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Srikanth Reddy: “Voyager, Book 3 (Chapter 6)”

Probably the first thing to say about this “poem” is that I didn’t write it.  All the words here belong to Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations who was later discovered to have been, also, a former SS officer in Hitler’s Germany.  (So if you don’t like the writing here, blame Waldheim, not me).  I composed this text by deleting words from Waldheim’s memoir, In the Eye of the Storm, and closing up the spaces left by my “erasure.”  Then I took the liberty of visually arranging the resulting word-sequences into the “step-down” tercets that William Carlos Williams used for his poetic sequence on the underworld, but I didn’t rearrange the order of words in Waldheim’s original text. The second thing to say, I think, would be that this is an excerpt from a longer passage in my book, Voyager, that depicts Waldheim’s imaginary descent into the underworld.  I was trying to find a story under the surface of the story—about the United Nations and Cold War geopolitics—that Waldheim tells in his memoir.  …

Rod Jellema: “A Note to the Swedish Mystic Who Wrote that ‘the Wash is Nothing but Wash’”

This one began, as many of my poems do, with the stirring of a childhood memory brought to mind by a present  experience. Behind our summer place, an old farmhouse in Lake Michigan dunelands, passing our ancient grapevine, I caught the aroma of rising steam that mixed hot grape leaves and my wife’s swim suit and towel, spread out there to dry. The scent, blended with fresh lake breezes, took me fifty miles and seventy years downshore, to my Uncle Harry’s cottage, where I spent my best summer days as a young teenager.  I’ve remembered the mysterious, almost intoxicating smell on hot days there that wafted from his big tangled grapevine. It was wet towels, hot leaves, swim suits, and also the fresh lake air gently lifting the leaves from beneath. There was almost certainly something vaguely spiritual, blended with something indistinctly and beautifully sexual, in the memory that has stayed so long. In his little book of poems, translated from the Swedish, Tommy Oloffson, a true heir of the Swedish mystic Immanuel Swedenborg, is …

Andrew Zawacki: “Videotape: 51″

This month, from Andrew Zawacki, an analogue of memory: Andrew notes that “’Videotape’ is a serial poem primarily concerned with landscape—whether natural or manufactured, oneiric or simulated—and with the various media we employ to record, juxtapose, even invent geography, not to mention ruin it.  I’m specifically interested in obsolete technologies, like VHS and Betamax, with their magnetic tape and plastic cassettes, figures of inevitable decay.  These date from my childhood—also, of course, from the Reagan era, a technocracy of scary proportions (leveled by someone who’d been a film star).  While I’ve tried to leave dramas of selfhood out of these clips—the one thing not seen in a visual field is the person behind the viewfinder—, recalling that a camera’s lens is termed the ‘objective,’ a few subjective moments have nonetheless punctured the work.  51—a love song, written while my wife was away—is among them, with its speaker’s sentiments (nostalgia bordering on pathetic) themselves articulated in an outdated mode.  (We were spending summer in Paris and had just inherited cordial glasses dating from the Second Empire …

Spring & Summer 2010

The next print edition of Poetry Northwest will be the spring-summer issue, due in April 2010. Until then, in addition to our regular monthly highlights from the most recent issue (see Natasha Trethewey’s “Mexico,” for instance), we are publishing new poems by poets we admire as a countdown to and preview of our back-in-Seattle debut. In January, we featured Eric McHenry’s “New Year’s Letter to All the Friends I’ve Estranged by Not Writing.” February gave us “Hall of Sea Nettles,” a new poem by Paisley Rekdal, rich in sinuous assonance and shifting, sharp-eyed imagery. You can expect to see more poems by Paisley Rekdal in the spring-summer issue to come. Now, on the threshold of our new issue, we are pleased to present Marvin Bell’s “The Book of the Dead Man (The Northwest).” The Dead Man has been a stalwart of Amercian letters since his debut in 1994. His resurrection here is sure sign that spring is upon us again.

Sierra Nelson: “We’ll Always Have Carthage”

This month, sent from one of the round earth’s imagined corners, a poem by Sierra Nelson, who writes that “‘We’ll Always Have Carthage’ was inspired in part by images from Virgil’s The Aeneid. In that epic poem, the hero Aeneas and his battered fleet take shelter in Carthage, and Aeneas begins a romance with the Carthaginian Queen, Dido. He stays happily with her, helping her efforts to rebuild her city, but when the god Mercury comes to Aeneas to remind him of his destiny elsewhere, the hero decides to slip away in the middle of the night. Dido catches on to the plan and confronts him, but chooses not to detain him or harm his ships, although at certain points it crosses her mind. Instead she builds a large funeral pyre for herself, a conflagration Aeneas and his men see as they are sailing away. This poem isn’t meant to retell that story, but does resonate with some of its tone and imagery, especially as imagined from Dido’s perspective. The image of the lion’s skin …

Amy Glynn Greacen: Two Poems

Exclusive to Poetry Northwest Online, here are several poems from Amy Glynn Greacen’s A Modern Herbal: a manuscript-in-progress that, according to its author, “shares its title with Maud Grieve’s 1931 herbal pharmacopoeia. Each poem is about a different plant – from fruits and vegetables to medicinal herbs, psychotropics and poisons – in some cases directly and in some, obliquely. It plays with botanical metaphors and with the many ways humans use and interact with plants.”

Rick Barot: “The Poem is a Letter Opener”

In celebration of the arrival of the Spring-Summer 2010 issue (v5.n1) of Poetry Northwest on newsstands and in mailboxes, we offer you this instrument of opening by Rick Barot, exclusively online.  “I wrote this poem during an autumn residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire,” notes Barot.  “Prior to the residency, I hadn’t written a poem in many months, perhaps close to a year.  And so my mind was full of half-thoughts and half-images and half-possibilities just waiting for some galvanizing energy to give them coherence.  There was a rocking chair in the studio, and I spent nearly all my time in that chair, rocking and reading.  On the day I wrote the poem, I was sitting in that chair and opened up Bill Knott’s book of poems The Unsubscriber, a favorite book.  Immediately I came across the page that had this as the first line of a poem: ‘The poem is a letter opener.’  I closed the book, knew instantly that Knott’s line was the title of a poem that I wanted to write, sat down at the desk, and …

Zach Savich: “Inner Order”

Shadeland by Andrew Grace Ohio State University Press, 2009. $13.95 Much ear-rich poetry is made of surface sizzle, clatter so bright it bursts from the bobbin, bunches the weft, and weaves tapestries of Mickey Mouse hues, gaudy candy scenes, but there are also poets whose good ears don’t pop but ride on underwires of listening, their rhythms revealing rich psychological and sensual symmetries. Andrew Grace has that kind of ear. His first book, 2002’s A Belonging Field, demonstrates a virtuosity of propulsion and melody that makes the most apt comparisons sound overblown: Hopkins, Herbert, Melville, the gorgeous early James Wright. But that’s not to say Grace is one of those plop plop plop five chicken nuggets to a box formalists who wears his dinner jacket with the label showing; there are also shivers of, say, Michael Palmer and Dan Beachy-Quick in his work, providing an attentive humility that keeps his suit indistinguishable from the body moving in it, a layering effect that makes words like “soul” sensible. “Hide your form, be orderly within,” Grace writes …