Monday, July 11, 2016

Columbia Poetry Review Spring 2016

Columbia Poetry Review
Department of Creative Writing
Columbia College
Chicago, Illinois
Copyright © 2016 by Columbia College Chicago
ISSN 1930-4900
92 pages, softbound, No Price Given

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Too many poems that are “accessible” are far too simple. Other poems are labeled “experimental” and are mostly incomprehensible.  Yet a third group, a hybrid of the accessible and experimental seems to thrive in journals that are willing to publish such hybrids.

Based on their latest edition (No. 29), the Columbia Poetry Review published by Columbia College of Chicago is at the forefront of this cutting edge poetic endeavor.

For example C. Violet Eaton’s “Poor Onion”

Some suckers live lyrically
By looking in the body. Poor suckers
Poor math, pure omen. Other folk
Look to the outside, clutch at huff rags &
Try just to get to be nothing: maybe
Score a job down at the chicken plant,
Pulling feathers, cutting throats, best case.
Take a half a year living six to a room
Just to make on an offer on a thirdhand truck.
Poor number.  Hail the great conflicts:
Man vs. the Stankin Ass Pit Void, or
Las luchadoras contra la momia. We could
Find suckers, stake them, pit them against.
We could take bets. A crowd could form,
Thrash its paltry capital, then as quickly
Disperse. They fight hard but non panther.
Their own truth hold out just one flower.

Me, I’m more sensitive than most.
I have a bouquet. Not truth.
I have not a bouquet. I have a bucket.

What the poet is conveys is the pathos of survival, living in squalor, saving money “Just to make an offer on a third hand truck.”  work in  a “chicken plant” where the dirty work is assigned to immigrants and the possibility of having these “suckers” fight each other.  Is she talking about street gangs? Is it Latinos vs blacks?  What it is is left for the reader decide.

On the other hand Craig Santos Perez’s finale, from understory is a clear expression of his worries for the future of a daughter not yet born:

when [our]

daughter is
born, will

her eyes
open to

irradiated light?
when she

takes her
first breath,

will she
choke down

poisoned wind?

How many soon to be parents and parents with young children have not at least thought, if not expressed such fears for the future given the potential for nuclear war, concern about ongoing climate change and even added media fears of a space object’s collision with Earth that might radically alter or change life on the planet. Perez presents a summation of many fears.

Of the poets in this volume, Felicia Zamora, Justin Phillip Reed William Brewer, Sarah Dravec  to name four, present challenging poetry that some readers will find exciting and forward looking.

Zvi A. Sesling

Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016)
Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011)
King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Press, 2010)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

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