Welcome to our newest regular contributor, Amy Pence, who joins Midtown Review as our poetry guru. If we relied on my experience with poetry there would be a lot of “There once was a man from Nantucket…” in the mix! So thanks to Amy for her expertise today and in many more posts to come!
Poems are the new tweets. Okay, poetry is much more complex, resonant, and luxuriant to the ear than your run-of-the-mill tweet or status update, but why the masses have not turned to poetry in this short-attention-span and time-strapped society is beyond me. If you haven’t picked up a book of poetry in awhile, I encourage you to jump in bravely. Strong and beautiful poems abound, collected in old standbys like Poetry Magazine and proliferating online in innovative electronic journals such as Drunken Boat, 2River View, and Born Magazine. Poetry Daily now has an app for your iPhone or iPod touch so you can hear contemporary poems culled from a variety of literary magazines.
Indeed, hearing a poem as well as letting the words move into your body is the best entry (or reentry) into poetry. My poet friend from Wales frequently reminds me that a poem’s sonic qualities—how the poem feels in the mouth and how those sounds carry in the air—is its first pleasure.
Which leads me to a new release from one of the premier publishers of poetry: BOA Editions, Ltd. Wyn Cooper has produced an exciting book that resounds deliciously. His poems can be deftly succinct even while they roam out of the body. The poems in his fourth book, Chaos Is the New Calm, span landscapes and speak with wit and often with an even-handed rhyme. And best of all these poems roll off the tongue. Try voicing this one aloud:
Backstreet barricade, arcane
balustrade, hidden kingdom of wing and prayer
details too fine to miss or mess with,
skinny escape from a netherhood
of parapets and puddle soaked oaks.
(from “Daily Threads”)
Wyn Cooper is the man behind Sheryl Crow’s song “All I Wanna Do,” which appeared in his first book as the poem “Fun.” His story has become apocryphal among starving poets who long for exposure, and the light touch of that Grammy-winning song can be found in many of the poems here.
His book teases us with his sly humor; many of his rhymed poems can be both deadpan and dead-on. “Not so much timbre as tone,/ more like a xylophone” one poem begins. My favorites, however, are the poems that paint luscious still-life scenes that animate once given voice. “Forecast” begins:
Snow falls softly as your voice,
no pink noise, no chatter of boys
on their way home from school,
no pack of girls smoking Kools.
In the poem “Reading Parker,” Cooper pokes fun at the descriptions in wine magazines (and in particular Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide), but this poem lingers on the tongue, as a good wine should:
The whites taste of anise, quinine,
quartz, pears left to bloom in
Provencal sun—reds masculine,
broad-shouldered and hedonistic
in a superexpressive road tar
candied cherry kind of way
unlike the slow road to Beaune
this winter afternoon, …
Copper’s collection is a fine choice to begin your foray into the pleasures of poetry. So after checking your tweets, put up your feet and let poetry take you deeper.
— Amy Pence, Regular Contributor