Volume 108, Number 3/4

Volume 108, Number 3/4

pl10834-lg This is the night mail crossing the Border,Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,

The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

—W.H. Auden

Cover Caption: Ozark children at the RFD box, Missouri, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

This issue is sold out. Please e-mail Managing Editor Laureen Schipsi for research requests.

Editors’ Page

Today’s mail arrives: a 21st-century jumble of local real-estate notices, solicitations, bills, catalogues, and advertising flyers. If we’re lucky, there’s a postcard or a letter in the mix, a few lines of script in a familiar hand, and maybe a magazine. Even in the digital age, the letter exerts a mysterious pull—and the journal (Poet Lore, perhaps) issues its own clear invitation.

But for the young girls on our cover, walking to the mailbox was a serious rural ritual, the day’s post a lifeline linking farm routes and cities, family and friends. For those without telephones or the resources to travel, a letter’s voice had transformative power, speaking from another place, another time—making it vivid, there and then.

What kind of lifeline does poetry offer, what kind of “news”? Dickinson’s “letter[s] to the world” still astonish and instruct us; and Whitman’s headlong dispatches continue to unfold as if his American moment were our own. Conjuring the heft of sensory experience, their words bring news from the human interior and deliver it safely across any distance.

This issue opens with an introduction by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (whose early work appeared in Poet Lore – Vol. 91, No. 2) to Tarfia Faizullah’s poems on identity, desire, and personal agency. Other poets in these pages send missives from war zones (Bill Glose’s “Gathering Intelligence”), classrooms (Ted Lardner’s “Assignment”), jails (Joseph Bathanti’s “Huntersville Prison”), and pilgrimage sites (Jane Medved’s “Leaving a Note at the Western Wall”)—from the precincts of poverty (M. Nzadi Keita’s “102.”), nightmare (Lucinda Roy’s “A Mind Full of Winter”), and longing (Bruce Lowry’s “Love Song for Anna May Wong”).

Like a letter arriving just in time, Mitchell Untch’s dizzying epistolary poem, “Dear Betty Blythe Francis,” reclaims an ardent friendship after nearly half a century. In closing, it resurrects a season, enacting the dual urgencies of memory and insight: “…October, // the maple’s red hands, spring rain signing the grass, and the two of us still alive in this world….” Still alive—a claim that might describe the stubborn force of poetry itself.


Poets Introducing Poets

Tarfia Faizullah Introduction by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey
Stockpiling for the Hereafter
What I Want is Simple
The Anatomy of Prayer
Tell me where it hurts
Fair & Lovely



David Wagoner
Ahead of Time

David Wagoner
Amounting to Something

Gary Fincke

Anne Dyer
Stuart In a Classroom is a Body

Liza Katz
Artist’s Model

Chelsea Wagenaar

Ted Lardner
Stella Blue

Bruce Lowry
Love Song for Anna May Wong

Mark Rubin
I’m in the Phone Book

Matthew J. Spireng

Mitchell Untch
Dear Betty Blythe Francis

Phillip Sterling

Anne Sheldon
Shots of Garrett County

Anne Sheldon
Dream Sequence

Marilynn Talal
The Samurai’s Wife

Mary Crow
Blind Spots

Laurie Zimmerman

Ann Gerike

Sally Bliumis-Dunn
Portrait of a Reader

Shane Seely
The Frozen Pond

Alison Prine

Kate Peper
View from the Jungfraujoch Railway Café

Lucinda Roy
A Mind Full of Winter

Mary Parham
Caged Animals

Joseph Bathanti
Huntersville Prison

Joseph Bathanti
This Mad Heart

Joseph Bathanti

Naton Leslie
Watching Wild Kingdom

Gary Fincke
The Wide Astonishment of Air

June Rockefeller
The Smokehouse

Katherine Robinson
Turkey Vultures

Jane Medved
Leaving a Note at the Western Wall

Jonathan H. Scott
Home from Damascus

Frannie Lindsay
Prayer of a Prodigal During Holy Week

Frannie Lindsay
Old Dog Suckling

Bill Glose
Gathering Intelligence

Ted Lardner

Javier Zamora
14 May, 1980: Hundreds Float

Richard Jones
The Chair

Richard Jones
The Call

Richard Jones

Alex McRae
Killarney Fern

Stuart Friebert
Some Sun on Cloud Tops

R.T. Smith
Winter Tying

R.T. Smith

John Balaban
Remembering Elling Eide

Sid Gold

Julie E. Bloemeke

Kathleen Winter

Deirdre Callanan
Something Else

Anya Silver
At the Station

Rob Sulewski

Carrie Addington

Ariana Nadia Nash
The Night We Came to the Forest

Carol V. Davis
Nothing Left to Do

June Rockefeller
Open Closets Are Sad

J.T. Ledbetter
Last Light on the Marsh

Ellen Devlin
So Far to Gather in My Hair

Brianna Noll
At the Mercury Fountain, Barcelona

Travis Mossotti

M. Nzadi
Keita 102.

Mark Lilley
The Check

Mark Lilley
The Choice

Rick Mulkey

Carina Yun
Through the Stockton Street Tunnel

Robert J. Levy
Shopping Without a List

Mary Ann Larkin
We Live in Longing

Brian Simoneau
City Champs Celebrate Unlikely Win in Back of Coach’s Pickup

Jason Gebhardt
Equanimity (A Poem in the Form of the State of Georgia)

Ken Poyner

Lee Rossi

Rob Sulewski
Late Lunch

Caitlin Cowan
Vanishing Act

Steven Ratiner
Horizontal Tower

Jaydn DeWald
Triptych for Morgan, Bird, and Brown


Essays & Reviews

Jaydn Dewald
“In Praise of Constraints: Inciting the Unexpected”

Marci Vogel reviews Alight by Fady Joudah

Zara Raab reviews Year of Reversible Loss by Norma Farber

Debra Wierenga reviews Mark the Music by Merrill Leffler