Apes can mind-read.Studies show
what makes us humanis our tendency to point. (Rae Armantrout, “Working Models”)
My first experience with the poetry annual New American Writing is the new issue, #28, edited by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover, and already I’m a fan, with stellar highlights by Rae Armantrout, Liz Waldner, Elizabeth Robinson and Steffi Drewes, each, it seems, exploring different aspects of the length of the poetic line and the sentence; writing poems, each, that bring new life to forms that so often need it. I’ll say it: I believe in the sentences of Steffi Drewes. But why doesn’t such a journal, such an annual, have author bios?
proof that this waltz, these waves, have no destination
having said no to the sound of heavy machinery we traipsed on andtopsy-turvy signatures followed.
do you believe in only one answer when it comes to keeping time?
if she hears the truth and the leaves fall to the floor, she may still beable to locate the first intersection.(in math, the focus; in dance, the pivot pointe)
off in the mountains the dust dwellers have begun to chant.
choking sometimes comes out as hocking. later the same day, a childlearns the difference between exhaust and exhalation.
arithmetic. arrhythmia. arabesque. (of course she studied, but not inthat order).
what’s the ultimate conversation-stopper—split skin or a sonic boom?
a portal is forming underneath the floor boards. an ideal audiencemeasuring our every misstep.
what is your favorite part about spring? is what she asks me. one iswind. the other is take a wild guess.
the rhythm is born from us, be it falter, dash, fracture or simply goodhunting.
even a fallen animal startles at the sound of music.
There are some worthy translations here too, from Osip Mandelstam’s “The Voronezh Notebooks” (with introduction) by John High and Matvei Yankelevich, as well as a feature on five contemporary Greek poets; its always interesting when any journal explores alternative points of view. But what really strikes are the other pieces, including Elizabeth Robinson’s “Lorine Niedecker Harmonizing With Paul Celan” and “Jack Spicer’s Frying Pan.” Luxurious; exactly why haven’t I been reading her work earlier?
Jack Spicer’s Frying PanFor Fran Herndon
A small frying pan results in a small man. Or vice, alchemically,versa. A pan and a man cook identically each time andsize desires nothing of it.
Cook it again this way, exactly.Center the heart of the pan on the coil, turnthe handle west to where the sun will somedayset. Panand man
exact to the red coil. The game
of feeding ourselves is utmost ritualand so we win the game.
The smallest frying pan, like a pendant hungat your sternum, a brand on your breast,enlarging the want of it, the game of the wantof it, the specimen of the pan, with its magickhandle to the east where someday the sun may rise
exactly as the eating proceeds, red coil, exact, I said, exact.
At nearly two hundred pages (I suppose, if the choice between author biographies and more writing, more writing really is the more interesting choice), there’s enough here for just about any serious reading of contemporary lyric, including some compelling prose by Noah Eli Gordon (a writer I’ve been keeping my eye on the past couple of years), and another by Edward Smallfield that remind of the compact visceral and visual rhythms explored by Jay MillAr’s Sporadic Growth: being a third season of 26 fungal threads (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2006). I’m also very taken by these three poems all with the same title by Rusty Morrison, these “Commonplace” poems; why does it feel I’ve been missing all sorts of things by not paying attention to this journal earlier?