Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Garden of Verse: Seeing Things Fresh in the August 2017 Verse-Virtual

            "I Could Write a Sonnet" Edmund Conti proposes in the August issue of Verse-Virtual, a phrase that sounds to me like a casual suggestion on the order of "I could run to the store" or "I could check the TV listings." But then his poem demonstrates that he not only 'could,' but in fact did in a poem that makes solid use of the given structure and delivers clever rhymes:
"The  waking  up. (We thank the Lord for that!)
The breakfast on the table.  All non-fat."
             The poem pursues a theme that's both timeless and of moment: stay North or go South?

            In his August group of poems Tom Montag offers reflections on seeing, and experiencing, what we always see, but seeing it new and living it fresh. Light and darkness are partners and intimates, his poem "How the Light" points out. It begins with these lovely lines " How the light
takes shadow
and lays it
down gently" 
            The poem concludes with a surprising and marvelous simile. Read it and see for yourself.

            Ken Craft's vividly descriptive poem "Barnstorming the Universe" directs our attention to a familiar figure of the rural landscape and configures it anew with a fine image:
"The white
paint, curly from reentry, looks
foolish as a washed cat." 
I don't know the last time I've thought about a washed cat. Yes, it looks foolish.
            In his poem "Provide, Provide," a farmer busy with his splitter reveals "the striated blond bellies of halved maple logs." One way or another I've seen a lot of split wood, but now I'll look again. A good poem always shows you something new.

            Zen poetry-master Dick Allen shares a poem titled "Old Zen Master" in which the title figure reflects on the near invisibility of egg shells only to question what other unremarked wonders of the material universe he might easily have been blind to
"like the tea-kettle whistle
at the end of the sound of 'Yes.'"
            I know I've missed that. Now I'll listen for it.

            Joan Mazza's "Buzz" -- a title that offers the kind of buzzword the poem warns us against -- is a perfect storm of timely polemic. The poem contrasts the themes and terminology offered to us by the media 'buzz,' that nooz-room term for what commentators believe people are talking about (well, at least the people they talk to are) with subjects their time and attention would be better spent on:
"​Don’t say moving forward
Don’t say pivot, fake news,
false flag. Don’t say migrants.
Don’t say, whatever, awesome.

Say Philandro Castile, Tamir Rice,
Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin.
Say bees, bats, and butterflies.
Say clean water, clear skies."

            I know I'm too predisposed to agree with the values inherent in this grouping of do's and don'ts to be an objective judge of how others may respond to this poem, but I would back any candidate whose platform includes the promise to "say bees, bats, and butterflies."

            Firestone Feinberg's thoughtful and effective use of the extended metaphor in "Threads" results in a poem that addresses the fabric of ordinary life -- those "garments made of days/
Seemingly so comfortable and warm."
            The poem's arresting first line "The seams of life are not so tightly sewn" is likely to stay with all who read it.

            Another poem brilliantly studded with arresting phrases takes up that subject the continuities of  everyday life. David  Graham's poem "My Monogamous Voice" draws its title from the "found phrase" of a student's malapropism. The student was apparently searching for the word "monotonous" but had misplaced it.
            "I am married to my mailbox,
toaster, windowscreens, and extra pillow," the poem's speaker tells us in his
'monogamous' voice. In a work dense with inventive phrasing, here's another wonderful example:
"I am still/
on my first marriage to the music of what happens, and to grass, and pulling ticks from my hair,
and tiptoeing up a creaky set of stairs, careful
not to wake her." Just marvelous writing.
            Graham's short poem "My Hand" is an affecting evocation of a universal theme: our parents/ ourselves.
            A different sort of parental memory turns up in Donna Hilbert's concisely intense meditation "Friday Nights." The poet finds just the right words for a lasting depiction of a certain kind of human disaster in a memorable simile:
"My father sat in his chair
like a storm sits on the horizon,
gathering flash and clap
to slam across the prairie."
            I love the awful flat monosyllabic intensity of that "flash and clap" 
            Find all these poems and others in Verse-Virtual.com.