Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Garden of Verse: Joys and Regrets in August's "Verse-Virtual"

            I'm looking at the calendar with a certain shock and awe-gee, since it appears that August is dwindling down to a precious few days. Something a lot like this happens every summer. It goes away a lot faster than we can ever imagine, and those last few weeks are particularly slippery.
            This year it also means waving farewell to the galaxy of poems in the August issue of Verse-Virtual, the online poetry journal that publishes scores of fine new poems every month -- most journals publish twice a year, maybe four times if we're lucky. And of course (redundant disclaimer) I am particularly fond of this monthly pleasure because it is publishing my poems among such good company.
            Here's a last look at some instances of that pleasure and beauty in Verse Virtual's August issue... 

such as the quiet depth of Sarah White's "Blessed Be the Unforeseen" in which the poet traces a family genealogy beyond a tragedy, through her own place in the family, to a new blessing. Her mother, she write, never foresaw the continuation of her line, a happy development the poet sums up in a few beautifully direct chosen words.
Nor did she ever
imagine you, sweet Alistair Hart,

her great, great grandson.

In Joan Colby's poem "What Takes Us Down," a tragic death by drowning stands in for a world of humankind's losses of the mind and the spirit, leading to the striking concluding image:
... how quickly joy
Can upend; the craft
Of imagination stall in a welter
Of thrash and silence.

In a different mode, Sydney Lea's "Victory Garden" wittily pairs the news of the day, "the freight of awful news from everywhere on earth," with the little disturbances of his own day, especially his spouse's fresh acquisition of an old family heirloom:
...a desk that once belonged to her vanished grandma
and looks to be as heavy as fifteen anvils
and it’s 90 sopping degrees outside

the globe burning up and I’ll be sweating lugging that load
my hands both useless against the deerflies’ blitz 

Emily Strauss's "Reward" captures the kind of moment that can come when you're alone in a wild place and able to let go, longer than you think you can, of all the items on your life-list agenda. Stopping to take in
a pale sandstone mesa
cross-hatched like a frozen
bee hive rising hundreds of feet 

the poet hears the song of the canyon wren, whose voice somehow replicates the landscape:
seven falling notes
ending up, again tripping
down the scale
down the sheer walls
pure invisible notes

In Charles Rossiter's poem of personal remembrance "National Gallery Days," a lesson is learned about the importance of beauty and contemplation at a difficult time. "I didn't know it then," the poem concludes, "but looking back/  I can see how the National Gallery saved my life."

David Graham's "Love," a re-working of William Carlos Williams' well-loved poem "This is just to say," pays homage to the humble gift of half a banana left on the kitchen counter "for me to find."
(Full disclosure: my wife does this every day.)

Margaret Hasse's recollection of the joy of physical work in the cause of self-sufficiency ("Shouting from the Rooftop") is vividly portrayed in images like this:
Boards wrenched from their nail-anchored
niches squawked like chickens.

Steve Coughlin's two beautiful love poems, "Adam's Thirst," imagines the first man's (and everyman's) struggle to put love into words:
Tonight you’re reading National Geographic, 
and I find myself, like Adam,
without a definition for this thirst

But in the poet's s "Winter Refrain" the house of love disappears in a siege of brutal weather:
But each day the front door was gone from its frame, 
the frame gone from your blue-shingled house.

Robert Wexelblatt's "In August" contains a whole month's worth of images and ideas, from allusions to a series of songs lamenting the death of children by Mahler (called Kindertoten Lieder), to the "little art" of a woman's terrarium (an example of a German term for vignettes and miniatures, Kleinkunst) to the dangers of radon, and a world growing too warm. A husband finds his wife grieving for a lost child:

Each hair like a spring
her t-shirt sodden, foul as
my back, barefoot
on her Via Dolorosa
crucified for that Kleinkunst
the petty dirtcraft
she never explains

            The month of August may be ending, but you can keep on looking at the poems in this month's issue, and all the previous issues, because they're available in the archives. Unlike one's experiences with some other digital sources, Verse-Virtual's archives are easy to use.