Our country is currently in such political upheaval that I find myself wanting to wake from what feels like an alternate reality. I often pinch myself, like those who believe they're dreaming do. When I discover I'm really awake and the pinching has begun to hurt, I turn to one of the few groups of people I can consistently trust: writers. Lately I've been collecting quotes by writers to help me focus on what matters in this world--our humanity. In their words, poets and novelists remind me of what literature can do. Dylan Thomas says, "A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it." It’s true: many poems make me look beyond current events into the reality of what matters. And in this time when laws have been created to banish equality for certain groups of people, I find the words of Zadie Smith especially profound: "You can't state difference and also state equality. We have to state sameness to understand equality." What I love about this quote is not just its truth, but that Smith moves from the singular "you" to the inclusive and plural "we." It is in looking toward what we share as humans that we establish empathy and equality. Each writer brings an experience to the page that we're not privy to until we read their work. It is through reading about the lives of others that we learn we are alike, and share the common emotions of joy, fear, and sorrow.
We have some wonderful poets to share with you in our May column. We begin with our featured poet, Sarah A. Chavez, with four poems and an interview. Sarah’s poems are emotionally resonant, merging the past and present with a sense of a loss. In her interview, she discusses the epistolary poem as well as the urgency of communication, and how and where we establish boundaries in our lives.
Davon Loeb, our new Associate Poetry Editor, brings us three wonderful poets this month. About their work he writes:
Emily Rodoni’s selection of poems identifies some of life’s most complex and compelling experiences, like the mother and the sick child in the poem, “Transfusion.” Emily does not run or hide from the painful emotionality of losing loved ones. Instead, Emily speeds towards it, with such rare and precise language that does not exploit sentimentality; rather, Emily flexes her poetic muscle, and uses image, cadence, and metaphor to narrate each poem.
The lines in Tim Lynch’s poems are brilliantly packed with stark imagery and rhetoric that rival poems like John Ashberry’s, “Instructional Manual.” The density in these poems has been constructed with such lyrical and narrative intensity that you will appreciate the craft just as much as you’ll be moved by the content. Listen to the wise, and yet, nuanced poet tell you his stories.
Andrew Hemmert’s poem, “Sportsman,” depicts one of the most intimate and most horrifying collisions of man and nature. This poem explores the dangerous relationship between a hunter and an alligator, and will make you question who is the real beast.
Catherine Strisik also shares her work with us this month. In the poem, "In Late Afternoon Gold Each," a woman composes herself while aware of the history of her physical composition, including her "startled heartbeat" and her "burrowed beauty." What turns her beautiful is "the mere mention of - / 'wolf.'" The speaker chronicles each moment, as well as those that connect with her past, so that the poem merges past and present as it moves towards a stunning image.
And lastly, though in many parts of the country Spring flourishes, some of our states can’t say goodbye to winter. Lena Kalaf Tuffaha's poem "Between Storms" begins, "Descriptions of snow are all aspirational." However, Tuffaha’s poem is filled with the experience of snow rather than mere descriptions. There's the grandmother who recalls when as a girl she "mixed pomegranate syrup and sugar / and poured it on snow." The speaker's husband "dusts snow off the satellite dish." Snow is the landscape of this poem as the grandmother's eyesight weakens and "she senses the white expanse."
Thank you again for visiting our column. We appreciate your readership and hope you enjoy the beginning of summer!