Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Review of Hanging Loose 106 a biannual literary magazine Spring 2016
a biannual literary magazine
I can’t imagine a review of the magazine, Hanging Loose, that does not begin with the aptness of its name. The editors’ vision of poetry is that it loosens the things of this life and looks through the loosened ties to find what happens when the clown shakes us up, and the floppy polka dots and big shoes take over.
The editors are interested in voice and story, sometimes shaggy dog story and the spirit of Frank O”Hara and Damon Runyon hover nearby. They are also interested in the poetry of high school kids.
The issue begins with a fourteen poem series by Sherman Alexie on the occasion of the death of his mother. They are prosy, eloquent, angry, funny, bitter, and loving. Loving,not so much of the mother who put the little boy he was outside in the middle of the night to sleep with the dogs, but of all the things in his world, not his mother: his sons, his wife, his friends, his grief, his gutsiness. There are always other people in his poems. the hot dog salesman at the highway exit who sells his dogs half price if you can prove you are half in love, the asshole who complains that his shirt is wrinkled at his mother’s wake. His son is there; he understands that art has to be honest—he wants to be a rapper, gonna call himself L’il Privilege. “Things I Never Said To My Mother” is a seven stanza poem that ends up with the following verse:
Mother I know
I was a sad little fucker.
I cried all the time.
It wasn’t pretty.
But I wasn’t always
Crying because of you.
I was crying because
I was born to live in the city.
And now I do.
Thank God I do.
Among the other poems that stood out for me, Jack Anderson’s “Night in St. Lézard,” a shaggy dog story that turns into a nightmare in its resistance to ending with a punch line, or ending at all. His “A Poem With That Word” is a story of a comeuppance, with the appropriate glee. Justin Jamail’s “One Night This Guy Scared the Crap Out of Me” ups the ante on Frank O’Hara as does John Keithke’s “A Couple Yeggs.” Mary Ferrari’s lines Written on The Way to Visit Catherine,” on the other hand, is a poem of grief where dinner party conversation with politically prominent dissidents, what is heard and overheard, resonate with the coming death of a friend.
Caroline Knox’s “Watershed” lit-crit list poem made up of allusions to rivers in poems of poets ranging from Kenneth Koch to Henry Thoreau. is witty and exciting in its literary and watery confrontations. In Rebecca Newth’s “My Edward Gorey Journal,” flat anaphoric sentences reflect the spirit and form of Gorey’s so exactly it’s spooky. I knew the man distantly. She’s got him down.
Every now and then a line or two lifts you out of your easy chair. This is from John Paul O’Connor’s poem “First Love” about loving a girl whose former boyfriend is a vet:
I didn’t know what war did to people.
I didn’t know how love made its way from the stick
shift of a ’55 Ford into the combat boots of jealousy
Reading Hanging Loose, you feel as if you are entering a close laid back community, or indeed, family. At the center of the magazine we come to a series of collages by Helen Adam, brilliant in their colors, smoothly reproduced. The editor, Robert Hershon introduces these with a short note that the artist brought a series of her collages to his wedding to Donna Brook in 1982. Here are five of them. We are swept into an unexpected intimacy with the magazine, become aware that actual people put the thing together with love and want the reader to feel part of this family. That feels good.