IN THESE FINAL DAYS before an election that, though scheduled, can feel exigent in its circumstances, I find myself stepping away from sides and tallies, harms and breaks, to inhabit momentarily a place of being, of breath, one that pauses the continual intellectual and physical fight-or-flight that has become—or has always been—a normalized response for too many living in this country.
A mirror can be held to the world, but sometimes the world lifts a mirror in return.
Aside from fleeting moments of panic-induced respite, what are our options for traversing this time, and that which follows, in a way that engenders more response than reaction? Whether survival mechanism or coping strategy, we might invite a shift of gaze from hyper-focused objective to those margins of overlap we commonly vault past. With an insistent tug on our sleeve, poet Patrice Boyer Claeys invites us to do just that in her review of Gail Goepfert’s newest book of poems, Get Up Said the World.
Reasons to read are to witness and be transformed. And I am, as Claeys traces the energies of Goepfert’s lines pushing along currents volcanic and riparian, protean in generation and decay. A mirror can be held to the world, but sometimes the world lifts a mirror in return. Gathered in subsequent reflections floats everything that came before and a version of what might exist ahead. As Claeys steps into the work of Goepfert, it is a gift of contemplation and conversion, a way of angling the glass so that others may catch the brilliance of a different perspective, carried forward.
In this world built in its unbounding, poetry helps us alight, feet to ground, to air, to water, as a way to continue through whatever abyss or opportunity we will face, together. My hope is that the work of both these poets will find and sustain you at the margins, in the middle, or wherever you may stand.
I suspect editors have their own version of that hypothetical, if they could invite any five people for dinner. I think of poets and poems. I already have the luxury of talking poetry with Philip F. Clark whenever I want and if we drift over to discussing The Durrells in Corfu, on our way to Cavafy in Alexandria, is that so wrong?
I had the opportunity to first read Angela Narciso Torres chapbook To the Bone last year and then spoke in hushed tones to anyone who asked me if I’d read anything lately. The work heartbreaking and vital. It took me a little time to get the nerve up to ask Laurie Saurborn if she was open to reviewing it. An affecting poet in her own right, we had both read Angela’s first full book Blood Orange, and I knew Laurie had once reviewed it. I had a good feeling about her connection to Angela’s work.
I’ve always seen poetry reviews as more of a necessary drudgery. The questions remain, how do we celebrate and promote these poems and poets? How do we inform a world we haven’t convinced to read the poems in the first place? Does it still matter if it only matters to a few of us? To be clear, it matters to me. In recent years, they’ve seemed to become more of a superlative fest. More of a verbal gymnastic display by the reviewer than speaking to work. I understand it but I want better for us.
The present is a moving force. In these poems there are no stopping places, no points of recalcitrance or reluctance. The speaker does not fight the lines or what she discovers within. They are places of reflection and realization…
Laurie Saurborn, ‘Messages Telegraphic: Angela Narciso Torres’ To the Bone‘
Laurie sees Angela’s work so well here and with depth of field. Her vantage reveals the work in a way that gave me new eyes. But it also feels like a conversation between old friends. As if you’ve invited these poets into your home. It’s a good read, perhaps as simply, because it’s good writing. I’m proud to house it. I’m speaking to you in hushed tones now. You have to read Angela Narciso Torres’ To the Bone, listen to what Laurie Saurborn has to say about it.
I woke early this morning to the news that a certain Republican senator had tweeted last night his intention to vote against witnesses in the impeachment trial. Trying to push down a sense of anger and dismay, I returned to Lisa Rosenberg’s poem which I first read yesterday.
Lisa sent us a poem with a limited window of relevance. One that is closing as we speak. And I marvel at this practice of ours. We do this lonely, quiet work with rather strict rules on publishing credit. Was she confident we would get back to her in time? That the stage would be provided? She took the time to write a limited window villanelle. You couldn’t get me to work in that form for money, with the promise of it set in granite. She took time to edit. Took at least an hour out of her day to draft a cover letter in which she spoke elegantly on the point of it all.
I am having a hard time seeing the point of it all.
But when I read The Skies Have It, I forget momentarily everything falling. I remember the dignity, the quiet breath in truth-telling.
There’s also this, and maybe it only matters to the poets. But Lisa Rosenberg landed a deserving publishing credit today for a poem that needs to sound.
after the left hook of Gustavo Hernandez’ poem title hits you, the right cross of his dedication leaves its mark. You tap play to hear the sure tenor of him read Across the Southwest Our Mothers Were Sidelined and note that his voice is not angry. And though you’ll learn soon enough, I would simply ask you: To whom do you think he’s speaking so tenderly?
Selfishly, I wanted to keep this poem for our inaugural issue this March. A small part of me wanted to keep Gustavo Hernandez’ voice to myself a little longer. But our editorial team was barking and these words need to sound.
I know this poem will be going out to a community that also feels sidelined. Many of us have felt helpless while this president has simply delivered on the hate he promised when he first ran. I don’t have much in the way of solace, but to say that we will not be sidelined for much longer.
I am a poet who takes months to finish a poem. Still writes notes in the margins to published poems. Sometimes when I read poetry, I can see the alternate path, another way in, another word, another world. In our present state, I keep wishing us differently.
In my own work, I am sometimes still crossed up between two tellings or the sense I didn’t say everything I wanted to say. I fear I return to familiar subjects less out of habit or crutch, though certainly those reasons too, but more that I still haven’t gotten it down right. I won’t damn Gregory Crosby’s new poem with such perfect praise. But he rendered this work on January 2nd. Note how fully realized it feels.
This poem is alive and now and on your phone. Gregory Crosby speaks into our eyes. This is his, ‘It Turns, Turns.’
One of the things that I spoke out loud about two weeks ago was the idea that we would make space for work that needs to be heard now. Carole Bromley has written a poem with quiet heartbreak in it. It made me think about foregrounds and backgrounds. How if we whisper about what is happening around us, when the world around us is burning, it is not because we don’t sense the urgency or that we do not feel the need to scream, but rather we recognize that if we are going to save this planet we need empathy and compassion. Solutions don’t come in the form of violence or threats of violence.
“Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons; trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a few decades hence only the oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.”
— Aldo Leopold, “On a Monument to the Pigeon,” 1947
We will publish the best poems we are given. There is no restriction on style, form or what my poet friend Tony Robinson calls tradition. Everyone is welcome. I say we, because I hope this becomes a collective, a community, a barking flock of birds. I don’t know who we are yet or entirely what we’re about. In this, talk is cheap. We’re about to find out together. I hope we can be diverse, good, different. All I can do is speak my intent and aim high–maybe stick a landing.
For established poets, send me something you believe in. Something that deserves to sound and I will be grateful because as a new journal, we could use some good noise. If you’re hardly-known, new on the scene, let’s learn to fly together.
I like writers and find that sometimes editors don’t. A few friends have told me I won’t be so keen after this run. We’ll see.
Here’s the important part, my leanings don’t matter or don’t interest me. I know my art and my idea of art. I’m more interested in yours and how it could change or affect or move mine. In that way, we become something new together.
Send me one to three poems by Word or PDF to TheNightHeronBarks@gmail.com Feel free to be yourself in cover letter. Write “submission” and your name in the subject line. Simultaneous submissions are encouraged unless you’re the faithful romantic type. Then by all means be exclusive, just remember I’m seeing other people. Full guidelines are here.https://nightheronbarks.com/submit/
I believe we practice an incorruptible art, to borrow a Kenneth Burke phrase. You can’t really get famous or rich at it–they save the shine for the dead. You have to love it a little too much to be bothering with it enough to draft, edit and submit to journals with a rejection rate that’s somewhere north of 90 percent. I believe in us first as a community. I think we can be better than we are. I’d like to provide a place to land for a few of you. To sing your praises.
A shared point on the map in both our journeys. A place to look back on and return to.
We intend to publish one issue with each season, but would also like to provide space for poets who need to sound now. If you have a poem that is vital, current, pressing, make note of it in your submission subject line and we will try to attend to it in time.