Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Mexico Poetry Review

New Mexico Poetry Review

Review By Shannon O’Connor

The cover of New Mexico Poetry Review is graced by a painting by the great-grandmother of the editor, Blanche Bell Lefler Evans, a pioneer who moved from Kansas to New Mexico in 1909. One hundred years later, New Mexico Poetry Review has been brought to life, publishing mostly poets from the beginning and the end of the Santa Fe Trail, Kansas and New Mexico.

The journal blossoms with poems of nature. In Ron Houchin’s “Encounters with the Explained,” “life isn’t what it seems, “How do they know it works?/ Soon spring peepers will be keening/ in the cattail ditch beside Taco Bell/ The river will smell clean for a week.” The injection of Taco Bell brings the poem down to earth and makes it grittier and more honest. Not everything in the wide open spaces is the sky and mountains. Sometimes there’s a fast food chain in the foreground. In the poem “Early Spring,” by Linda Monicelli-Johnson, two hawks sweep up the narrator, “We’re buoyant as seed/ in the wind’s power/ My notebook pages/ flap, laughing flags.” This is a different take on the usual nature poem: it is a fantasy that hawks scoop her up and take her for a ride in the sky, with her notebook flapping. The hawks probably don’t like to be the subject of a poem. They want to scare her.

There are poems of change. In Santiago Lopez’s, “Mr. Kubrick or: How I Learned to Stop Acting and Love the Movies,” the narrator’s uncle stopped acting and became an usher at a “third-rate movie house in a fourth rate Texas town.” He was an extra in movies until Stanley Kubrick told him to get out of the shot and that improved the scene. According to the grandmother, she “wanted her first-born remembered/ for more than being the only child/ out of sixteen to never have left home.” In “The Approach,” Miriam Sagan writes of the decline of a western town, “tequila bottles/ shining like planets/ at the edge of the road.” The train in the poem comes through at different intervals: seven minutes, seven years, seven seconds.

The decline in small towns due to centralization and the Walmart factor is discussed in one of the two interviews in the journal with Donald Levering, a Kansas poet. The New Mexico Poetry Review brings light to the Santa Fe Trail as it is now, as it

Shannon O'Connor is working on her MFA at Bennington College in Vermont.

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