The autumn issue is out: embrace your love

The other day I was talking to a friend who, upon seeing a crate of submissions in my living room, asked if I spend my whole day reading poetry. I said that on some days it’s most of the workday, but there’s also a lot of other things that need to be done. He was curious to know if I could tell right away if a poem is great, and I said, sometimes I’ll know immediately that it’s exceptional in its development of form or images or subject. I appreciate a skillfully executed poem, but, more than anything, I usually want some emotional heft to bolster the intellectual argument.

Eventually our conversation got around to his asking who my favorite poets are. That’s an impossible question to answer because, probably like every reader, I admire writers for different reasons. As I wrote in one of my first blogs, “Poems I’m Glad I Know,” back in April 2011, “I lean toward the long poem, but love the very short, poignant poem, as well.” My “favorite” list had “traditional forms and breaks from that and everything earnest in between.”

I had the autumn issue—just in from the printer—on my coffee table. I opened to the table of contents and said, “When I read this poem, I knew it was a keeper,” and I pointed to Bob Hicok’s “Standing up,” a poem about having a friend who is dying from cancer and loving that person so much that you hope you can help kill him when he’s ready to die. It’s sad and beautiful and painful in its understanding. When I first read it, I knew right away it was great; I knew it when I read the line “. . . And a bed shouldn’t be / the last thing to hold him. . . .” That line continues to stop me. Every time. The poem goes on to present one of those exceptional images I mentioned earlier: “I’ll get in / behind him, put my arms around his chest, / my right ear to the back of his heart, / and squeeze.” Hicok has recorded it for our audio gallery this season.

There’s a lot of other terrific poems in the autumn issue, including sprawling narratives from previous contributor Dana Roeser (“Poem Starting with Dry Cleaning”) and Kate Gleason, a voice new to our pages, whose “Single Twins” weaves together astronomy and vanishing twin syndrome. In contrast to the long poem is David Curry’s “Honeycrisp,” which is five lines of vibrant images. Marilyn Nelson has three wonderful poems about women artists that she also reads in our audio gallery: “Plautilli Nelli,” “Otagaki Rengetsu,” and “Andrea and Claudia de Mena.” Additionally, there are works in the hexameter, sonnet, and villanelle forms, as well as much in between.

This issue also has two related works by David Middleton, a poem called “The Break-In” and an essay called “In Allen Hall: LSU, The Southern Review, and Baton Rouge.” I’m particularly fond of Josh Foreman’s essay, “Age of Swine,” about his family’s history in Virginia and, well, hogs; and Anna Journey’s essay, “Modifying the Badger,” about her experiences with taxidermy and teaching poetry.

The art this autumn is by Joel Kelly, a New Orleans–based artist who also teaches high school science. He describes his paintings of figures and landscapes as “layered and shifting” with an aim for the viewer to be able to “wander unhinged.” They are lovely with their muted palette and intimate subjects. You can view them and read more about the artist here. I’m seeing now, looking at the copy of the journal, which is now on my desk, that his painting Death and the Maiden is of a man and woman embracing, the woman behind the man, his back against her chest and her arms around his, holding or squeezing.

So this is where my meandering blog circles back and usually comes to an end, and so it will. Be sure to embrace your love: poetry and people. Tonight my daughter (yes, dear reader, I know you were wondering when I would mention her) will perform for her first time with her school’s drama troupe. They will be doing a number from A Year with Frog and Toad; but she’s eight, and, when she dances, she embodies the spirit of Edward Albee’s Honey and will most certainly wander unhinged, doing her interpretative dance, as everyone should. It’s bound to be spectacular, and I can’t wait to put my arms around her when it’s over.

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