Notes on the Poetry Selections1
September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review
As I write this letter for the fall issue, I am flying solo this week as my wife is in St. Louis at a food conference. What that means: I am in charge of my three and three-quarter year old daughter, along with managing our crazy schedules. This is not the first time my wife has had a conference in another city; periodically, I travel as well. But when my daughter and I are alone in the evening, eating our dinner, listening to the crickets in the creek, the door to the back porch just ajar, I feel how lucky we are. I am not as reserved or business-like with my words or pace. We just eat and enjoy each other’s company. Of course, we miss people when they are not around. Absence reminds us of presence.
Sometimes, poetry is best when it professes feeling. That is not to suggest that, in those moments, the poem is overt or lacking in the power vs. restraint dynamic that is important in our genre. The poems of the fall issue are, at once, declarative and reminiscent. We can see the directness in their titles: “Fighting with God,” “Litany in Praise of Fighting with Your Husband,” and “Shelley’s Heart,” which carries its own affirmation from the aura that surrounds the poet’s last moments in 1822.
“Shelley’s Heart” by Willa Schneberg is a love poem done right. It recognizes the transitory nature of human love while celebrating “the body electric” as Whitman once wrote. Shelley’s death has been widely discussed in literature, history, and lore. What about the couple who live together, mad for each other, quietly committed and happy after all these years? Is their bond not as powerful?
Thinking of the duality of absence and presence, Jennifer Woodworth’s “Fighting with God” has an awareness of the void left by children. She breaks her prose poem into two stanzas: “The Fight is Fair” and “The Fight is Not Fair.” I’m not sure at which frequency I vibrate, thinking of my daughter’s departure in fifteen years (the italics a paraphrase of the poets’ words and not my own), and I only hope to be prepared for such a moment. Woodworth’s poem is the poetic mind at work, its longer lines like unfolding an origami crane to reveal something even more beautiful.
Rachel Andoga’s “Litany in Praise of Fighting with Your Husband” and “In the City of Zirma” round out our issue. When we think of litany, we might think of repetition, a litany like Andre Breton’s “Free Union,” Billy Collins’s “Litany,” or Cory Wade’s “Knitting Litany,” or maybe liturgical rites in a church. Here, praise is the optimum word, but a praise of the “crash and flood” of life’s detritus—obstacles that are surmountable—which is made possible by love. Love and inner peace exist for the people “In the City of Zirma” too, but one that cannot be realized with the allure of something new. Andoga’s line tells us what we need to know: “What hurts / cannot be cured by early morning / even in Zirma.” I’m glad that love seems to be a panacea for fear; these poems remind us of the importance and attainability of love.
Senior Poetry Editor
The Citron Review
Really nice intro Eric—thank you so much! —jw