October 3, 2016 by The Citron Review
At Citron, the main criterion for accepted work is quality. As the Senior Poetry Editor, I look for economy of language, pathos, attention to craft, and that intriguing dash of randomness… as long as there is a system of gravity that holds the randomness together. But there is no one defining feature of a Citron poem.
Sometimes what’s happening in our culture influences selections, at least for poetry. Check out any newscast: America 2016 is fraught with division; what happened in Dallas and what happened in Orlando and what is happening too often is scary. The fear plaguing our country continues despite the best efforts of many in law enforcement and in our communities. To describe the trend as disconcerting is inadequate.
Ellen Stone’s “In Wisconsin” starts out as a weekend drive with a mother and her family before encountering the double standard that disproportionately affects people of color. Similarly, Cheryl Kutcher’s “The Story I Tell Myself Before Bed Every Night” addresses the fear that sends many good people to exile:
“I begin, “Deported after a case of mistaken identity,”
because I heard that phrase as a writing prompt once
but that isn’t right. So I restart: “Deported after
a case of speeding.” And that is accurate but not…”
I’m smitten from the opening stanza. To mention the writing prompt is unusual and speaks to the kind of earned randomness I appreciate — or maybe it’s the angle from which she approaches the poem. Kutcher returns to writing, later, while honoring the poem’s subject matter.
If I had to come up with a synonym for Catherine Stearns’s “Motown,” I would say aftermath, but feel that word doesn’t do it. It’s beautiful, haunting. I feel as if the son in “Motown” could have been someone I’ve known, and I’m anguished reading this poem.
Finally, Sandra Kolankiewicz’s “This Dry Bed.” The desiccated remains of a tongue, a feeling like exquisite remorse tinged with anxiety… this is a poem with layers. The poem begins so:
“But that was before the birdlike woman
whose name I can’t remember now, though she
made me so unhappy with her vibrant
smallness, her inexhaustible movement
which once kept her thin while by that time we
had no choice. All I have wanted to drink…”
It’s hard to exhaust the Kolankiewicz poem. Are we dealing with a self who is now enduring a penance? I would ask the poet, but it seems better to marvel at these lines, which, like water, are pliant but assume the shape of their container.
Senior Poetry Editor, The Citron Review