Our national poets tend to order themselves according to geographical and conceptual boundaries—from the New York poets to the Black Mountain poets to the San Francisco Renaissance. There are writers in academic institutions that proliferate MFA programs aimed at challenging New York’s publishing industry; writers who succeed at the margins of the literary scene and whose preferred authors are the ones not being read. There is the politically committed poet and the poet who thinks poetry is barred from political commitment, and each believes the other is wasting her time.
The writers in this issue are generally young and the producers of “very new poetry,” as the literary critic Stephanie Burt would call it. Invariably they showcase resistance to traditional form and theory, or when imitating old poems seek originality by way of rupture and surprise. In the prose poem “An Eye to the Keyhole,” Anthony Borruso turns a reader’s attention to the medium he’s working in, calling it, “My little window of experience like a lantern brightening the krill-swelled belly of a whale.” Here Borruso underscores an established concept: the self-effacing nature of the prose poem. The prose poem is like a window that opens onto something greater than itself, like the sky, the secret lives of neighbors, or in Borruso’s case, the interior of myth. The prose poem is self-effacing in that it treats words like signs that may be dropped when the object they intend is grasped. Words themselves aren’t ends but means to ideas. Hence the notion that prose is transparent like a window. Whereas in poetry words are ends, and like paintings, don’t point away from themselves but capture the spectator’s attention. Borruso’s prose poem, it would appear, is conscious of itself and uses revitalized images to communicate these dated concepts.
In other poems, language flows back on itself in disorder and is more luminary for it. This is Iris Bloomfield’s approach in her four part poem, “California Death Dance.” She begins part IV with, “Why learn anything? Things remain incomprehensible.” Faithful to the sentiment, she writes elsewhere, “If there was skin, there were also pockets of gunpowder embedded along its landscape. If there was landscape, it was also devastated.” Disparate images collide in her verses that may otherwise never come into contact. Employing the power of language outside logic, she allows a reader to feel a devastation that is part of the human body’s lived experience.
There is a grasp of imagistic language, as well as over the poetic turn at the heart of all the poems. Witness the following verse from Charlie Schneider’s “Death Poem”: “His hand, almost drained of heartbeats, / once undressed the moon.” Echoing an Allen Ginsberg poem, Jacquelin Molina Guillen writes, “Daffodils grow near street / I pick only two… Suddenly / White woman… / Chasing me down the block… / Raging, Those are mine!... / Frightened, I say, I am sorry / Whole time believing they were wild / Not realizing flowers could be owned.” By allowing readers to mine for a wealth of meaning in a given image, Schneider and Molina Guillen hold the reader’s attention; by shaping the narrative with well crafted turns, they justify having held it for as long.
There is a meditative air permeating the collection. The poetic “I” strolls, sleeps, seeks refuge from noisy cities in parks, and enters meditative states that lend themselves to creative acts. Compare Charlie Schneider’s “Brooklyn in June” with Anthony Borruso’s “Against Solipsism,” and you’ll discover the virtue of silence, how it “blooms” in one and “clings to the world” in the other. Notice how the natural world is frequented for imagery: The sea in Emily Reynders’ “Tidal” and a drive through Forest Park in Jacquelin Molina Guillen’s “Woods,” are used to communicate emotions of exhaustion and collective love, respectively.
We could not be more pleased with the conversation they foster in this inaugural issue, and we wish each of them a prosperous journey toward book publications and other such literary accomplishments. Our contributors are at the heart of what we do. Supporting them in their ambitions is an occasion for joy. Thanks also to our readers, who turn pages and make the literary world go round. We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we did.
JACQUELIN MOLINA GUILLEN