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Spoon River Poetry Review - Winter/Spring 2009

  • Issue Number: Volume 34 Number 1
  • Published Date: Winter/Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

I wonder what Abraham Lincoln (yes, that Abraham Lincoln), whose poems with their broad metaphoric strokes and plain, but competent rhymes conclude this issue (“And here’s an object more of dread, / Than ought the grave contains – / A human-form, with reason fled, / While wretched life remains.”), would make of Martha Carlson-Bradley’s objects: “Locked in the past, insistent, / someone knocks on the door/midmorning – // as metal trays in the freezer / trap their half-formed ice / and sanitary napkins hide, / wrapped like mummies / in the trash.”

What interested me most in this issue of The Spoon River Poetry Review were precisely the many surprising juxtapositions, unexpected relationships, and odd intersections: the references in Meighan L. Sharp’s “Naming Grace,” with its description of modern-day Gettysburg (“and the diner, marked by a silhouette / of Lincoln’s head”), followed by Lincoln’s verse; The appearance and re-appearance of the subject of fairy tales, first in “The Talker’s Eulogy for the Human Wart,” one of series of poems by the late poet Graham Lewis (1962-2008), and then again just a few pages later Shannon Ballam’s “Red Riding Hood’s Basket”; The repeated images of home as a room or a memory of a room; the sheer number of languages that appear in the first few pages of the journal (French, Latin, Polish, Czech, Italian); the metaphorical as dream (“All afternoon the bed dreamed it was a door”) and the metaphorical as parody (“367 pound / aint much / as fat ladies go” from “Baby by Graham Lewis”); the lyrical (“Listen to the rain outside, / how it tells us what is missing of the earth.” from “Looking for Bulgaria” by Akex Dimitrov); and the, well, less than lyrical (“Look at the moon fucking with us.” from “Details” by Elizabeth Tibbetts).

An essay on “Assigning the Elegy” by Claudia Emerson, Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Mary Washington College, and three reviews by poet Ellen Wehle round out the issue. I appreciated Wehle’s casual and personal reviewing style (“here’s what I want when I flip open a book: for a line to grab me and not let go. ‘I can’t put it down,’ is as scientific as I get about choosing what to review.”) Editor Bruce Geurnsey tells us Wehle’s reviews will become a regular feature of the journal, and I look forward to reading more of them.

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Review Posted on October 18, 2009

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