Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: July 2019

Here’s a short selection, from our own Bailey Cohen, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this July. These six poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Aria Aber in The Shallow Ends, Zeina Hashem Beck in TriQuarterly Magazine, Porsha Olayiwola in Redivider, C.T. Salazar in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Aeon Ginsberg in Peach Magazine. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.


The Ceremony

by Aria Aber in The Shallow Ends


Again, I lay at God’s feet like a heap
of tropical wilt. Begged a beginning, or a spectacular
end. I wanted to be a gnat-thin thing or at least
not Muslim: God came as a forest,
pregnant with steel, growing her droning fury—
between my eyebrows
an apology itched, still and absolute.


It is easy and delightful to lose yourself in the beauty of this poem. Aria Aber’s sentences twist and turn, they sing, then whisper. What results is a thorough, clear re-evaluation and re-establishment of identity, a kind of bildungsroman that moves away from insecurity and doubt to ownership and self-realization. Faith is intertwined with the fantastical, a learned dedication and question from the poet, as Aria Aber asks: “Was all I touched a diety?” A gorgeous, current-filled poem.


Ode to Babel

by Zeina Hashem Beck in TriQuarterly Magazine


Perhaps we only understand the dialects of rain.
What beauty? Add water to any landscape.
I don’t love my body. I eat when I thirst,
& I can’t decipher my handwriting. 


One of my favorite things about works in translation are the slips, the moments in which a word or phrase misaligns or misdirects with its supposed equivalent. As someone who does not read or speak Arabic, upon reading this poem a second time, I took the time to open an adjacent tab, to turn on the “Detect Language” feature and translate the right aligned portion of Zeina Hashem Beck’s poem into words that I could understand. I’ll confess that I’d been gullible/ignorant/English-centralized enough to assume, upon my first reading, that the right aligned side was simply a direct translation of the left, but I was fascinated and thrilled to discover the poet negotiating with the idea of translation, experimenting with the slip. Some lines directly translate, forming repetition, others mirror a concept, share an understanding, but most often, the narrative of the poem pivots back and forth, right to left. The poem’s title too references Babel, and at this point it becomes clear that Beck has written a multilingual masterpiece, two poems merging into one, designed for the Arabic/English bilingual reader. At the same time, there is a certain joy and deliberateness in the brief seconds of unknowing, uncovering Beck’s words, like jewels.


Twerk Villanelle

by Porsha Olayiwola in Redivider


she in tune. breath in. breasts hang. hips freshen.
           she slow-wine. pulse waistline to a beat bled
for her, un-guilt the knees for the session.
fair form of vertebrae- backbone blessing,
           her pop-in innate. her pop-out self-bred,
head locked into her holied procession.


This slaps. Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola’s “Twerk Villanelle” is a flawless combination of subject, technique, and form. Even repeated silently in my head, the poem feels danceable, between the rhymes that comprise the villanelle form and the short, rhythmic bursts Olayiwola’s punctuated sentences and sharp enjambments provide. This poem is like a catchy song stuck in your head—it asks to be read and re-read and re-read.


American Cavewall Sonnet

by C.T. Salazar in Tinderbox Poetry Journal

                        I said no, because you asked
if prayer worked. A hammer works. A man
is work to a mushroom no matter what
he’s buried with¾

This poem disorients, and C.T. Salazar knows it. He writes, “the sunflower field was so dazzling / I missed the funeral,” and we can only trust a narrative made up of images by believing the poem presents them in the correct order. Despite this, the poem retains its complexity in thought. Violence begets mercy; forgiveness, memory. I want to think about this poem, about what it has to teach me.


Intramuscular Cyborg #1

by Aeon Ginsberg in Peach Magazine


                                                Unpack this. My therapist
doesn’t like when I refer to injecting hormones as
“shooting up” but there isn’t another way to describe

  1. It feels criminal to become yourself. 


After reading this poem, I became interested in the metaphor of binary code. Yes, there are only two options, 0 and 1, yet both of these two things together can create any entirely new thing, to our eyes, when we see the result of the code, it is something thoroughly complex and deliberate. It’s a perfect choice for the poet Aeon Ginsburg to use in their poem, “Intramuscular Cyborg #1,” which was selected by Dorothea Lasky for the 2019 Peach Bronze in Poetry. The poem shifts and grapples, it contemplates, rejects, and begins again. Responding to the threat that a binary proposes, Ginsburg writes ” I actually am not more or less the sum of my parts, so I make additions.” This is an inventive, engaging poem.

Bailey Cohen

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.

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