This September marks the beginning of Connotation Press’ eighth year of publishing work by writers, which makes me think of other beginnings: first day of school and the first day of fall. As I move beyond the month of September, the list of firsts becomes different, and writing based: first time reading a novel by a specific writer, first time reading one’s work to a crowd in a certain city, beginning a new project with no idea what form or voice it will take. This list of things we’ve done before but do anew each time under different circumstances could keep going: first time hiking in Washington state, first time cooking in a friend’s kitchen.
Something similar happens when we read a poem: we see the world from a different perspective. A poem offers a beginning to see in a new way through the intimacy of experience. We are always beginning to see, and we do this over and over with each poem, every time. Even with experiences we’ve been part of collectively, there is always an opportunity to see them from different viewpoints and add to an ongoing narrative.
I hope that the work Connotation Press has published over the past seven years has enabled you, our readers, to see in the world in new ways. I hope we have surprised, engaged, and delighted you. I hope at times that we have offered work to you that is swoon-worthy. Bringing new and beautiful poems to our readers each issue gives me joy, and I look forward to many more years of sharing this experience of reading with you.
This month, our lead poet is Chris Campanioni. We have five poems from Chris and an interview which took place in real-time—a first for me, and a whole lot of fun. Campanioni’s poems consider the ways in which we engage with one another and how we use technology in the 21st century. Take for instance these stunning lines: “the soul & then the body augmented to forget the body exists. Body-less” and “The standard postmodern / situation In which all parts / Are played by yourself.” What we might feel as a blip on the radar of technology becomes ever deeper and expanded in these poems.
Our wonderful Associate Poetry Editor, Davon Loeb, brings us poems and an interview with Mary Imo-Stike. About her work, Davon writes, The poetic narratives of Mary Imo-Stike are highly versatile, and deliver a range of poems that are as instructional as they are vivid and exploratory. Mary effortlessly describes working a day in a chemical factory, while still being dreamy and cinematic. She says, “Escaping the heat, outside the catwalk, / above the Great Kanawha River, / I sat behind the shadows of the smokestacks / in the blessed midnight air.” These depictions are stoic and somber, but also full of energy and revelation, like retelling of the marginalization young girl in the poem, “Iron Patty” and the humanization of the old man in “The Man in the Theatre.” Industrial, scenic, and empathic—Mary Imo-Stike proves to be a multifaceted poet.
We also have new work from Sharon Fagan McDermott this month. In her poem, “Room in Brooklyn 1932,” McDermott pulls a female figure from an Edward Hopper painting and sets her life in motion. “ Before she met him, she was unrest / at her window, inert in a hard chair,” the speaker states, but this lack of motion doesn’t last. It’s a train that pulls this woman’s life from a standstill. McDermott not only unfolds a woman’s predictable life but sends it speeding.
Davon also brings us two additional poets this month. About their work, he writes,
Teniola Tonade’s poems were crafted with an incredible ear to cadence that readers will feel a tremendous amount of vitality in each line. Additional, these poems share the same qualities as myth-making; whereas, Tonade’s poems offer universal values, like a poverty-stricken family searching for hope and a narrator finding miracles in everyday life. He writes, “There are no miracles but in the ordinary / processes of daily life,” and I’m convinced he is right.
Minadora Macheret’s poems are x-rays into the body—exposing its age, its illnesses, and its expiration. While the language of these poems could be heavy-hearted; on the contrary, the language is incredibly gentle. Minadora writes, “The flickering television on mute, / even the comatose deserve quiet.” And this exploration of the body and its inevitable breakdown will continue to whisper in your ear, well after reading.
We have two poems from Emily Mohn-Slate this month. “Just having a body can be deadly,” the speaker states in “Woman as Column, Fitzwilliam Museum” in which a woman loses what “made her particular.” But this poem doesn’t concentrate on the disappearance of one woman; the speaker extends the poem to other women whose bodies have disappeared, taken away by men. However, men aren’t the only ones in power here. “The Ant’s Small Face” reminds us that we all have power over other living beings, and we must be wary of how we use it.
Kristina Marie Darling returns to our column this month with two poems that explore events in the relationship between a married couple. Written as transcripts, we are only privy to certain information. Darling’s use of mystery in this experimental text is engaging and riveting. Set within a house and garden, we become part of the domestic as we watch these scenes unfold.
Marilyn Kallet brings this column full circle. Her two poems ruminate on beginnings: the birth in a family that doesn’t repeat its history of prejudice; the first letter of the alphabet opening possibilities as the body shapes itself into an “A.” Kallet never shies from the dark side of possibility: “Note that A is still beautiful / while it crushes you.” Yet what crushes us does not define us. These poems look toward the future even as they glance back, a reminder that our past is always present.
We wish you a lovely September! Thank you for listening to these poets.