Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: April 2020
Here’s a short selection, from our own Felicity Sheehy, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this April. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: Colby Cotton in Bennington Review, Joy Priest in Virginia Quarterly Review, Carlie Hoffman in Gulf Coast, Ariel Francisco in The Rumpus, and Simon Armitage in The New Statesman. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
By Colby Cotton in Bennington Review
How many nights I’ve seen You in the machinery
of a dog, tracking the scent
of squirrels through the pines. How many
nights I’ve felt the clicking die
in the mind of a mouse, and blanketed in frost—
This poem staggers down the page in dream-like enjambments. Cotton’s imagination is at once mechanical – “the machinery/ of a dog”, the “clicking” “mind of a mouse” – and spectral: the poet “ebb[s] out,” a “figureless” “ghost.” Throughout, adjectives intensify and tighten the language: “bright,” “dry-mouthed,” “figureless.” The poem is one in a series of excellent poems called “Devotional,” which imagine elegy as a kind of possession, and which test the slippery boundary between the lyric I and you.
By Joy Priest in Virginia Quarterly Review
Can’t go home, so, I disrobe in a stranger’s yard,
wash the batter away with a garden hose, then ride
the night bus like a carousel.
“Pegasus” is a poem that slowly takes flight. In three-line stanzas, Priest builds from a bakery to a “night bus” to a “long field” lit by “synced lightning bugs.” The poem pays wonderful attention to light, punctuated, like the field it describes, with “brief flashes:” the night bus is “like a carousel” or a “moving room // of mirrors,” full of “stilled blue bolts streaking the dark,” while a “coat” glimpses “black as flight.” I love this lyrical, tensile work.
By Carlie Hoffman in Gulf Coast
Out the car’s back window
summer threw its mango syntax
through the trees.
This slim, smart little poem thinks about the relationship between language and the world. Here, rabbits become letters, “standing in for X’s and O’s,” while a boy, “ridden with rhetorical questions,” “become[s] / the metaphor [he] could not say.” There are moments of startling beauty throughout: the rabbits “[live] / fully inside their bodies,” and summer throws “its mango syntax/ through the trees.” Like its rabbits, this poem also “[lives] / fully inside [its] [body]”: “sleek” and “muscular” and strange.
By Ariel Francisco in The Rumpus
A series of police
cars zip by sirenless, lights soaking
the bar, briefly. I don’t wonder where
I love this little portrait of loneliness, which works through odd moments of unexpected connection. The bartender is the poet’s “kinda guy,” who “fake smiles” and sips a whiskey, but who “gets him,” despite his determined aloneness. Francisco has a gift for beautiful, transformative verbs: here, police cars “zip by,” lights “soak” the bar, and “the minutes lean heavy towards/ midnight.” It amounts to a quick delight of a poem: funny, dark, and sad.
By Simon Armitage in The New Statesman
Here he is in the dream, gilt-framed, a gent
in her late husband’s best brown suit,
the loyal schnauzer gazing up at his eyes.
And here’s the true him tramping the verge,
frayed collar and cuffs, brambles for hair,
the toes of his boots mouthing like grounded fish.
I loved this poem in The New Statesman. In neat couplets, Armitage tries the disparity between dream and reality: between the “gilt-framed” life and the real self “tramping the verge” with a “frayed collar and cuffs, brambles for hair.” There are stunning phrasings throughout: note this “dogsbody life” or “the toes of his boots mouthing like grounded fish.” This is poignant, masterful work.
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.