June 22, 2017 by The Citron Review
From my hotel window, a striated sky threatens downtown Tampa.
I am here for a week on business (scoring essays to determine placement for incoming college students), but the reading has yet to begin, so I sit at a desk in my hotel room, making decisions on poems for our summer issue, periodically looking out the window. I am looking at the sky and wondering if I can make it across the street to the Tampa Convention Center for dinner without getting caught in a storm. Already, I miss my family.
A series of reimagined American landscapes bind the poems of our summer issue. Without giving too much away, I am including a line from the selections. Rochelle Shapiro’s “The Shuttered House” starts us off with a collection of “Once’s…” bringing us back to a different time while forcing us to confront a loss of innocence. “Once you heard the twop of a baseball tossed into a mitt and the whoops of sons chasing squirrels that scampered off in furry waves.” This is a poem that begins as a trip down nostalgia lane before opening as large as the berth of America (and beyond) before returning to its place of origin and the symbolism of honeysuckles.
Danielle Hale’s poems, “Blood Quantum” and “9/32,” show us the loss that accompanies the homogenization of culture. “But her blood falls short of quantum, white-washing her, erasing heritage that has flowed through generations since before white consumed.” In 2017 America, these poems resonate. What is America if not a proud collection of voices comprised of many skin tones and histories, all with distinct features, working for the common good? A mother answers here. The formatting of these poems defies convention, which seems appropriate giving the appropriation of cultures at troubling times in our nation’s history.
I first learned of Laton Carter’s work on a whim, picking up his collection Leaving at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. “Disconnecting” and “No,” two prose poems in this issue, present the power of alternative energy: an energy that has the power to innovate and inspire — but also with the potential to metastasize, to confuse the populace. From “No”: “The power of no is not the power to negate, but rather the power of having been negated. Inside rejection, which is not a refusal of worth but only one of its measurements, lies a small while inextinguishable force — the receiver of no must learn an alternate way to survive.” When I think of reimagining our landscape (and the grid of laws & philosophies therein), I think of Carter’s work in this issue.
Finally, Anna Kelley wraps these selections with “Kitchen Denizen,” an authoritative poem that plays with the notion of identity — how society sees gender roles and traditional jobs for women. Kelley takes the archaic idea of a woman’s place being in the kitchen and flips it. “Why should I scan the streets for animate flesh when I prefer to crush lemons and spices, labor over pasta racks, fall asleep facedown in an angel food cake? The nonstop massage of olive oil into pans has turned my hands an unsightly chartreuse.” This poem exalts in its independence, proudly wearing its battle scars. We appreciate (and look for) this kind of fearlessness in poems for The Citron Review.
We are grateful to our contributors for such fine poetry, as we are grateful for every poet who submits work to Citron. We hope these poems make you think and make you feel something real. Happy summer.
Senior Poetry Editor, The Citron Review