by Sarah Kirstine Lain, Poems2go Assistant Editor
The P2G Winter Quarterly is here! When Poems2go’s founder, Christine Jones, and I were discussing potential themes for the P2G Winter Quarterly, the idea of reinvention spoke to us both. I think of phrases like reinventing the wheel and nothing new under the sun. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of reinvention is referenced in the March 1719 issue of the Weekly Medley: An Art now so long lost, its Loss so lamented, and its re-invention so much coveted. This concept is closest to my consciousness, though not without consideration to the former idioms. To me, poetry offers a space for reinvention like none other: word into image into idea into social reform into conversation with another poem, law, art form, technology, etc.
Recently, I have been meditating on André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism, particularly this thought: “I would plunge into [art], convinced that I would find my way again, in a maze of lines which at first glance would seem to be going nowhere. And, upon opening my eyes, I would get the very strong impression of something never seen.” As poets, what is the secret sauce in the cosmic hallucination art supper that leads to envisioning futures that can reshape landscapes of human freedom? How do we reinvent the tools that reinvent the wheel? Or perhaps, on a less epic and more anchored level: how does a writer take the stuckness of road construction on a morning commute, and during the delay, imagine the driver that led her there as the Future Princess of New Fruit in a Multiverse of Non-atomic Pink Matter? I don’t know how everyone else does this stuff, but for me it takes a poem.
In the coming months, we’ll be highlighting ways in which poets address reinvention in this issue of Poems2go. We’re thrilled to share work by poets Tara Betts, Clarissa Adkins, Jennifer Martelli, Panika M.C. Dillon, Wendy Drexler, Mary Makofske, Susan Cavanaugh, Lillo Way, Sean Lause, and Mary Makofske. For starters, Jennifer Martelli’s Pachydermianism turns an elephant’s forehead into a gray sky with a blue diamond in it, and then immediately there is no diamond! First, the elephant is Asian, and then it may be African, etc. All of this is reinventing matter in the course of a few lines, and then – The diamond may be a diamond formed by squeezing coal for a million years or formed by a child’s / pointer fingers and thumbs touching. Suddenly, a diamond is no longer an elaboration of an elephant’s forehead; instead it is the work of a child. The concept of Pachydermianism (a genetic disorder causing the skin to thicken) grows so imagistically complex in its capacity to foster simultaneous emotions, not for a diamond or an elephant, but for the child’s pointer fingers and thumbs touching in order to produce what can be worn for another’s elegance.
In Panika M. C. Dillon’s playful beware the feather boas, the speaker’s hair is a room where the reader can try on clothes and pull out loose change, enter it into a gumball machine and pull out a tongue. An absurdist image like this gives space for multiple interpretations, but what it accomplishes beyond that is its ability to take something as everyday and visceral as hair, and turn it into some respun C.S. Lewis wardrobe with a creepy gumball-tongue twist at the end. Similarly, in Mary Makofske’s In the Braille Garden, a blind person experiences a garden through braille, where roses have fangs; the twigs of burning bushes are winged, and a lamb’s ears are furred leaves. We can enter into these images, though we’ve never seen them before, and isn’t that integral to the blind experience?
I am asking: can we consider the substance of poetic work by writing what we witness through a lens of what we have never seen? What is more real: the brown freckles I see on my hand while typing this or the pink octopus-shaped beauty mole I see on my imaginary enthroned head while typing this? I think of Salvador Dalí, who achieved reinvention in so many ways. He claimed that he liked to sleep with intense light on to reshape his dreams. Consider some of the titles of his art: A Shattering Entrance to the USA, The Laser Unicorn Disintegrates the Horns of the Cosmic Rhinoceros, or one of my favorites – Martian Dali Equipped with a Double Holoelectronic Microscope. None of that exists! – or it didn’t, but it does now. Dalí’s art has reimagined my own aesthetic, dreamscape, and so on. In the same way, may these poems provide intense light for a deeply necessary reinvention.
Poems2go editors Christine and Sarah had an opportunity to present Kevin McLellan with questions we had as poets, and as editors, regarding his p2g featured poem “Dear Canaries” and his views on contemporary poetry.
Go to our new Interviews tab on the main menu of our website to read his answers, and learn more about one of today’s stellar poets.
More of Kevin’s poetry, click here for his website.
While you’re at it, you’ll enjoy our new streamlined submission form.
I was singing this song as I prepared the latest collection of poems2go.
When you read Chris Lamay-West’s “Emily Listens Critically to Diana Ross” you’ll know why. No, Diana didn’t make this song famous, The Pointer Sisters did, but still, I was singing it because I am excited about these poems. They’re fun, and smart.
And not only is West tuned in, but so is Rosebud Ben-Oni whose submission included all poems with titles from lines of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. It was convenient, of course, that Sarah and I were reviewing submissions and making our selections the eve of the solar eclipse. I was humming “every now & then i get a little bit lonely” for days.
I love singing for all the same reasons I love poetry because I feel engrossed, engaged, and connected to something outside my worrying head. It encompasses both the physical and emotional resonances I crave. I can’t sing particularly well, and probably write poetry only slightly better, but they make me feel happy, especially when they’re fun and smart, as these poems are.
Sarah and I were particularly impressed with the range of forms we read including formal, experimental, free, and prose. We have some of each for you in this quarterly collection. Alan Michael Parker shares from his collection of sonnets, Nate Pritts engages us with white space, says:
I leave my hands behind
There are other hands
At work inside me
Mary Ann Honaker gives us a prose poem, Siham Karami shares a pantoum,
and we have Kevin McLellan’s address “Dear Canaries,”
Thank you for sending the sparrow
to remind me of space
and to encourage light
To round this collection out is the observant “Olber’s Paradox” by Grace Curtis, and the entrenching poem on motherhood (one of my favorite poetry subjects) ‘We’ve Not Long Come In” by Sasha West.
You will come away from these poems looking more closely at the night sky, an ordinary Wednesday, automatic doors, and you will, most hopefully, be singing.
Next time you’re surfing at Nauset Beach or swimming on the bay side at Skaket Beach in Orleans, MA, you can find a cooled corner to relax in at Snow’s Library. The library has dedicated a quiet, sunlit room, complete with a wingback chair, to poetry. It is lined with poetry books of all kinds, with special features on local poets, and poet of the month. It also now carries our beloved poems2go.
I recently discovered Carl Phillips’ book Rock Harbor, and while I don’t know if its indeed named after Orleans’ own Rock Harbor, I was thrilled to read:
I love a storm,
and said so, by I have always
loved better the wreckage after,
I did not mean instead of, but
Orleans is my heaven on earth. It’s where I live with my husband, and where we swim, surf, run, clam, paddle board, fish, you name it. And it’s where I get much of my inspiration for poetry. I’m thrilled to now have even more poetry books to explore, and for p2g to have a cozy spot to share its poems with.
This month is the two-year anniversary of Poems2go’s first publication! Founded in 2015 with the generous support of the Witter Bynner Foundation, we have watched this little publication grow exponentially, from one city to now nine states! We’re so grateful to hear from shop owners and baristas across the country, about how people are engaging with this project. Way back in graduate school (shout out Lesley University!), we would often talk about the ways we wished poetry was a more influential art in public culture, and it’s truly a gift to connect poetry with everyday spaces such as the cafes, bookstores, and libraries.
As we celebrate such joys, we are also balancing this growth with the need to prioritize our goals in becoming a first-class experimental poetry project. Some of these goals include increasing unsolicited, quality submissions and first-time publications by talented poets, as well as targeting our online market. In order to focus on these goals, Poems2go is making a strategic move from monthly publication to quarterly publication. This transition will allow us, as editors, to focus more time and energy on the integrity of the creative work we publish.
We’d love your help in spreading the word about Poems2go, whether through post-sharing, retweets, or simply sharing a p2g poem with a friend. At heart, that’s what this project is about: reaching poetry’s arm around the world, finding new homes for poems that expand our human empathy, creativity, and knowledge. We’re excited about this transition, and we hope you will join us in celebrating two years of Poems2go!