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Mark Levine: “Creek”

I’ve never gone on a “father-son fishing trip.” Nor have I ever called anyone “Pa.” Still, this is my go at a fishing poem. I’m drawn to the idiomatic force of the “fishing trip” as a trope for intimacy, serenity, and spiritual fulfillment in nature, just as I’m drawn to the possibility of “ordinary” speech as a vehicle of familiarity and ease. Neither one is mine, though. The poem’s suggestion that one might join one’s father for an end-of-life fishing trip, speaking in cadences of folksy directness, provokes awkwardness in me. The poem, I think, wants to embrace that awkwardness, and to take the journey that it knows is unavailable to it. In literal terms, it follows a much denatured creek that rambles through the town I now live in, and it dumps out into the Lake Ontario of my childhood. Even as a full grown person, far into one’s own life, one might persist in imagining how “everything” would be different had you and Pa only taken that trip together.    Creek I suppose …

Michael Lee: “Refraction”

I have seen a great deal of death and loss. For my own sanity and preservation I had to explore death, to understand it and craft for it a personal mythos. This poem seeks to do that, to make death more tangible not by simplifying it, but by complicating it, adding to its ethereal nature, to understand it not like something we might hold, but like something which holds (the difference between how we conceptualize a stone in our palm versus how we conceptualize wind). I don’t know why concrete fact is often seen as more comforting. The realization that we don’t know what we don’t know is a most exciting and encouraging one to me. Death could be anything we have thought of or that we have not. I want to sit with death and ask its name, but since it won’t answer I call out to the dark and let the echoes respond. I let the questions be their own answers. I inhabit wonder, and my lack of understanding becomes what I know. …

Robert Wrigley: Two Poems

It may be that the only thing these two poems have in common is that they were written by the same poet, and that they were published in Poetry Northwest, one a quarter century or so ago, the other quite recently. “Dust” was written about the time I was, you might say, entering into the possibilities of rhyme (it was accepted, as many were in those days, by David Wagoner, to whom I offer my thanks); “Hanging Laundry On a Windy Day in Assisi,” was written in Italy this past May, and it suggests that those possibilities have stayed with me.  Rilke said, “Rhyme is a goddess of secret and ancient coincidences,” and that strikes me as one of the finest things anyone’s ever said about a poetic technique. Among other things, the first is about getting very dirty; the other is about the joy of clean laundry. But both are very much about the places in which they occur. I am, it has been pointed out, a “poet of place.” That’s not something I …

Rochelle Hurt: “Bright star of disaster”

Yearling Lo Kwa Mei-en Alice James Books, 2015 Lo Kwa Mei-en’s debut collection of poems reads like a manual for self-destruction. There are a variety of personal and global apocalypses in Yearling, and most of them are rooted in what Freud might have described as a death drive. The book’s epigraph from Dickinson, suggests, however, that these apocalypses should not be read simply as endings, nor should this drive toward death be read as a form of despair. The epigraph reads: “The World is not Conclusion. / A Species stands beyond—”. In this world, catastrophe is a means of becoming a species beyond. Consider, for example, “Arrow,” a poem that positions the speaker as both predator and prey. Aptly, the poem strikes a tonal balance between divulgence and declaration, beginning: “Drawn, uninvited, I’m an animal with a price on her head, / wrecking a bed of wet pine: I steal through the field twice.” The hunted is also the criminal here. Audacious in her trespassing, she is both vulnerable and cheeky. She implores her addressee: “as …

Lo Kwa Mei-en: “Passion with a Cinema Inside of It”

I ran an internet search on passion to help me write this introduction, and found that I’d written this poem out of my depth. Look for passion in our world and you’ll find an ancient power play with a problem for a heart. You’ll find a historical reel of attempts to define—to contain—our experience of strong and barely controllable emotion. Philosophers, poets, theologians, film directors: the effort to direct passion is, basically, erotic. You can do this at home. I love going to the movies, but as a woman of color the actual cost of admission can be difficult to predict. Certain moments in film reenact trauma borne by people with marginalized bodies, and these moments are not foreshadowed by escalating soundtrack cues so an audience member may cover her ears, her eyes, or her heart. When such moments reach through what I had hoped was a wall and grip my heart, I experience a complex of extreme feeling. I become barely controllable. I am easily terrified, and dissociating in a public space is one …