Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: May 2020
Here’s a short selection, from our own Felicity Sheehy, of some of the best new poems hitting the web this May. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from: D.M. Spratley in POETRY, Rob Shapiro in Nashville Review, David Hawkins in The Interpreter’s House, Emer Lyons in The Stinging Fly, and Threa Almontaser in Raleigh Review. Enjoy, and be grateful, knowing so many talented poets and magazines are making our community beautiful.
Putting Everyone at Risk
By D.M. Spratley in POETRY
we all hope someone is after you. All of us
here waiting at the intersection, our insides
fruiting with malice, we wish you harm, we look
down on you from our vehicles, we see you
for who you really are.
This elegant little poem appears in the most recent POETRY. “Putting Everyone at Risk” itself takes calculated risks, from strong line breaks – “the intersection is pure/ chaos”- to an unusual interest in digestion and decay: here, “our insides // [fruit] with malice,” while the city eats “tart morsels of our money.” Note how carefully Spratley links together her clauses, which accumulate in sets down the page – “we wish you,” “we see you,” “we think you” – like that very “chain / of pinkies linked together in an oath.” Anaphora becomes an engine for anger, which rings through this poem, “over and over and over.” This is strong, disturbing work.
Dream with Perennials
By Rob Shapiro in Nashville Review
[I]n this dream, you’ve come back to forgive
each acre for hiding inside your head—
for being so bright and starless and impossible
to reach. You’ve come back to bury yourself
This poem “ramble[s]” “back and forth” like a dream. Note its moments of resonance and reflection: the gentle rhyme between “trick” and “tickseed,” the steady repetition of “back” down the page. Most exciting is Shapiro’s writing about the mind, which forms and reforms its own landscape, as “acre[s]” “hide inside your head,” and an “afterthought” is “strung up above the trees.” I love this gorgeous, lyrical work.
By David Hawkins in The Interpreter’s House
An adit buried in long grass
is a good place to store a disused voice,
as huge hoppers full of weather
are poised over the mountains
over the sea, over Ireland,
which is just an idea from here.
This neat little poem ticks down the page in careful couplets. Hawkins has a gift for striking, unusual imagery: “a tide moves unknowably blue,” and “huge hoppers full of weather/ are poised over the mountains.” And from its first disorienting line break – “The village shop sells time/ capsules” – the poem thinks in and about time. Here, “shrimps” in “sky-rimmed hourglass pools” “sift minute boulders” while “a boar god lathers the hillside// in green time.” At last, each line in this magnificent poem “tells / its discrete time differently.”
By Emer Lyons in The Stinging Fly
I was smoking at the time
I always loved smoking more than I loved myself
This featured poem in The Stinging Fly is a delight. There’s a breezy chattiness to “Theoretical Archaeology,” a poem “shouted […] through the window […] over traffic noise,” which slips, in one good-humored line after another, into sadness. Here, every admission is at once funny and dark. Note the tongue-in-cheek drama of “(apparently badgers are vicious creatures),” or the flat honesty of “I always loved smoking more than I loved myself.” And the poem ends with a moment of failed communication – or failed excavation – in which all this truth-telling still can’t “make it real.”
Hunger Wraps Himself
By Threa Almontaser in The Raleigh Review
The moon is full and falling with explosives. People open their mouths to it
like faucet water, let it sit in their empty stomachs, ticking. They wear
starvation the way a girl wears a pink buttercup behind her ear,
handpicked by a shy boy, later lost in the nest of her curls.
I greatly admired Threa Almontaser’s recent poem in The Raleigh Review. Like other poems I’ve chosen this month, “Hunger Wraps Himself” accumulates through disturbing, precise detail. Here, “the moon is full and falling with explosives,” while a woman “dwindle[s] down to a buzz in the air,” and the sun is “strong enough // to break the baked air with waves.” Almontaser is equally brutal in her self-scrutiny, as someone who “want[s] to deserve eating” and “want[s] to forgive/ the word devour.” Almontaser recently won the Walt Whitman Award, and her forthcoming book The Wild Fox of Yemen promises to be excellent.
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.