Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: June 2019
Here’s a short selection, from our own Bailey Cohen, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this June. These six poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Stephanie Rogers in The Rupture, Bradley Trumpfheller in Poetry Magazine, Kelsey Nuttall in [PANK], Nicholas Russell in The Shallow Ends, Rachel Zucker in American Poetry Review, and Lauren Yarnall in Waxwing. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
by Stephanie Rogers in The Rupture
My father jokes,
as always, because it’s funny,
to him, that Heather, age 6, forgot
her Big Wheel at a friend’s house. The storm eats the face
off a mailbox.
I am fascinated by this poem because of how well it uses language to implicate. Real, physical, natural disaster is placed in juxtaposition with a devoid of undeniable evidence for tragedy. Nevertheless, Stephanie Rogers crafts a haunting poem. The repetition of Heather’s age, among other refrains, is evocative and eerie to say the least, and the language used to personify the violence of the storm is convincingly (in)humane. This is a poem that demands its readers grow comfortable in the dissatisfaction of a resolution-less narrative—a technique so difficult to pull off, but one that Stephanie Rogers manages decisively.
by Bradley Trumpfheller in Poetry Magazine
Pardon me, dandelions,
have you seen my ghost, six foot nothing,
has an interstate for a mother but also a mother? Adjust
your spurs, honeybunch. This time I’m writing all of us
in pink ink.
This poem is a delightful reclamation of queerness, exploring, as so many of Bradley Trumpfheller’s poems do, the capabilities of the English language. With precise enjambments, their vivid imagery turns and delights: “That man doing cartwheels is not wearing a shirt / & in any other life I’d want to be the double dare / fanfaring a future so totally astonished / by his nipples. This is what I mean // when I say things like catastrophe.” The tone of this work manages to be somehow as approachable as it is intimate as it is wise; I trust whatever world Trumpfheller is reimagining.
by Kelsey Nuttall in [PANK]
that we baby our bodies to make sacrifice
more dramatic. Rules: eat just seeds. I
make my own salad—chia, and poppy and
sesame (even though they’re not as healthy).
Shower rarely. Marinate in yourself. (Greasy
skin always has the best flavor.) Eat of it.
Beo (I can call him that) identifies as a super-
human, and I identify as a pseudo-human.
What drew me to this poem was its voice, how charmingly indifferent the narrator seemed, using a light-hearted tone to draw attention to moments of authenticity and honesty. Kelsey Nuttall writes: “Really it’s the same old, / same old. God is the Devil. Grendel / is my brother-in-law. Hating yourself // is selfish. I guess we just can’t win.” Despite this bleakness, the poem maintains its interest in possibility, ending with the togetherness the beginning of the poem sought. This is clever, captivating work.
by Nicholas Russell in The Shallow Ends
So salt presses through the skin,
ossifies, seasons, sterilizes until it is doused with fire.
So we come to press our hands on the glass
and we press to break.
Nicholas Russell wields the sentence like a sword, beautiful moments of consonance fluttering in each line. The paralleled nature of each, in that many of the sentences begin with the word “So,” provides pleasant structure, both sonically and rhythmically. However, the word also has a narrative purpose—all information contained in the sentence is then an effect, something that has already been completed, that has had exactly as many endings as it has had beginnings. The marker at the beginning of the poem, dedicating the work to the untreated men of Tuskegee, provides devastating context to this technique. This is an exceptional poem.
by Rachel Zucker in American Poetry Review
There is nothing surprising except everything you are feeling.
After reading this poem, I thought first of how, in a podcast, the poet Rachel Zucker says something along the lines of, “I love the long poem for how it allows me space to change my mind.” “Death Project” is a masterful demonstration of the long poem’s ability to navigate. Zucker takes us through the dilemma of a maternal figure asked by a boy about death, but does so using a multitude of different techniques, each in their own way somewhat related to the idea of free-indirect discourse; the narrator of this long poem dangles both within and above the narrative. The poem interjects itself with questions of how humans react in the proximity of death, both physically and emotionally, going so far as to acknowledge its own existence: “The inclusion of this information helps you navigate the aboutness of this poem, maybe the whyness. It is a transmission from the poet, a kind of de/composition. The poet is not the you, is no I either… which is the poem? which is the poet? / how does anything get inside anything else? anyone? how do you get it out?” Zucker uses the long poem as a vehicle to travel through a vast unknowing, mirrored in her title with the word “Project”—a thing that is ongoing. This poem is an incredible achievement.
by Lauren Yarnall in Waxwing
and when I’m about to gag, I think of England
and gag anyway, because that’s what you like¾
because in a lot of ways, you’d like to watch
my head explode like a slow-motion watermelon
dropped from someplace very high//
In “Mouth Full of White Flags,” poet Lauren Yarnall brilliantly, carefully, and urgently explores the relationship between objectification, violence, and empowerment, relating all of this back to the narrator’s own sexuality. Yarnall acknowledges a truth of female sexuality, interrupting imagery of pleasure with that of terror: “But you’d also like for me to swallow the thing / like the moth larva from the bottom / of a bottle of Mezcal / never give it back // Wake up. There’s a rapist on the loose. / Pushed a woman into her apartment as she unlocked it.” The final leap this poem makes is disturbing and energizing all at once—this is a great poem.
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.