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Blue Fifth Reviews – (February 2018 / #11)

Any conscientious critic who has ever had to review a new volume of poetry in a limited space knows that the only fair thing to do would be to give a series of quotations without comment but, if he did so, his editors would complain that he was not earning his money.
               –W. H. Auden, “Reading”

The editors will select collections of poetry, flash, and short fiction to present to our readers. We will be heeding Auden’s advice, listing, without comment, key passages that we consider representative of the featured works. Our hope is that readers will also be moved, and will seek out the books.

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February 2018

Bill Yarrow, ed.

 
 
 
Travel Notes from the River Styx by Susanna Lang
Terrapin Books, 2017
51 poems, 95 pages
 
 
1                                         The sound has been turned off—
        the movie’s on for ambience like the Cuban band

        that plays its trademark syncopation, while in the subtitles
        a voice calls Enrique, Enrique, but of course
        Enrique is advancing toward the water cannon,

        half a brick in his hand. And the cops have to be fat,
        buttoned too tightly into their uniforms; they have to hold guns,
        and it is preordained that they will shoot.

               (from “Dinner and a Movie at the Cuban Restaurant”)
 
 
2.    Everything loosens its grip, the flag
        slips down the pole, the girl’s hair
        from its clip, and the leaves, of course,

        let go to write their elaborate script
        in the wind.

               (from “Yes, Everything”)
 
 
3.    Bring me the arguments about who knows what
        and the ones where everyone knows; bring
        your intimacy with rivers, your trumpet, honey

        mixed with liquid fire; bring your arm upraised
        to grasp justice like a brass ring while music turns
        the carousel. Bring me chords that open a box of silence

               (from “Improvisation”)
 
 
4.               And now a previously unknown species of tailorbird
        has been discovered in a suburban tree, vibrating
        with its own song, new cap on its head, new name
        in the books

               (from “Lexicon”)
 
 
5.    So many ways to fall—

               (from “The Long Way Back”)
 

~

 

Vessel by Parneshia Jones
Milkweed Editions, 2015
36 poems, 104 pages
 
 
1.    Mom is always right
        Only about stuff she knows
        

               (from “Haikus for a Younger Self: A Suite”)
 
 
2.    Cooking dinner for one,

        she prays over the steam
        stirring a pot of luck gone bad
        black-eyed peas, rice religiously
        simmering

                                                                        (from “Blink”)
 
 
3.    I knew the one they all wanted,
        the sweet and tender father
        they wished for; you were a sacred
        carving in my kinfolk collection.

        They knew someone else.
        Your wife knew the tyrant
        striking your life lines across her face—
        fingers roped around her throat
        the noose of your marriage
        loosens, setting her free.

        She offers nothing in your death,
        the badge of a broken wife
        who stopped loving you long before
        your last breath.

               (from “Bitter Smell of Ashes”)
 
 
4.    Daughters of dust and duende
        feast on oysters in gravy, blue crabs and grits.
        They leave a trail of tipped hats, low-country men
        and gypsies who read the fortunes of the world
        off their switching legs of revival

               (from “Shutter”)
 
 
5.    We are real and breathing
        We are hungry and rewriting dictionaries
        We are poets and presidents
        We have made it known that his name,
        our names, every black letter birthed
        from the blinking cursor is permanent
        and correct.

               (from “Auto-Correcting History”)
 

~

 

Teaching a Man to Unstick His Tail by Ralph Hamilton
Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015
61 poems, 120 pages
 
 
1.                                         Possession is

        nothing. But absence has breath,
        has bones, a hue, your scent in
        silence still moist on the stairs.

               (from “Pentimento”)
 
 
2.    There is a Gumby
       in us all who knows
       with all his bendy
       boneless brain that
       play with Pokey
       and Pokey’s play
       with him oblige
       them, willy-nilly,
       to bow and torque
       and tilt

               (from “Pals”)
 

 
 
3.    You are a chicken and
        I am a chicken. Neither
        of us knew which one came
        first, but together we
        made a comely farmyard
        couple. Oh how we cackled
        and ooh did we cluck—

               (from “Bird Life”)
 
 
4.    This humid afternoon

        all earth’s humors
        exhume themselves in

        tight tin soldier

        drill. The air is
        oil, humus,

        glue, the trees gangrene,

        my breathing thick as
        rheum:

               (from “Weight”)
 
 
5.    How could I tell a carrot from
        a cat if I had no words? Know
        what to grate, which to pet?

              (from “What You Name”)
 
Comment on Blue Fifth Reviews #11.

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