The literary quarterly The JMWW Review of Baltimore published its Spring 2014 issue today. I have three poems in it — “Grubout,” “Behind a Grove,” and “Crows Overhead.” Two of the poems, “Grubout,” and “Behind a Grove,” have connections to family, but also explore themes of work, death — and, in different ways — the way death can sometimes quickly remove a presence from the world. They are then, of course, about how we think of our dead, the importance of remembering, but also letting go, a balance that is always so hard to achieve in our lives.
“Behind a Grove,” is largely about a pioneer cemetery that fell into long disrepair before being restored in recent years. There are mass graves, unmarked graves, crumbling grave stones. The family story is that the grove where the cemetery is located is what remains of the farm site where my grandmother — my mother’s mom — grew up. I never saw the place as a kid, and there are no traces of buildings now. Just the cemetery, where some of my grandmother’s ancestors — some of whom would have been just a few years older than her — are buried.
Give JMWW a look. It’s a quality quarterly. The spring issue has a big group of poems, along with fiction, flash fiction and an interview with the terrific short-story writer Robin Black.
I want to recommend, strongly, three poetry collections I have been reading lately.
The first is Saving Singletrees by the great Leo Dangel, the retired Southwest Minnesota State University creative writing professor. It is classic Dangel in many ways — straightforward and plainspoken language that holds so many truths and conceals, and then reveals, a great wisdom. Leo writes about rural life, but, as he ages and now lives in a nursing home, he’s also writing about aging, infirmity and even death, but with his usual grace, humor and perception. He is one of the best who has ever come out of the Midwest, and Saving Singletrees proves it on every page.
The second is They Say This is How Death Came into the World, a collection of prose poems by the Omaha author Paul Dickey. He read a week ago at Waldorf College here in Forest City, and his work is inventive, thoughtful, muses — both with humor and seriousness — about religion, philosophy, the poet Pablo Neruda and more. Dickey is an interesting case. He went to school for philosophy and writing, but ended up working in private business for a long time, and said he didn’t write a poem from 1980 until he retired from work a few years ago. He’s already out with two full collections. He also writes and edits the Facebook page The Liberal Limerick.
The third book is Whirling Round the Sun by the New York poet Suzanne Noguere. It was actually published in 1996, but I recently got it and have been reading it the past few weeks. There is formal verse in it, and also some blockbuster free verse poetry. It’s really attentive and sensitive work, and if all you do is read the opening poem “Ear Training for Poets,” you’ll come away enriched. A local note: Suzanne is copy editing a forthcoming history book by Marshall, Minn.,’s Joe Amato, The Book of Twos. I read early drafts of the book over the winter. It’s going to end up being an important book, I think, one that takes global views of history, religion and philosophy and runs them through Joe’s endlessly curious mind and, in a sense, although Joe didn’t start out to do so, devises a new system for thinking about these major strains of thought. But that’s for later. For now, Whirling Round the Sun is worth your reading.