Notes on the Poetry Selections

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June 21, 2020 by The Citron Review

Summer 2020 is a tumultuous time in our nation’s history and the world. Not one person has emerged unscathed, and some more than others. Some have paid the ultimate price. Despite it all, many still tune in to the power of poetry—for solace, for expression, for a call-to-action, for perspective on our lives and those around us. The word free (and all the implications of that word) seems especially relevant right now. Black lives matter.

I think a poem works best when it feels free to be a poem, free to evolve, free to stop making sense before making sense again, free to love or leap or turn into the wind. The poetry selections for the summer issue are free in that each of them, through the poet’s words, move continuously downhill and toward realization. Here is a preview of the poets’ marvelous work that we are proud to feature here.

Despy Boutris’s “Litany With Downpour” begins with a series of well-paced, declarative images that relate to earth and weather before transitioning to a connection between speaker and scene. “I lie / in the wheat, my clothes a mess of mud…” How do we feed on our surroundings? Do our surroundings feed on us? How do we learn to let go? This poem is poignant and powerful and mellifluous in the same breath; it achieves a rare magnitude in twelve lines.

Shome Dasgupta’s “Know No Better” and “Bones” enthrall me with their alliterative sound, first, then, through their exploration of the living world that reveals its fractured center. Indeed, “the slipped voices” from “Know No Better” understand the beautiful wreckage of this landscape called Earth. Many associate the phrase “everything is connected” with cliché. There is nothing cliché about the convergence and divergence of beings in these lines.

JR Rhine’s “Soft Palms” begins with an absolute statement, landing on an image of soft palms at the start of the second line, a move that intrigued me on first read. The poem contains words/phrases like always, never, and in each of, but never comes off as didactic. Rather, through its craft and wisdom, elevates to something else. An anthem, a song, perhaps, that is balanced on its fulcrum but never feels in danger of tipping.

Ace Boggess’s “Occupation” continues where “Soft Palms” leaves off. Whereas “Soft Palms” addresses a universal truth, this poem confides in us, taking us into the mind of a speaker digging holes. “Will anyone notice / brown circles where grass has been interred / like crackers in a bowl of soup?” I did. We do. The observations track a mind at work, what it sees and processes until the reader becomes the one holding the shovel.

Connie Wasem Scott’s “Tarot Reading: The Hanged Man (inverted)” reminds us of the importance of vantage in poetry and the options a poet has as storyteller. Rather than discuss the father and the tree directly through image and lyric, Scott deftly doles out images in a different way, along with questions as to the man’s character. These questions pull us that much closer into this scene, which is no optical illusion.

We hope you enjoy the poetry and prose in our summer issue, and we hope you are keeping safe during this time. We hope that all voices are heard.


Eric Steineger
Managing Editor
Senior Poetry Editor
The Citron Review



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