The poems in Elvis Alves’ new chapbook Ota Benga have a rhythm that is almost performative. Most of the poems have a subtle rhyme scheme that, when enriched by a modern undercurrent of political anger, comes across with a slam aesthetic. They work particularly well when spoken aloud, with the rhythms of a New York vernacular. Throughout the collection there is a common theme of enslavement versus freedom.
The editor of Metaphor Issue 5 has succeeded in assembling a group of fine poets. Poets representing a volume of diverse voices. Poems in this volume are varied. Some are philosophical, addressing social justice and others speak to our daily lives and myriad experiences. The writing is esthetically rich in content and well crafted.
Ben Berman’s Figuring in the Figure offers a window into his personal life. In reading the poems, we learn that Berman is a young father and that he is a wizard at word play, among other things. The poems are written in the terza rima form, a rhyme scheme of Italian origins and used by Dante Alighieri. This form allows Berman to showcase is proficiency as a poet.
Roberta Gould knows the minutiae of discrepancies and how we interrupt our own joy with preconceived notions, imagined grudges, misplaced assertions. In “Best Friend,” the title tells us how she feels about her dog, yet she hesitates to share a piece of her food. Finally relinquishing it and, realizing the irony of the conflict, she states, “I do it grudgingly/confusing myself with the truly hungry.” In this simple gesture she questions the meaning of generosity and our perceptions of need and greed.
You might not want to read Karina Bush’s Maiden unless you like lewd literature. She presents poetry in a frank way. This moves away from the subtleness that some have come to expect and appreciate in the art of poetry. This is not a case for the censoring of Karina’s work or works like hers. In some ways, her writing reminds us that the world is not monolithic when it comes to the subject of sex.
Cynthia Manick’s Blue Hallelujahs is an impressive debut poetry collection. Manick’s talent shines here. Her poetry is like a good meal, worth savoring. She describes small things in big ways. This approach draws the reader into the landscape of her poetry. In The Shop Washington Built, laughter is described as “the size of two small ships” (8) and strength is the ability “to hold lightening inside/grow daughters among/shifting currents” (Things I Carry Into The World, 16).
Jen Karetnick’s Brie Season reminds us that food is life and life is food. The pages of this collection is littered with odes to the art of cooking and eating. The poems remind us of the joy that is food. Karetnick reinforces this understanding by aligning food with mundane items. In this way, we become aware of the specialness inherent in what we eat.
Bulletproof is all about mortality and the poems develop like a verse novel as they attempt to come to grips with the inevitable that waits for us all. Despite the morbidity, the poems are never maudlin. In fact, they’re almost cheery, in a grim black sort of way, effectively giving the middle finger to death. How very Lemmy, though he wasn’t immortal after all.
The recurring themes of this brilliantly haunting collection run a powerful range, from tragedy and trauma to innocence and carnal desire. Derr-Smith offers an intimate, unyieldingly honest account of her life and experiences. The subjects, the lines, the words all scream truth. Often brutally. Often beautifully. Her themes and approach leave a lasting impression.
Contradiction and absurdity reign freely, and non sequiturs pop up out of the blue, each fetched further than the last, as if the poet were striving for the most unlikely next line ever to come out of left field. The effect is to loosen up the reader’s consciousness and allow her to gaze into an open-ended world of expansive possibilities. It’s a wild world, where sense and nonsense are on an equal footing, but she soon finds that the poet has left a trail of delectible crumbs to follow.