Monday Aug 19

JulieBrooksBarbour 2015 I dream of making summer last all year. In these warm months, I have time to read, time to think, and time to create.

Life slows down. I pay attention to the sun. I rise at first light so I can enjoy the long days. I breathe in every breeze. I inhale this season. No— I drink it, I swallow it, I make it part of me.

When the air turns colder, I forget how to breathe and I forget how to take my days slowly. I forget how to read slowly, how to think slowly. The cold air shuts me like a clam.

I may not be able to keep the season of summer alive all year, but what about the way I live during the summer? The way I pay attention? My slowing down? My slow, even breaths? Can I make this happen all year round?

It’s possible. I’m going to try.

KaiteandSam We are thrilled to welcome former Poetry Editor Kaite Robidoux back to our July column! You don’t want to miss her knock-out interview with and poems by our lead poet, Gianmarc Manzione. Kaite writes,

It is an honor and a pleasure to return to Connotation Press’s poetry column in order to introduce more work from Gianmarc Manzione, whose poetry I had the pleasure of featuring years ago when I edited this column. The poetry Gianmarc shares with us this time around is vulnerable and beautiful in the way it digs in and yells back at the things that tear at us-- the things that threaten what is at our core, what makes our lives worthwhile. I understand this work to be not just intimate and difficult poetry grappling with a diagnosis of its author’s serious disease, childhood trauma, and recent painful losses, but also searing poetry of witness reflective of these tumultuous and discordant times. I have always loved poetry of witness but hated the circumstances that make it necessary. Some days I, too, want to yell back all this institutionalized, somehow unavoidable oppression, like wanting it enough can shame it and make it change. These poems feel like that to me. They are honest in their desperation and frustration, exposing the damage the world has imposed on the soft underbelly of a life, of lives. It takes courage to expose that damage, even in order to yell back at it. We must start taking care of each other. We are all desperate and dying. We are all fragile and damaged. The world is so hard already; why do we each battle it alone? Why do we welcome repression and oppression and blame scapegoats for our resulting misery? Why do we not hold hands? I love this work by Gianmarc and its painful exposures, but I wish we lived in a world that eased our inevitable burdens rather than sending more and more demands. I am grateful to Gianmarc for being courageous enough to share this poignant work with us.

Osel Jessica Plante Associate Poetry Editor Ösel Jessica Plante conducts a fantastic interview and poems with Becca J.R. Lachman:

Becca Lachman’s poems turn the daily over in their palms, handling emotion in a way that is both prayerful and vexed. “Resiliency,” is the word Becca uses in our interview about her writing on infertility a subject that, to any woman or couple that has experienced it, is full of heartbreak. Her writing is testament to a mind that is as capacious in its seeking as it is in its ability to allow room for grace. In “To Whom Shall We Direct Our Anger,” she pleads, “to the stove; to the gas burners’ lit blue-amber; to willing, uncleaned ovens that take / what we have chopped and sliced and drowned and weighed when the rage simmers / over, ready to be thrown into the next face who knows our name.” The long lines submerge the urgency, suffuse the poem with acceptance and gentleness. These poems grapple and, yes, display emotional resiliency; there is release in her long lines: “…the six years of charts in a purple folder, your own mountain range / of temperatures and notes;” there is triumph.

DavonLoeb Associate Poetry Editor Davon Loeb brings a wonderful interview with Jack C. Buck to our poetry column this month:

Jack C. Buck epitomizes what is so right with literature—a teacher, a writer, an editor—a man who lives to understand, appreciate, and revel in writing. I am incredibly proud, as also a middle-school teacher, to celebrate Jack’s work—his fiction, poetry, and teaching. Furthermore, Jack’s poems and short stories have been featured in countless literary journals, both online and print, but his biography would tell you otherwise. Jack is well-read, well-published, and very humble. And when reading his collections, Deer Michigan, Gathering View, and Will You Let It Send You Out, you will experience that same unassuming and unpretentious soft-spoken storyteller.

Sandra Marchetti returns to our poetry column with a poem that creates a landscape I don’t want to leave. I love poems like “Reservoir” and its surreal background of vines and roots in a body of water that the speaker cannot pull away from. The danger is drowning, but the surprise arrives at the end of the poem with a statement we don’t expect. Marchetti’s imagery is captivating: “lines slimed by / the depths” and “aquas and blues glow / briefly to mystery.” This poet’s work never disappoints.

Ösel brings us work from two additional poets this month:

“Once she was a kimono,” the speaker in Peter Schireson’s poem says, “Now a wolf-dream.” There’s a light, playful quality in these lines that’s really refreshing. The speaker is tender but the poems resist becoming sentimental. Though they are brief and short-lined, they have depth, their images balance and inform one another like the work of the imagists, or like a haiku. We are urged to linger in a particular moment, to feel it’s fleet movement in lines like, “it has a wish. / I bend over and straighten it,” and with curiosity we bend, wishing to see.

Hank Backer’s poetry is the product of careful consideration, reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop’s talent for following a mind in action, for rendering details, and imagining thoughtfully chosen metaphors that bring the eye close to the observed environment or situation. Backer creates a mood with lines like “It’s already turned to rain—the inch or two / that cancelled class greys to slush / and snowmelt swills through an artificial creek.” We see life against a backdrop that, while not beautiful, is recognizable in its familiarity and within that familiarity holds opportunities for moments of grace; “…two robins,” Backer writes, “know nothing of emptiness.”

Davon also brings us four new poems by Paul Bone:

Paul Bone’s poems not only offer richly-told stories—from a grandmother’s soap operas to insects around the house, hymns in church, and the intricacies of peeling a potato—but Bone also makes the mundane important, alive, and scenic. He writes from “As the World Turns”, “My grandmother would say something like/ give me them glasses them’s filthy/ I don’t know how you see out of these/ or wash that apple before you eat it/ some colored man at the grocery store/ might have handled it. I thought she knew/ something I didn’t…”

We close our July poetry column with a poem from Katie Manning. “Pandemic: A Love Poem” is more than a love poem: it’s about loving through sickness and health, but further, through all the parts of a life. Sickness here is not just an illness one recuperates from, it becomes terminal. “I would swear / again to love,” the speaker of this poem states at the end, which is more than the end of the poem. These lines challenge what we think we know about vows and what we think we know about love. This is a powerful testament that resonates beyond the page.

As always, thank you for joining us to read and celebrate poetry. Enjoy the rest of summer!