Fall 2021, Volume 30

From the Poetry Editor

Spring 2021

Last week, my 30-pound hound pulled a package of 60 chocolate chip cookies out of my school bag, opened it and ate 59 of the cookies (she left the last on my bed as a calling card), all while I was outside getting the mail and talking to the neighbor. Unfortunately, dogs don’t process chocolate: it’s toxic to their systems, so I spent a good bit of time in conversation with our vet, sprinkling activated charcoal in the dog’s water, taking her for evening walks, staring at her while she slept, and hoping she’d expel the lethal treats. Thankfully, after days of a dangerously bloated stomach, she returned to normal.  This long-winded anecdote is all to say that poetry has become for me, for many of our readers, not a career, not a daily exercise or a manic pursuit of publication credits, but rather a way to process all the wild moments and phenomena of life. Hopefully, our spring poetry helps with this processing. Susan Grimm captures the winds of these hard-to-process moments masterfully as her speaker tells us:

If I could say this more clearly. If I could say this

in one sentence. If you and I were on an elevator.
If you and I are defying gravity. If we are giving up

the moment for the end. The doors open. The doors open.

Traumas often force a reckoning with priority, as Rose Mary Boehm's speaker in ‘Just Another Day in Sandy Hook’ asks, “What on earth was so important / about order?” and Shannon Cuthbert’s speaker in ‘Peach Lip Balm’ looks to lasting as she says, “tomorrow you promise yourself / to build something strong enough to stay behind.” Meanwhile, Meredith Davies Hadaway in ‘Echo’ tells us that “these are the toughen-up days,” days when, perhaps ironically, what we most need sometimes is the dark, as Al Maginnes’ sleepless speaker in ‘Light Pollution’ says, “the lights// of our devices, aglow with recharging, / fracture the dark we need.” Maybe we all, as Thea Swanson’s speaker, fill our “head-hole[s] with man-/made creeds” wondering, with Cameron Morse, if “the self i am not i am.” Or maybe, like the wife in Austin Veldman’s poem considers when her driver’s license goes missing, we’re left reeling “as if the world / constantly asks who are you?” Maybe it doesn’t ask, but we say who we are anyway; and maybe that very declaration, curated in a trillion arranged words throughout a lifetime, is the only way to process this life, “each day like a caught breath, a love blow” (Grimm), a life that Brandy Mckenzie’s speaker claims, “eventually, [...] all takes a flight of fantastic light / at golden hour, when nothing is not beautiful.”

This issue also features two book reviews, one of Jessica Cuello’s Hunt, a reaction to Moby Dick that imagines a female whale voice conveying the narrative; and Jon Riccio’s review of Bernard Horn’s Love’s Fingerprints, a book that explores familial history and memory. We’ve paired Riccio’s review with a handful of poems from Horn’s collection, one of which argues that “the imagination takes far more coaxing / than it used to.” This may be true for many of us; all the more reason to work sedulously back toward imagination, toward each other. Good reading to you.

                                                      —Bill Neumire