Tag Archives: poem

‘Where Things Stand’ by Cynthia White: ZYZZYVA No. 109, Spring Issue

Cynthia White is a poet in Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Catamaran. You’ll find three of her poems in ZYZZYVA Issue No. 109. In celebration of the Thanksgiving season, we present her poem “Where Things Stand” in its entirety:   I, in the doorway, reporting on the dawn, you with your coffee. A small bird is disturbing the quince, its name forgotten. You, lost to a book. The children stand on their own, distant, brilliant stars. Wild iris in a jar stand on the table, the table steadfast on cherry legs. Chairs stand empty, generous. We could be a couple in …Continue reading

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Walking a Loose Rope: ‘Sidebend World’ by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb’s Sidebend World (78 pages; University of Pittsburgh Press) contains some genuinely lovely and worthwhile poems. At his best, Webb is funny and self-effacingly honest, delivering poems that are intimate and warm. Unfortunately, other poems in the book often border on careless—that is, they rely on weak associations or seem half-halfheartedly crafted. Worse, however, some poems contain stereotypical portrayals of others and humor that some will likely find offensive. First, let’s consider the positive aspects of Sidebend World. My favorite poem in the book, “Turtle Hunt,” is one that I could return to time and time again. The …Continue reading

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Emerging from the Fog: ‘America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience’

The first image we encounter in America, We Call Your Name: Poetry of Resistance and Resilience (203 pages; Sixteen Rivers Press) is that of Lady Liberty in the midst of a grey fog; it’s unclear as to whether she is receding or emerging. The editors have stated that the impetus for this anthology was a desire to help unify the country after the 2016 Presidential Election. The Trump Administration symbolizes the oppression that these poets are resisting; the collection acknowledges that the election woke up many people who had grown politically complacent. For this anthology, Sixteen Rivers Press, a shared …Continue reading

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Flight Patterns: Q&A with ‘Amelia Earhart’ Author Larry Beckett

Polymath poet Larry Beckett is flying high in Amelia Earhart (72 pages; Finishing Line Press), his latest addition to a cycle of epic tributes to the likes of P.T. Barnum, Paul Bunyan, and now Earhart, and with an upcoming volume on Wyatt Earp to round off a rubric on the “American Cycle.’’ The Portland writer is still best known for his collaborations with the late Tim Buckley, including the oft-covered classic “Song to the Siren,’’ but the long-ago death of his boyhood friend has not stopped him from cultivating his muse with fresh imaginings of seemingly unlikely subjects. Here, he …Continue reading

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‘Secular and Inconsolable’ by Noah Blaustein

My goal was to wake with nothing in my head –– it’s nice to begin a day having already achieved. Sunlight on the dead grass of the ski slope. A lone runner works his way up the fire road, a dull throb in my ankle where it twisted on the edge of getting younger, of celebrating my luck in still being able to run. Ralph, my friend, has been trying to convince me for years that the life of an adult is boring but I’ve never aspired to the life of an adult. My wife holds up a diaper, “A …Continue reading

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A Harmony Called Survival: Q&A with ‘The Carrying’ Author Ada Limón

One of my first memories of Ada Limón involves a party in Brooklyn nearly 15 years ago. Ada was across the room, in a beautiful blue coat. A mutual friend introduced us, whispering as she did that “her poems are even lovelier than her coat is.” Within months, I knew this to be true. I am lucky to know Ada: We moved in similar circles in New York in our twenties, and left about the same time. I came home to California, and she moved to Kentucky, while still keeping her ties to Sonoma, her hometown, active with regular trips. …Continue reading

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‘Just Us’ by Paul Wilner

The Rape Guy approaches the podium, with practiced confidence, Jimmy Stewart smiles. He knows the ropes, been through this drill before. He lives around the corner from my brother-in-law, who says he doesn’t know him but his wife is “delightful.’’ I’m delighted. Aren’t you? Who wouldn’t be? Just a drunken grope and grab, lurch and lock, his Irish Catholic pal always ready to turn up the noise, set the stage. Dominis vobiscum, the Latin Mass is still the best. Closeted libido, directed who knows where, Three in the room. Three’s a crowd, three’s company. Company man. It’s all good. Ask …Continue reading

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Secretly Wishing for Impossible Futures: ‘Her Mouth as Souvenir’ by Heather June Gibbons

Her Mouth as Souvenir (88 pages; University of Utah Press), winner of the 2017 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, is a breathtaking and lyrical debut collection from Heather June Gibbons. Gibbons’ voice is a strong one, as she leads the reader through well-crafted and captivatingly honest free verse. Pressingly urgent and timely, Her Mouth as Souvenir is a study of action in the face of anxiety. The poems’ context includes larger societal trends, such as the technologizing world that presents “a strange kind of convenience, / to access at the tap of a fingertip / so much information without …Continue reading

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Queering Language: ‘Feeld’ by Jos Charles

A few days ago, I woke up half-dreaming in the made-up language of Jos Charles’s feeld (64 pages; Milkweed Editions), which is to say I landed softly. feeld –– which is currently longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in poetry –– challenges the reader to engage with a singular, complex voice (“Chaucerian English [translated] into the digital twenty-first century,” as Fady Joudah notes on the book’s jacket), but one that is also accessible and refined. Throughout the book, which contains sixty short poems, it is evident Charles is a poet who values breath and space. Both aurally and visually, the …Continue reading

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The Grief of the Particular: ‘Be With’ by Forrest Gander

Reading Forrest Gander’s work makes the reader feel as if she’s entering a world larger than her own, one with a broader vocabulary, richer imagery, and a deeper understanding of the relationships between the ordinary and the unknowable. Sometimes one is baffled, but more often feels stretched, welcomed into a cherished complexity. On the cover of his newest book, Be With (92 pages; New Directions), the names of the title and author in severe san serif type are pinned between black lines and the absence of lines. It’s a perfect cover for a book that explores absence and presence, loss …Continue reading

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‘Thoughts and Prayers’ by Paul Wilner

guns and roses, money, honey, what’s the point. raise, hold, stay, fold, left out standing in the cold. If I had a thought, I’d tell you, bow my head if there’s a prayer. no such luck, no such mercy i am waiting, I am old. give us this day our daily bread, maybe we’ll feed it to the dead. Paul Wilner’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. You can read more of his writing in ZYZZYVA No. 106 and No. 109. 

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A Blossom on a Chain Link Fence: ‘Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God’ by Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland’s books probably have the most intriguing titles of any contemporary poet. The newest one, Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God (74 pages; Graywolf Press) follows hard on Recent Changes in the Vernacular, from Tres Chicas Books, out late last year. What Hoagland does better than any other poet is select the exact details to throw the cognitive dissonance inherent in contemporary American life into stark relief. Never sentimental, often fond, and always accurate, his lines cut through to the essence of experience. Yet they are leavened by tenderness and longing, a wry acceptance of the human condition. …Continue reading

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