Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: October 2019
Here’s a short selection, from our own Bailey Cohen, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this September. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Amy Dryansky in Waxwing, Danielle Rose in Pidgeonholes, Marisa Crane in Cotton Xenomorph, Shaina Clingempeel in The Rupture, and torrin a. greathouse in Poetry. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
by Amy Dryansky in Waxwing
Therefore, learn to ignore. To abhor. Rhyme
when nothing else will do. Know that sound is a barrier
you punch through. On the other side is what? That cave
where the first people painted their dreams? We called them
something. We made them nothing.
It’s difficult to define what exactly happens in this gorgeous poem by Amy Dryansky. The imagery is at once disorienting and domestic; it is as if the poem is fighting against stillness while also struggling to remain still. Dryansky writes, “What’s left is a box of toy soldiers, / like the ones my friend methodically cut the guns from, // so her son wouldn’t know people shoot people. Wouldn’t want / to shoot. It didn’t work. He made a gun from his finger, // scrap of wood, half-eaten buttered toast.” The poem’s ending faces a similar kind of resignation: it is both an admission of defeat and a desire for more. This is a captivating poem!
by Danielle Rose in Pidgeonholes
because this is a long journey / it is something like orpheus a vertical transformation / but i could not pretend to cultivate myself like a garden / this body is something i am forced to touch when i suddenly grasp for love in the middle of the night
Poet Danielle Rose grapples with the space between acceptance of the body and love of the body, drawing attention to an often-ignored distinction. Growth is not a destination, but a practice, “beauty does not escape & become a silent parking lot / in an emergency it cannot be trusted to shuffle quickly toward the nearest exit.” The distinction in this excerpt is an important one. It highlights the synergy between body and mind that so many cis people presuppose and take for granted. I’m in awe of this important work!
by Marisa Crane in Cotton Xenomorph
Here I am, / drinking / bourbon again, my regrets
souring in my / belly / like my mother’s help gone bad.
I’m tempted to describe this poem as a kind of inverted diptych. Marisa Crane has written a poem which takes the form of something I have never seen before: two stanzas contained in separate sides of a venn diagram, the space between serving as the two’s shared language. This is a remarkable accomplishment; the form interrogates the poem, how experience and memory can be conflated at once.
by Shaina Clingempeel in The Rupture
& I crumble back into the napkin sketch
In his coat pocket, cradling a salt sack
That is still spilling into the navy dark.
This short poem by poet Shaina Clingempeel balances its simplicity with its haunting. I’m thinking about the way form follows content, how formal and contained this poem appears, with its evenly-sized couplets and capitalized letters of each first line. This is mirrored in the poem’s narrative, the image of the Morton Salt Girl being controlled and re-shaped by an unnamed “he.” The ending then breaks this tradition, as the poem dissolves into alternating repetitions of the same two words. I’m fascinated by this carefully-crafted work!
by torrin a. greathouse in Poetry
Sometimes I pronounce aubade: obeyed
for the way this particular desire stumbles
There are moments of good writing in which language is manipulated so expertly and cleverly that upon reading it, I laugh to myself, stunned and at a loss for words. The opening of this poem by Palette Poetry Prize winner torrin a. greathouse is one of those moments. In this gorgeously written and inquisitive work, she analyzes different modes of confinement, how something changes with and without permission. She looks at the linguistics of punishment; the result is memorable and gorgeous imagery: “Language // shifts an image like the light. To lash can mean / both beat & bind. I’m lashed against the bed / by dawn’s red blaze.” We are so lucky to be witnessing torrin’s ascent in contemporary poetry.
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.