Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: May 2021
Here’s a short selection, from our own Jose, of some of the best new poems that hit the web this May. These five poets, both established and emerging, deserve your attention and support—featuring work from Megan Fernandes in The American Poetry Review, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda in West Branch (Documents), Jane Zwart in TYPO MAGAZINE, Gbenga Adesina in Harvard Review (Online) and Ashley Dailey in Breakwater Review. Hope everyone enjoys these exceptional poems; we are truly living in a thriving poetry age.
By Megan Fernandes in The American Poetry Review.
So often, I was miserable when I was young,
even in California with the ocean close and fat seals
The opening lines of longing immediately pull us in. Fernandes has a hypnotic, effortless way of detailing her melancholy. This revelation in the middle of the poem is also quite intriguing:
The truth is I am
most exquisite on the east coast, meaning I am in rhythm.
I have heard similar takes before; the preference for an urban life, but Fernandes’ focus on image and symbol, like the “misfit raccoon,” brings us in and show us a window into her city life. This poem is nonchalant and hip and sad and yet hopeful; everything we want in a New York poem.
Mi Mami Talks to Her Plantas
By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda in West Branch (Documents).
In this salon these plants
are her best and only friends
who do not spread chisme
just bloom and florecer
with cheer in this garden
In this poem, Cepeda warmly describes his mother’s routine of conversing with her house plants. With a mixture of Spanish and English, or Spanglish, the speaker paints a vivid picture of his mother’s relationship/friendship with her plants. My Mexican mother is also this way with her plants as I suspect many are. Very relatable. The entire diverse “Document(s)” feature by West Branch edited by Laura Villareal is on point and a must read.
Boy with Clear Plastic Backpack
By Jane Zwart in TYPO MAGAZINE.
I can only tell you
that he looks back vulnerable,
that the bruised apple
in his see-through bag
may as well be a spare heart.
This poem points to the dangerous world we live in with a simple, seemingly innocent image: a clear backpack. With a minimalist brush and clever use of white space, the speaker highlights the reality that the threat of guns and shootings are always present, especially to the most vulnerable: children.
Elegy of Hands
By Gbenga Adesina in Harvard Review (Online).
It is that my hands
are also my father’s hands,
and where the lines meet on the palm
both of us have met
and sat, each with his own silence
Love father-son poems. The speaker in this poem feels like his father yet knows too clearly what the void of silence (from death) feels like. In a skillful yet stripped-down line, the speaker’s deceased father is everywhere he looks yet nowhere at all. Makes you wonder about the weight of mortality and legacy. Fine poem.
By Ashley Dailey in Breakwater Review.
We ate nachos beneath a streetlight, my legs swinging off the end of his truck bed and my head bleeding just a little. I only remember the hospital—because you can take and unmake anything when you mean it enough.
Love father-daughter poems. This is actually a video poem with accompanied text. With a subtle brush, the speaker describes a reunion with her father which triggers further memory. Small detail after small detail, we learn of their past and grin at a father-daughter outing which ends up with stitches and Taco Bell. Dailey’s talent, in this poem, is in the mundane; masterfully done.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is from Southern California. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. Currently, he is an Associate Editor at Frontier and Guest Editor at Palette Poetry.