Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: August 2019
Here’s a short selection, from our own Bailey Cohen, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this August. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Emilia Phillips in Adroit Journal, Lily Starr in Muzzle Magazine, Camonghne Felix in Wildness, Heather Christle in Granta, and Anthony Cody in CTRLV Journal. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
Poem About Death Beginning With A Humblebrag And Ending With A Shower Beer
by Emilia Phillips in Adroit Journal
Once, when we were
together, Death forgot my birthday. I had
to plan the party and smear the cake with buttercream myself, but Death took all
the credit. He was often like that. A man
of consequence, some would say.
With lyric language, extended metaphor, and sharp enjambments, poet Emilia Phillips contrasts the casual proficiency needed to go about one’s day with the gravity that grief doubles onto one’s shoulders. This is a captivating technique. Death is personified, and the imagery surrounding him is innocent, and at times even feeble: “I remembered then what it was // like to be kissed by Death–his tongue like an old, limp carrot left too long / in the crisper drawer.” This work is full of wit and weighing, and the juxtaposition created by the imagery and tone of the poem lead me to wonder again and again about the poem’s closing image of inhaling in the steam. Read this work!
My Mother Voted for Donald Trump
by Lily Starr in Muzzle Magazine
but I still love her my mother is not a feminist but I still love her my mother
trims nineteen horses’ feet in July sun and I still love her my mother says my legs
could be so shapely I love her
What is immediately noticeable about this poem is its repetition, the way punctuation is abandoned for blank space and anaphora. By refraining “I love her,” the poet Lily Starr captures a certain unbridled determination that fits the subject of the poem–the labor that comes with loving an ideologically oppositional family member–exceptionally well. She then disrupts her own rhythm by using blank space to suspend her reader, “she tells me // not to let my father see her like this I love / her he already has my mother loves her father // even though he’s an asshole I love her she / brings him crab cakes // despite his gout I love her,” in tandem with the repetition in a way that is as surprising as the kindness at the center of this poem. I am grateful to witness this negotiating work.
Lost Poem 4: Rx
by Camonghne Felix in Wildness
I can save my own life just as easily
as I can pervert compounds of
ripe silence with just a mouth–
drown it out of its own sound.
A poem in praise of persistence, Camonghne Felix’s work in the latest issue of Wildness is smart, determined, and indignant. This is why this short poem leaves so much hanging on its closing image, the body being made of jewels. At first an image I associated with uncovering and beauty, this metaphor also carries with it discomfort, a feeling Felix alludes to as “the talented / tenth of disassociation.” The tone is clever, indifferent, and empowering, all the while despite the seriousness of the narrator’s mental illness. After reading this work, I feel invited to sit.
The Running of Several Simulations at Once May Lead to Murky Data
by Heather Christle in Granta
As a child
I visited one model village
so extensively constructed I fell
into a state of complete wonder–
‘They thought of everything!’
even the person running late
for the train, and the window
left slightly open to the storm–
In this poem, Heather Christle confronts the disorientation that the possibilities of the digital age provide. As it becomes increasingly more evident that we are living inside of a simulation, Christle remembers the simplicity that comes with physical model train sets, how immaculate their designs were, and then abandons that narrative immediately for the complexity and terror promised by infinite digital simulacrum, making the former seem primitive in spite of its beauty. This is one of two remarkable poems Christle has in the issue–be sure to read them both!
A Passport Photo Asks Me…
by Anthony Cody in CTRLV Journal
here it is dark
(Please note: CTRLV Journal is an online journal of collages. It is best viewed on desktop, due to the setup of the website, which features the issue in a similar manner to that of a magazine, with digital pages, as opposed to the traditional scroll-through / link-via-table-of-contents format. The excerpted collage is one of two works in the issue by Anthony Cody, who is the penultimate contributor in the issue.)
It’s hard to not call this a poem. The form matches beautifully with the work’s anti-colonial rhetoric. With connecting lines that imitate a sentence diagram, clauses of the poem’s title are connected to picture frames, which sometimes are composed of literal images and at others are made by little verbal photographs. Cody writes, “a sunrise // in the shadow / or a child // birth // itself // from // the inside of a joshua tree // and // this does not // mean it is not possible,” relying on shape, emotion, and context to fill in gaps of meaning. This is exceptionally fascinating and engaging work!
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.