Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: December 2019
Here’s a short selection, from our own Bailey Cohen, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this December. These six poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Ronnie Nocella in Glass Poetry, Katie Manning in Lunch Ticket, Jennifer Kronovet in The Spectacle, Anaïs Duplan in Virginia Quarterly Review, Rosebud Ben-Oni in Poetry Magazine, and Melissa Lozada-Oliva in Pigeon Pages. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
Predictive Text Poem #2
by Ronnie Nocella in Glass Poetry
then the death of me is the best part about it. Always good for a little more
time. Men are so funny and then they say it was a good thing. I am a nasty
person so I am always the way you feel.
I’m in awe of the emotional logic that governs this technology-founded poem, the way Ronnie Nocella moves between imagery effortlessly to create a stream-of-consciousness poem sourced from consciousless entity. Of their poem, the poet writes, “It’s exciting…to have a general idea of what words frequent my archive of vocabulary in everyday text conversations.” I’m so intrigued by this admission and what it suggests—in this poem, it is almost as if Nocella and their text generator are symbiotic, building each other until what results is some nonsensical honesty. Don’t miss their work!
by Katie Manning in Lunch Ticket
I almost see myself trip and shatter
us both on the stairs.
This is one of my favorite short poems I have read all year. Katie Manning wrestles with how much could happen in this poem, and how little actually does. The refrain of “I almost” is gasp-inducing, and speaks so well to the way anxieties can spiral into one another once manifested, how terrifying it is to exist and try your best. Read, read, please read this poem!
Peacock Island, Its Alchemist
by Jennifer Kronovet in The Spectacle
I’m often given
a place to leave—words glassy
in the wake of departure. And glass
is no ruby. Blood is no ruby,
no border. I believed this even
before I came to the mainland
where blood is everywhere
Every time I read this poem, I’m nevertheless unprepared for the stillness that flashes into existence by its ending. I shouldn’t be surprised—movement defines this poem. Each next sentence is unexpected but makes so much sense. I love the way the sentences are constructed, forming little moments of delight just by careful placement of commas or colons: “I have been given no island, and yet / I made a baby, another.” and “Oh! The architecture. Or: / Oh! That asshole.” are two particular favorites. This is one of two poems Kronovet has in The Spectacle—be sure to read them both!
Leah Gilliam, Sapphire and the Slave Girl, 1995, 18 mins. 20 secs.
by Anaïs Duplan in Virginia Quarterly Review
there are things that are facts because nothing
makes sense otherwise
One of five ekphrasis poems in the new VQR, the poet Anaïs Duplan pairs stills from films with his own original work in this stunning series of poetry. Reading this poem is a fascinatingly disorienting experience—sentences and trains of thought are abandoned without warning, and simple facts we can normally just accept to be true are promptly contradicted just to challenge the reader’s sense of comfort: “tidal networks of black people cross / the road / a Walgreens and pizzeria we / follow as they walk / time-marked / downtown area, early computers / Welcome to Chicago. // It could be New York, Detroit, Cleveland—.” Make sure you read all five of the ekphrasis poems—all of which are available online!
Poet Wrestling with Surface Tension
by Rosebud Ben-Oni in Poetry Magazine
Like it ever mattered which
side of a fence or war-
head to the last rhino
left, when he’s blessed with two armed
guards to protect him from everything
This is an incredibly gorgeous poem. Rosebud Ben-Oni’s series seems to never stop in its ascension, yet her work cycles and re-visits as it progresses. “Poet Wrestling with Surface Tension” weaves itself through simultaneous narratives, each metaphorizing the other—breath, family, and doom haunt this poem like a ghost attempting to comfort its witnesses after scaring them. Ben-Oni writes, “Is this how you’re found // amid the darkness? Is it enough? / Would you not exist if you lived // unseen? While my mother rises & falls into sky, / I repeat how humans have changed the destiny // of this planet.” I’m in awe of just how much is contained in this poem, how it somehow holds more than what is present on the page.
Untitled For Now
by Melissa Lozada-Oliva in Pigeon Pages
More days, more nights. My hair falls out at a usual rate. The dog I usually pet on my way to the deli starts barking at me. Inside of the library elevators, nobody knows who wants to get to the 11th floor. My students keep talking when I arrive. I cook food & it keeps missing my mouth. My cat looks out the window & makes a clicking sound. At the reading, I take a deep breath. I begin my poem.
In every Melissa Lozada-Oliva poem I read, I have trouble discerning whether or not I am overhearing a conversation between two intimate friends, or if I am the friend that is being intimately spoken to. I love what this poet does with confessionalism, how she moves between light-hearted, colloquial language until her readers don’t even realize the weight that accompanies her narrative: “I’m sitting next to them, the man & The Girl Who Looks Just Like Me But From Behind, for two hours. I find that I can’t turn to look at her face, which is fine because any acknowledgement from either of us would reveal all of the hours on the internet, a window of the rabbit hole the other went down. I am frozen in front of my things.” Love love love this prose 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.