Volume 110, Number 3/4

Volume 110, Number 3/4

pl10934-lg It’s essential to keep in mind that in poetry the music comes first,
before everything else, everything else…. Thought, meaning,
vision, the very words, come after the music has been established, and in the most mysterious way
they’re already contained in it.—C.K. Williams (“On Whitman: The Music”)

Cover Caption:  “Halloween, 110th Street, New York, 1968” © Arthur Tress (Web site: arthurtress.com)

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Editors’ Page

Costumed for Halloween, the child in our cover photo is a spy, a cyborg, a cartoon listener. We can’t tell what he’s hearing (a scuffling of dry leaves, wind in high branches, the swoosh of a passing car), but we can see he’s “all ears.” For him as for us, sound enters at the ear but blossoms in the brain as we try to discern its message or its music or the nature of its noise. And if what we hear is both language and music—if it says and sings—it may well be poetry.

In his provocative 1959 essay “How You Sound??,” a very brief manifesto on the nature of poetic voice, Amiri Baraka wrote the following (all ellipses are his from the original text): “The only ‘recognizable tradition’ a poet need follow is himself…& with that, say, all those things out of tradition he can use, adapt, work over, into something for himself. To broaden his own voice with. (You have to start and finish there…your own voice…how you sound.)”

Because how a poet sounds matters so much to us at Poet Lore, we read the poems we’re considering aloud to one another at each editorial meeting—a decisive exercise. Too often, stanzas that looked promising on the page fall flat in the air. Among the many poets in this issue whose sounds are unmistakably their own, you’ll find D. Nurkse (“I was a new hire in the wireworks / in Atherton…), Carl Phillips (“Fate / stakes the final claim, as if forever breaking / ground…”), Jill Leininger (“The body is wise and beguiling”), Jo Brachman (“you continued / on your merry way, dead”), R.T. Smith (“The flag irises were thriving wild in the ditch”), and Tony Hoagland (“the Bible keeps being written / by two hands at once— / each one crossing the text of the other out”). In the back of the book, look for Mark Sullivan’s “Say the Word,” an essay that explores the threshold between hearing and interpreting word-sounds, along with incisive reviews of seven recent books.

It’s hard to describe but easy to recognize the cadences of poetry. As Robert Frost wrote in a letter to his former student John Bartlett a century ago: “The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader….I wouldn’t be writing all this if I didn’t think it the most important thing I know.”



D. Nurkse
The Name on the Plinth
Porch Lamps

Nicole Pekarske

Renee Gherity
To Robert Lowell, In October

Peter Davis
Coming Home Again

Doug Ramspeck
The Grief of Pigeons


Carl Phillips
And Love You Too

Lois Marie Harrod

“Darkness, the Last Clown”

Irene Fick
We Didn’t Know Anything

Jo Brachman
Native Medicine
Second Death

Brian Clifton
Apocalypse with Suburbia

Zoe Polach
The Tulip Poplar

Dian Duchin Reed
The Tree Circus

Roger Desy

Brian Swann

Brian Swann

R.T. Smith
Keel Bone

Carol Hamilton
Superman Suits

Joseph A. Chelius
On Watching Replays of a Pitcher Struck in the Face by a Comeback Line Drive

Tony Hoagland
Going Soft
Bible Still Being Written

Margaret Randall
Written in Patria o Muerte

Christopher Presfield
Prison: The Moment
Thug #1

Robert Tremmel
The man next door

T.J. Sandella
Apartment B

Gary Fincke
The Secret Voice

James Crews
“Scents Were Everywhere That Night”

Jill Leininger
Seasonal Epilogues

Janice Lynch Schuster
Atmospheric Pressure

Jessica Greenbaum
Approaching Rain

Rachel Mennies

Robin Becker
Security Clearance

John Bargowski

David McAleavey
Mother love
Levitating the Pentagon, 1967

Joseph Bathanti
Good Friday: March 24, 1967
Richard Krohn Thanksgiving 1968

Gary Stein
Just a Trim

Rod Jellema
Lynchburg, Virginia, 1969

Marc Swan
Before the body count

Ray Hadley
Free Matches

Kim Lozano
The Ice Stopped Here

Daryl Jones

D. Nurkse
Growing Old in the Foothills

James Scruton

Bryce Emley
Stroke (My Father as Weed-Eater)

Marjorie Stelmach

Matthew J. Spireng

Steven Ratiner

Meg Eden

David Lehman
Time after Time: Seventeen Haiku

Ruth Holzer
Nightly Tally

Susan Bucci Mockler
The Chapel Street School Fire

David Thacker
Pregnancy Date Night Evening Walk

Erica Lee Braverman
To My Neighbors Canoodling

Charles Jensen
How to Fall in Love with Strangers


Poets Introducing Poets

Grace Cavalieri introduces Abdul Ali
Praise Song #6
Gotham ’Round Midnight
On Fortune
Four Blue Stanzas
I Now Sleep with a Plastic Mask
After Ferguson, New Year’s Eve, 2014
On Editing a Documentary on Jean-Michel Basquiat
Notes Toward an Origin Story
The Prince



Mark Sullivan “Say the Word”


Mark Raymond “After the Pastoral”
by Charles Wright
Richard Logsdon “Into the Light”
Paradise Drive
by Rebecca Foust

Judy Neri “Thoughts on Poetry of Conscience and Commitment”
by Gretchen Primack
We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters
by Brian Gilmore
Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations
by Naomi Ayala

Barbara Goldberg “Journeys into Foreign Terrains”
Day of the Border Guards
by Katherine E. Young
Graffiti Calculus
by Mary-Sherman Willis

Jacqueline Kosolov “Embodying Agony: A New Mother on the Margins of War”
Blood Lyrics
by Katie Ford