It is tempting to say that Autoplay by Julie Babcock is a collection of poems about Ohio. It is and more. One way to put order to this book, a task that is almost if not totally impossible to do, is to separate the poems into categories. The Ohio poems would be one category. Another category would be poems dealing with childhood and adulthood.
Devadatta’s Poems is a delightful book of poetry full of the kind of mischievous fun that comes with exploring a fallen character: an anti-hero already relegated, historically, to obscurity. Beveridge’s Devadatta is as compelling as he is repellant and his voice is one that will amuse, enlighten, and enrich readers.
The narrative in this collection exists in that there is no narrative; we find ourselves instead in the pairing of clashing words that, like a musical score, creates not an arch, but rather the opening of a flower. Each prose poem is handled with delicate care, and yet, Lewis is able to formulate each in a sense of divine carelessness. She redesigns familiar clichés into new architecture, allowing a close proximity to the reader throughout each section.
But Goodfellow’s book is not chock-full of despair. There is a welcomed humor that shines through the poems, because of her ability to play with words. This is present even in a poem as serious as the above mentioned, where Goodfellow lists avoidable words, “blind date, love at first sight, second sight, stars in your eyes, only have eyes for you, blind love, blind devotion, sight for sore eyes, see-through blouse, easy on the eyes, roving eye, eye candy, bedroom eyes” (42).
At times, the poems are so full of parataxis, clever juxtaposition, ironic aside and syntactical juggling, that the poems, taken too quickly or in too large a dose can create a kind of vertigo. However, I couldn’t leave the book alone. It kept drawing me back, one poem at a time, and each time I returned I found something new; something powerful.
Gary Metras’s The Moon in the Pool is a small book that packs a big poetic punch. Metra makes something out of what appears to be nothing at first sight. Mundane items, such as stones or the sight of an old man, serve as inspiration for Metras. It is not surprising, then, that Metras has ten other books under his belt. The Moon in the Pool is the work of a seasoned poet, a writer accustomed to having his way with words. But there is more to these poems; they make us what we already are. In other words, they tap into our shared humanity.
Woven throughout these poems is so much music, art, myth, magic, politics, and even the domestic, in such a silky and natural interplay, that it is possible to read them over and over, uncovering a little more each time. Though I think that each of the books is powerful in itself, having these three together creates a far grander picture, where each poem is informed by, changed, and strengthened by those around it. So we understand this imaginative work to be a multiverse, rich with hell and heaven together, and also our daily struggles – love, death, desire, and loss.
According to the Introduction, I Let Go includes “some of the most experimental poems” that the editors have ever included in an anthology. In some, “the writers let go of more than just stars.” Poets Zev Torres “Jamnation” and Stephen Mead “Researching Plague” have created poems which do not lend themselves to being performed aloud; their cleverness is best appreciated on the printed page. Kit Kennedy’s “Fog Descends: I Walk into a Koan,” consisting of cryptic proverbs, and ending with “How many crows inhabit an imaginary tree?” provides food for meditation.
There is definitely a welcomed playfulness in the poems of Wet. However, one needs to search for it. Any practitioner of mindfulness would tell you that everything is a teacher if we but pay attention. Fortunately, there are books like Wet that helps lead the way.
Joanna C. Valente speaks of death in her collection of poems, Sirs and Madams. The poems remind us that we are wrong—dead wrong—if we think of death only as something that happens when life ends. This reminder weaves its way throughout the book and is most poignant when Valente writes about relationships. The stories within the poems are told by “three sisters dangerous as swans, broken into a hundred versions of themselves depending on which day of the week” (Tell Them They’re Dead, 75)