So I read. And write. But it isn’t cheer or comfort I’m in search of, and I’m not sure it’s hope. What I’m looking for is a way to survive a bleak time. In his book Why Poetry, Matthew Zapruder discusses poetry as survival, bringing in a modernist poet to help us make sense of the kind of power poetry can have:
“Stevens believes the preservation of the imagination, what I would call drifting, is not a luxury. It is vital to our survival. This is not a retreat from reality or the world around us. He does not say that a possible poet must be capable of resisting or evading reality from the real, but the pressure of the real. In fact, the real, freely reimagined and recombined, is precisely what comprises the stuff of poetry.”
It is exactly this “pressure of the real” (even the reality of truth made fiction) being lifted that sends me back to poetry when I feel the world is too much. And it really is too much now. But poetry isn’t. It may take me to a waking dream state, but I’m wide awake inside it as the speaker relives a moment and brings it into sharp relief. The speaker questions, and wonders, and drifts, and this is a journey. I’m in a different place by the end of the poem, with a slightly different vision or understanding of the world than I had before. Poetry asks me to pay attention. It asks that I see.
If I can do this in a time of peace, as well as in a time of darkness and uproar, then I can survive. It is important that my body survives, but also my spirit, mind, and heart, and that can’t happen without someone taking me on a much needed journey, even if it’s a short one. As long as it revives me. As long as it helps me see again.
This month marks the beginning of our tenth year of publication. It’s something to celebrate, especially in a world where the wonders of the imagination are taken for granted to make something true into something false. But writers seek truth by describing and naming the real, and Connotation Press is a testament to this.
On to our September poetry column! We begin with our lead poet, Hope Wabuke, from whom we have seven poems and an interview. Wabuke’s poems retell the trauma of a people through stunning imagery and form. “ You must speak. You must let yourself be known / by these new children in all your glorious // tangled mess of becoming.” In her interview, Wabuke discusses the violence against the black body in Africa and America, and how her poems took shape. We hope you ’ ll spend some time with her powerful work.
Associate Poetry Editor Ösel Jessica Plante brings us two wonderful poems and an interview from Erin Hoover this month:
Erin Hoover’s poetry can almost be summed up with the beginning lines of her poem “Recalibration,” which is one of two we’re lucky to feature here at Connotation Press this month. “Sometimes,” she writes, “one person is the gravitational center / of shit going wrong,” and in Hoover’s world, as in our world, a lot often goes wrong. Hoover’s poetry deals with difficult subjects, in her words, “…the gameshow wheel of categorical abuses” that happen on both personal and societal levels. Her work does not shy away from a deep self-inspection into white privilege, or into the breakage of personal relationships that leads the poet to “recoil from my own lonely skin / between the sheets.” Hoover’s is a poetry that challenges us with its honesty and inspires us with its depiction of human fragility.
We also have new stunning poems from Emily Yin and Deborah J. Bennett. About this work, Associate Poetry Editor Davon Loeb writes:
Emily Yin’s poem, “Spangled,” is like an orchestra of poetic language—how she uses metaphors like trumpets or a line breaks like a snare drums. Emily has crafted this poem with cadenced-purpose, as well as, with the purpose to say something—to make a point. Emily writes, “What folly it is/ to conflate home & homeland./ Weren ’ t we born/ of the same womb & weaned on the same anthem // of liberty and justice for all?” And this rhetoric continues, by asking and posing questions and answers that far too many Americans will not even consider.
Deborah J. Bennett’s poem, “Shelter in Place,” offers readers a glimpse into the multifaceted world of a mother and wife—her kitchen, her cooking, her children, her body—and how the somewhat monotonous and overwhelming can be incredibly beautiful; she writes, “My kitchen, day or night. Juice, oils, plant/ and animal detritus penetrate pine floors.” And minute to discursive, Deborah’s voice engages readers’ senses—our ability to see into the poem—our ability to hear “the squeal of tires,” the way we can taste “perfect pudding,” as well as how our hearts are asked to see and understand the duality of being a woman, a mother, and a wife.
Ösel brings us striking work from Barbara Tomash:
“…radiance wrapped up in drowning,” “The dusk lifted corners. Impenetrably.” This selection of Barbara Tomash’s work collectively called “Her Scant State,” calls to mind a mixture of the music of Lorca and Gertrude Stein’s use of language in Tender Buttons. What results is a poetry that has the familiar rhythm of lyric language and the lift we get from alliteration, but also the defamiliarization we associate with Stein’s playful use of language that isn’t as much interested in creating immediate understanding as in creating a texture or a sense of language’s power to establish or disrupt meaning. The total effect is a poetics that allows us to develop a tentative narrative and emotional connections with the building blocks of images and sounds that Tomash gives us.
And Davon brings us a lovely poem from Bianca Frisby:
Bianca Frisby’s poem, “Daughter,” is written with exactness and delicacy—as if each sound and verb—each metaphor—each line break has been perfectly planned—as if this poem is not only a poem, but a steam—one that is blossoming into a petal—for the image grows the more the poem opens. Bianca writes, “My daughter takes shape in me, begins to collect below my ribs.” And here, she shows how nothing is left over; rather, Bianca lets the poem breathe for itself, without overwriting or overgeneralizing.
We close our column with three poems from Richard Foerster that create exquisitely detailed, atmospheric worlds. Foerster questions the landscapes we either desire or find ourselves within, and sometimes, as in “Sgraffito,” the poet reveals beauty in a place we might not expect. These carefully crafted poems, each a work of art, fill me with wonder and awe on each visit.
Thank you, as always, for listening to each of these poets. We ’ re grateful for your readership!