Issue X, Volume IV : June 2013
Welcome back to the Poetry Column! I’ve been thinking recently of how people can influence each other, and how wonderful that can be – diverse people, people with different strengths and ideas and backgrounds, can come together and help each other. The possibilities reinforce the importance of respect and empathy, of communication. They also reinforce the danger of trusting someone or something else to set our values for us, especially those who want to tear us – or keep us – apart rather than letting us come together. We all rely on others to question and explore our values, and sometimes this changes our values and sometimes reinforces them – and that’s a good thing.
But unchecked, relying on someone else to determine our values leaves the floodgates open for manipulation – especially by those purporting to be religious figures and those striving to be political figures. I think that if people stood, instead, behind respect, empathy, and communication, we’d all be better off. It’s the essence of the golden rule – act toward others as you would want them to act toward you. We all could have been born to different parents, in a different part of the world, into a different culture, religion, and socioeconomic status. There, but for fortune, go you and I. My advice is: don’t trust people who don’t demonstrate respect and empathy – why would they take care of people, including you, if they care about only themselves and don’t understand how interconnected we all are? It’s important to remember that this world is complicated and interconnected, and people who would have us believe that it’s simple are hiding their real motives.
The best we can do is respect each other and try to understand each other. There’s conflict everywhere –within ourselves, within families, within countries, within our global community. We should all assess and reassess our beliefs, thoughts, and actions to make sure we’re doing the best we can for others and for ourselves. We are a community – a huge, diverse, worldwide community. We’re not alone; we need to take care of each other. It really does take a village. That’s one thing I love about this column: it’s a bunch of different people coming together for the benefit of the group – not to manipulate the group, but to make each of us better for being a part of it.
I am so excited to bring to you the work of Eleventh Century poet Su Dong-Po, translated by poet and internationally renowned cosmology expert Yun Wang. Su Dong-Po’s work was originally written to be set to music. The work is beautiful, as are Yun’s translations. As Yun writes, these poems are both intimate and infinite. They appreciate every moment, like a child, and the span of a life, like someone of great years and wisdom. The language and imagery are just stunning. In her interview, Yun explains her love of these poems since she was a child. She also very kindly indulges my (genuine but ignorant) fascination with cosmology. I love it.
Associate Editor Mari L’Esperance brings us wonderful poems by, and an interview with, poet Robert Krut. Mari writes:
Robert Krut’s poems are dreamlike, otherworldly, and infused with a hypnotic melancholy. They occupy a liminal space that hovers somewhere between the imagination and the concrete, physical world—a third realm bound together and tethered by language, memory, and sensory experience. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Krut and especially appreciated learning about his writing life in Los Angeles, where he currently lives, and how the landscape, culture, and history of that city inform his work in ways that have been both surprising and creatively gratifying for him. I’m pleased to share Krut’s words with Connotation Press readers. “Once you’ve watched this, / the blink-world beyond / waking life, there’s no going back—”
D. Gilson’s poetry is pragmatic, surprising, aware of beauty. These poems are brave and full of desire, exposing the personal nature of politics and religion in a unique way. The voice in these poems is honest in a way I respect. But what I love most about these poems may be the touching turns at the ends of the poems – surprising and loving, often seductive.
Angel Garcia joins the column this month with five poems that exist along borders: the border between sleep and wake; between time and space; between generations; between living and deceased. The language and the strings of images and thoughts weave me in each time I read them. “Sometimes, I feel, I may not be strong enough for poetry,” writes Mr. Garcia. This is so insightful and honest, two of poetry’s most important ingredients.
Associate Editor Nicelle Davis brings us poetry by and an interview with Gerard Beirne. Mr. Beirne has scattered wonderful words into the wind for us – words that twist and dance in meaning and sound. Each poem’s title is a numbered Meditation – but these are meditations with some desperation in them. Beirne writes in one of the poems: “Too much time/too much time to think and contemplate the devastation in this world/the insomniac, hypochondriac, accident-prone, chain-smoking, suicidal, lecherous-womanising, depressive-alcoholic, gangly and inept, who leapt to immortality …” One thing I find fascinating about these poems is the pace – the punctuation makes it so these poems can be read quickly, manically, like a racing mind – or slowly, deliberately, like a quiet meditation.
Associate Editor JP Reese brings us two fabulous poets this month. JP writes:
Barbara Ellen Baldwin's poems both go for a cultural jugular. The first, about a second grade teacher who is a tormentor, perfectly captures a school day situation many adults might recall from their own youthful experiences with horror: The helpless child held up to ridicule by the all-powerful adult pretending to use some flaw as a learning opportunity for the class. This one raised the hairs on the back of my neck. The second poem depicts a situation all too common in our fragmented society. Baldwin describes in "Fairchild Suite" the carnage inflicted by the disaffected loner with a grudge against the world. Neither of these poems will give readers an infusion of sweetness and light, but both capture an essence of the world around us all by using powerful imagery and clear-eyed, objective observation.
Alliteration and wordplay are the secrets to Lucy Biederman's poem, "Late in Life." This prose poem is larger than it seems and tells the story of a learned man, the earth his subject of study, and the student who observes quietly, trying to understand this world from the perspective of the man who has lived and is preparing his own return to clay. The switch to second person in the final observation is an interesting choice that brings the reader into the speaker's head. My favorite phrase is "… the ambit of limber grass" in which I see the whole Midwestern prairie stretched out in glorious abandon beneath a setting sun.
Scott Hernandez shares with us two poems brimming with vivid imagery. These poems depict families working hard together and struggling against loneliness when apart. There is brilliant color and life in these poems, even beneath inevitable darkness.
Come inside and see!