Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: February 2020

Here’s a short selection, from our own Felicity Sheehy, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this January. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Terrance Owens in Quarterly West, Catherine Pond in The Adroit Journal, Dilruba Ahmed in Waxwing, Despy Boutris in Palette Poetry, and Danusha Laméris in Rattle. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.


Refusing Grief

By Terrance Owens in Quarterly West


This is my apartment.
It is not a small box in the night sky
that I have mistaken for home.


This is a poem that coheres out of “memory’s luminous jars.” Slowly and strangely, the very things the poet refuses – “grief spilling its long shadows” or “the years beating down the doors” – come to occupy the body of his poem.  Note how the dead assert their presence in his most transcendent lines: the friend who, “dead for a decade now,” is “returning along the black banks / as if it were as simple/ as pulling the moon’s slow oars.” I love this haunting and haunted work.


Winter Sister

By Catherine Pond in The Adroit Journal


Somewhere what you love is still alive
turning cartwheels in a gentle snow

is the kind of lie I write years later,
wishing I could make it true for you.


I love this poem’s careful, chilly images. Pond has a gift for simile – “the lake falls back into itself/ like a first draft,” while “magnolias bloom / like ink blots in the yard” – and a sophisticated approach to grief. Like Terrance Owens, Pond is also interested in refusals: the “lie” she will “write years later,” or the mother whose comfort she’s “getting too old for.” The result is this stunning meditation, “clear,” “quiet,” and sad.


Vanishing Point

By Dilruba Ahmed in Waxwing


I see instead a fable

               sharpening into focus

about a giant lustrous fish

                                stretched into a life as large

              and as full as

its poisoned habitat would permit.


“Vanishing Point” is a poem interested in different kinds of vanishing: personal, textual, and ecological. In lines that “creep” and “sink” and “disappear from view,” Ahmed resists nostalgia’s “bleached version/ of snow globe sweetness,” instead recalling her childhood’s “paper mill” and “lead-heavy fumes.” There are real pleasures in this poem’s movement down the page, as it stretches and vanishes, like the fish it describes. It becomes, in Ahmed’s words, a kind of “fable.”


Psalm with Passing Train

By Despy Boutris in Palette Poetry


As the train passed, I imagined a child

looking out the window, out at the fields, thinking
that maybe we looked like something holy.


This is a psalm as much as it is a poem. I love how it moves down the page, in graceful couplets, like train tracks, or like two women in an embrace. Boutris attends to subtle, strange resonances: the “sweater falling off the cliff of [her] shoulder” echoes the “water leaking/ from some cow-trough,” while the “peaches from faraway farms” resurface in her “bare feet pulping the grass.” In each slim, elegant line, the poem finds “something holy.”


Twin Strangers

By Danusha Laméris in Rattle


…. Each grief seems so unique,
my losses mine, alone. And yet—O phantom sister,
mirror other—look how the world repeats
its pocketful of tricks: brow bone,
occipital, cupid’s bow.


This poem is a delight. I love its sense of humor, which slowly slips into pathos, as the speaker attempts to “forget/ life’s many terrible subtractions.” There are wonderful turns of phrase throughout: Laméris becomes “a connoisseur of countenances,” reading “every face” as an “alphabet arranged in its own language,” or another repetition of the world’s “pocketful of tricks.” These pleasures are amplified by Laméris’s own beautiful reading, available online.



Felicity Sheehy

Felicity Sheehy's work appears in The New Republic, The Yale Review, Narrative, The Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Southern Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. She has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, a scholarship to the Kenyon Review Writers' Workshop, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for U.K. residents under 30. In 2019, she was listed as one of Narrative's 30 below 30 writers.

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