Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Hanging Loose 99
Editors: Robert Hershon, Dick Lourie, Mark Pawlak,
Hanging Loose Press
Review by Dennis Daly
Cityscapes as soaring, airy and luscious as any watercolor abstracts I’ve ever seen greet you and draw you into the new issue of Hanging Loose. The watercolors are entitled, “Downtown Windows: Ten Watercolors” and include both the front and back covers in their number. The back cover I especially like because the geometry builds a mirror image causing you to bounce off of it and return to the proper, that is, frontal entrance of this literary magazine. Pretty neat.
As if to counteract the lightness of the art work, the written pieces sit like heavy furniture. Sherman Alexie starts things off with a couple of sonnet-like prose poems on addiction, dating between whites and Indians, and mental illness. Both poems are smart and funny. His third poem, The Naming Ceremony recites a litany of fantasized Indian names, which pretty much describes a hurting and damaged psyche. It’s musical and surprising and continues for five full pages like this,
My Indian name is Fish Bone Choke,
So that means my spirit animal is
Dr. Henry Heimlich.
My Indian name is Bear Hug.
My Indian name is Magic Trick.
My Indian name is Navajo Rug,
Though I’m not Navajo.
And like this,
My Indian name is Doesn’t Sing.
My Indian name is Doesn’t Dance.
My Indian name is Pongs But Won’t Ping.
My Indian name is Hate At First Glance,
Which seems like a cynical name,
I know, but damn, I’m an Indian.
William Corbett, a writer based in Boston Massachusetts, writes a series of short poems called,” Elegies for Michael Gizzi.” He lightens things a bit when he describes a memorial reading for Gizzi this way,
One of our tribe
Will read too long
Check the time
And continue on.
If this doesn’t happen
The night will be unmemorable
Like a wedding absent the drunk
Dentist on all fours barking.
I found Glen Freeman’s poem, “The Atheist Goes Into Surgery,” riveting. Little observations in the operating room take the place of a believer’s prayers; or rather they become the prayers,
His gaze fixed above him, circumscribed
By robotic lights, the sterile
White ceilings & whispers
Of which way he will be turned
When asleep, the checks & hushed
Double checks in single syllables…
Joan Larkin’s poem, “Trough” also grips you by the throat with a portrayal of a poet buried with his poems and dearly- bought pencil in a mass grave. The metaphor of the fusion of bodies with poems is both troubling and effective,
Bitter red and copper
Seep into us
And into us the small
Notebook in his coat
This issue includes quite a few prose pieces by Steven Schrader—all well done. My favorite is “Timex,” which deals with a father- son relationship and a cheap watch. The watch, which replaces a much more expensive timepiece, seems to absorb emotion in an almost magical way and hold onto it. The way the author deals with this complicated relationship during the extreme circumstances of his father’s illness and death is both affecting and revealing. He loses himself in a methodical attention to seemingly unimportant facts to submerge his feelings. For instance, the author notes, “He picked up my watch once to check the time.”
Without question the centerpiece of the issue is a short story by Wang Ping entitled, “Kelisu Diner,” which is set in Lhasa, Tibet. The narrator finds this off-the-beaten- path diner, which serves tea and hot buns. This is the type of place travelers to unusual destinations come across frequently. Each time she leaves the diner, she finds herself drawn back. Mega-issues of social and cultural consequence are faced here, issues that do not lead to easily accessible answers. There is also a wonderful scene that takes place inside the Jokhang Monestery with a monk, who acts as the bouncer. It’s classic. The other details of this story are so right on that you can almost taste the yak butter tea.
The emotional high point of this well balanced issue is a poem by Paul Violi, who has since died, called, “Now I’ll Never Be Able To Finish That Poem to Bob.” The poem is first rate and very clever to boot. In it the poet, ending in a serious tone, praises the editor of Hanging Loose, Bob Hershon, as “a wise man.” From what I can see he may have been on to something.