Black writer, serpentines in and out of Ishmael Brinsley’s actions, his violence, his suicide, but also in and out of a simultaneous event—poets, in a wholly different borough of New York City, gathered in Washington Square Park to read poems protesting police violence. Murillo holds both of these in the palms of his hands, then gently tilts them so that they tumble into each other.
by Chelsea Bayouth in BOAAT
I always assumed Mama and I would
raise the baby.
I’d move back home
swollen and broken
and she and I would tend to
the pregnancy like village women.
Poets have been writing about mortality since the beginning of the poem, yet it still never fails to catch a breath when one great poet holds life so carefully and inquisitively in the palm of their hands. Chelsea Bayouth is one such poet. Her latest work in BOAAT makes use of short, quick enjambments and delicate and simple language, suggesting a series of events only to the point that they can be understood, stretching not even a toe past this line. The poet guilts, they mourn, they grieve, and they long, but still they know that the past cannot be changed—but this poem does not seek to change the past. It seeks to understand it.
by Spencer Williams in ANMLY
I think about this
our mother’s womb
the fleshy core
of pan de muerto.
This is a poem that knows how it wants to be read. Spencer Williams moves through dreams and biology, exploring both the complexities and simplicities of gender, daughterhood, and belonging. She scatters the poem throughout the page, each portion separated by dots that are easily ignorable because of their smallness in reference to the poem’s sporadic spacing. In this poem, Williams transforms the body into an offering, and we see that the poet is prepared and inside of it.
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.