The Editors Write: Dorinda Wegener conveys both wonder and terror in just a handful of lines. There’s an incision to her work which is truly startling, a gift for presenting an image at an angle which makes it seem fresh and impossibly new. This seemingly innate instinct for context is outweighed only by her sense of literary economy: Not a single syllable is wasted, not a single sound note frivolous: Each word is precisely poised for devastating impact.
By Dorinda Wegener
One moment, the farmland is covered with old snow,
the next, fog-shrouded and clayey underfoot.
I turn the field, afraid of the flux in temperature
having to lose again my heady till to verglas,
but the croft does thaw; as with her first homecoming:
the seeded contraction, the body’s breath
priming pump, then the womb’s door. — My plot
anew, the maiden returns, and only the seasoned
stone wall retains its rime while a single crocus shoot
silently rises and the cedar waxwing cries: See! See!
Writes Wegener: Ira Sadoff’s ability to address rage and skepticism, ecstasy and faith, with new diction, surprising syntax, and creative, relevant imagery reminds me why I love poetry. His poems sing the saving graces and binding gravities of our lives. Ira never backs down! Questing words for accounts that cannot be accounted for. In fearlessness, Sadoff inquires of each poem, each reader, “Look: what else? What happens next?” A truth seeking approach I admire and humbly attempt within my own poems; his ever-supportive jazz echoing in my head, “What else can this poem be? What else can this poem hold?”
By Ira Sadoff
In the old days there were characters
and settings: if you wrote snow
you could see wetness and whiteness
bending twigs of the cherry tree.
How many robins perched on that quince
in the snowstorm? Did the spill of milk
make us ill? And what did that say
about when the ladder fell? Everybody’s sick
of naming a few familiar birds and trees
whose dilemmas are just like ours.
If we started out playful and restless,
flooded with all at once, we ended up
married to episodes. But don’t give me
the Utopia of Childhood, the moody
little brats, what they extract,
how they suffer: I was a storehouse
of lassitude. I took everything personally,
I was a thumbnail sketch of the universe.
The branches are smarter than we are.
Their contract with stillness is limber
and listless. They bring us the sheen
not of sparrows, not what we’re thinking,
but juniper berries, just how green
they are soon after you clip them.
(This poem appeared originally in The Paris Review and in Sadoff’s 2003 poetry collection, Barter, from University of Illinois Press.)
Writes Wegener: Caroline Hagood writes keenly empathetic verses. A poet of urgency, Caroline rallies against literary dogmas refusing to align with what can and cannot be committed within a poem. She wears diction and syntax as a poetry bandolier; shooting pistol-packing images with precise clarity and veracity. Brutally honest, untethered youthfulness, with one wise, old heart, Hagood grapples in her poems with the human psyche and its many societal roles, “if you couldn’t save them, / [to] at least send your words.” My world betters because Caroline does!
Watching You Suffer
By Caroline Hagood
I see you, you know. While you shuffle
around your home, buy coffee
from the street guy, put quarters
in the jukebox, after spending
way too long picking your songs.
I’m with you while you draw
fingers through errant hair, raise
a saucy brow, get almost sick with love.
I’m still there after the city halogens go out,
hovering over your explosions
of insomniac thought, curving
in and out of night terrors, taking some
into the light to examine them for signs
of secrets you don’t normally share.
I watch you stay awake after the nightly news
imagining people being tortured
in suburban basements, crying out
where only metal can hear them,
the ballad of the lonely soul,
and you almost can’t go on.
What is that shiver building inside you?
Maybe you got it from your mother,
that fierce woman who would carefully carry
bugs out of the house rather than kill them.
Ever since you rode your little bike
with the garish colors, you were the protector
of the stones and flowers, pedaling towards
something shimmering a little off to the side:
the will to perform some massive tenderness
for the hurting, and if you couldn’t save them,
to at least send your words.