Poetry Porch: Letter to the Editor


August 28, 2016

Hi Joyce,

        I use (with great joy) this old Royal all the time: for typing draft after draft of poems. I don't use it much for letter-writing because the ribbons I can still buy for it start out almost as light as the ribbons I'm betting ready to throw away. But I still typewriter-type a lot faster than I computer-type; and I very much want to offer you some Poetry Porch feedback before this days ends. One other technical matter: if there is a way to single out one poem in an online magazine for photocopying, I don't know what it is. So I can't look at a poem and write about it at the same time. Thus, in turn, the comments I'm going to offer you are based on notes (and vague memories). To wit:

        For me, the best sequence of poems in your current issue is by Richard Dey. I thought all four poems were good 'uns. Both stories in "The Making of a Maine Artist" did the job nicely, although a little flat at times. "Island Meadow" was better. Vivid description with a fine climax: "They cringe at the coming scythe." The best piece was the first, "Arrival, Allen Island." Every stanza was complete in itself; compact; and compelling. The fourth poem was not as strong as its compatriots.

        I have read a gang of poems by Llyn Clague over the years. And "A Call" is one of the best--very best--pieces he's ever written. Extremely well done. His an alien "only in my heart" is also exceptionally good. Also Way Up There is "Inventory" by Patricia L. Hamilton, another poet I've read much by. The two sets of lists (one, practical; the other, memories) work very well in tandem. Employing long lines, she keeps them from being prose-like by using many, many iambs and anapests; but, more, by utilizing what I'd describe as rhythmic momentum via syntactical repetition. In the same Charmed Circle is Richard Fein's "Ruskin on Waves." A rich meditation indeed. And it, too, only is prose-like here and there.

        However, I do want to cite a few other poems. I liked Marge Piercy's "How sweet it is" because it builds to a fine final stanza. Bridget Seley-Galway's "Tompkins Square" description evokes--splendidly--a time and place. Gets into relationships and self-analysis. Carl Boon's "Black Sea" piece includes good details (the girls in Yankee caps) and contains an evocative ending. "Beach Plum Jelly" by Nancy Bailey Miller is another poem featuring vivid description. So does "Nature Masks" by Caroline Hurley. But it offers more with the sudden appearance of the finches, which teach the speaker that Nature has levels and then deeper levels.

        If you're willing to tolerate a whisper of adverse comment, I'd say that some of the poems with long--loooong--lines do on occasion sag too close to prose for me. More than that, I often find in my own drafts that poems longer than my usual limit (four stresses) can be trimmed, tightened. That long lines tend to allow extra words not reallyreally needed, even encourages them. And: just a query: in Piercy's "A pretty name," etc., in the last line should it be "along" or "alone"? Finally, all your issues are deliciously high in overall quality (which is why I delight in appearing in them); but (forgive me) I thought almost all of Paula Bonnell's Canoe Trip dullsville. Who cares whether she saw a moose or not? Nor did she make much drama out of forgetting matches. "On the Lake" was the exception. The battle with the elements was first-rate drama.

        I by all means want to add that I found your preface? Preamble? Notes? Very stimulating. Rich. For instance, the matter of lyric poetry being overheard (the author being in the next room dealing with himself). Bingo! It's what the Main Stream (bless its black heart) stumbles around about all the time, now that it continues to be obsessed with shunning Confessional Poetry and its friends. The personal--lyric--poem will never go away, no matter how much it is neglected by the M. Stream. It is a major part of the world of poetry. Shun/ostracize it and it pops up full-blooded in Memoirs. Why hasn't anyone pointed out that Memoirs emerged full force when editors locked out the persona/lyric poetry?

        And it pops up in the continued presence of poetry written for and published in so many not M. Stream magazines. Including yours!

        Which brings me to "Below Ground Level." While "The Strangeness of Things" is built on narrative, "Ground Level" is pure lyric. A lot of in-the-stream editors wouldn't touch it.

        Another problem I've run into is that even editors who do welcome lyric poetry ar not "keen" on un-bright-light-upbeat lyric poems. Such as "Level." Plus other poems that I write about the shadowed or darkened side of life. Poems about/based on the death of my sister, Jean, for instance. Such as "By the Year 2011," one that you did publish.

        This is why your point about the lyric poet (or any other kind of poet, for that matter) not being distracted "from his vision by the demands of a paying audience" is soooo Right On!

        I hope you had a super summer.