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Sentence - 2008

  • Issue Number: Number 6
  • Published Date: 2008
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

You can hold Sentence in one hand. It’s fat, but also squat, and just the right size for a one-fisted read, so you can hold a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, in one hand and hold up the journal in the other. But, wait – you won’t need the caffeine or the booze. Sentence provides its own special and particular high. I have loved it from the first issue, and this one is easy to love, too.

There’s something clearly freeing about the journal’s self-identified category: “prose poetics.” Something that motivates exceptional creativity, an expansive, generous, and inventive sense of what it means to start and end a piece, to give shape to a complete composition. This issue includes prose poems as short as one sentence and as long as two pages; short imagistic writing presented in a single paragraph; brief narratives with a conventional beginning, middle, and end, including a number of family stories; philosophical musings formulated in various shapes and sizes; small verbal portraits of people and places; short dialogues; short monologues; pieces which address readers directly and others that seem entirely disembodied; lines that sprawl across the page and narrow columns of text with the widest possible margins; language that is lyrical, musical, luxurious and also fierce and edgy, raw, raucous, from more than 70 writers in nearly 300 pages. You’ll find some writers known for clever, edgy stuff (Denise Duhamel, Jeannine Hall Gailey, B.J. Best, Amy Newman), and others, like Janet Kaplan, who have turned to prose poems after much success with less overtly inventive forms.

It’s as hard to quote meaningfully from prose poems as from any poem. The entire thing vanishes before our eyes, unless we capture it whole. But, for the sake of sampling the range of tones, voices, and styles in Sentence, let me offer a few excerpts. Here is Liz Waldner with her clever “Run of the Mill Landfill”: “Order suggests ordure. Ordure suggests odor, quite properly. Quite properly suggests ‘quite nicely’ as sung by Donovan the first, while singing Mellow Yellow.” It gets even better, but you’ll have to find out for yourself. On the other end of the clever spectrum, which is to say smart, but not playful, there are Janet Kaplan’s “Words”: “A word lurks. It looks familiar. Child on a white sheet. C in its fetal pose, a chill of faces staring down. The word is hard matter.” I love J.E Wei’s yearning paint-on-paper style. Here’s an excerpt from “In the Field:”

You ride me on the bike, like those mornings when we had shadows – don’t be sad the rice paddies are full of weed. In the field, fireflies shine with your favorite stars; they are friends saying good-bye. They call out your name: Peace Pine Peace Pine. It isn’t far and let me walk with you – cross the bridge of orchids, So Long, my pine So Long, my pine.

This issue also includes a special feature on Italian prose poems with an introductory essay by Luigi Ballerini. The work is tremendously exciting and beautifully translated with one particularly interesting title – “The Poet Forgets What He Has Written” by Leonardo Sinisgalli (“Innocence is in decline. Whoever seeks to resurrect Abel in you is a madman”). But, you’re not likely to forget this issue of Sentence.

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Review Posted on June 14, 2009

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