Notes on the Poetry Selections

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December 20, 2020 by The Citron Review

This fall has been good for reading. At semester’s end, I am fortunate to have time to reread old favorites like Don DeLillo’s Underworld (500 pages in) and engage new material as well: The Art of Voice by Tony Hoagland (done) and African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, edited by Kevin Young (lingering on this one). Of course, I have the privilege of reading poetry submissions for Citron too. That I am privileged by virtue of being a white male, healthy, and employed is not lost on me. I am grateful that privilege, perhaps more than ever, is on the minds of millions of Americans. There is much work to be done, and it is easy to get distracted during this time. Thankfully, there are things like the sound of a loved one’s voice to help keep one sane.

Some poems have that power too: the power to keep one sane—or to inspire, to mirror the past and present in which we reflect and ponder our next move. Adam Day’s “Crooked Fever” and “Invisible Rhythm” may have been written in Louisville, but they reflect social justice, loss, and the dream of equilibrium from any location. The poems’ structure (line breaks, concision, syntax, sliding images, and transitions) exudes balance and provides contrast to a world in flux as presented in the poems. Reading Day’s work, I am reminded of the shorter line lengths, inventive syntax, and vivid images from Erik Ekstrand’s collection Laodicea, which I hold in high regard. 

James Quigley’s “Ascent of the Blessed” is an ekphrastic poem based on Hieronymus Bosch’s painting from the sixteenth century. If you have not seen Bosch’s Ascent of the Blessed, don’t; first read Quigley’s arresting poem. Then, if you want to enjoy a viewing, you will hear the music of his verse as you gaze up into the tunnel. With ekphrastic poetry, I enjoy when a poet addresses not only the imagery of the work, but also the experience of interacting with it. Quigley’s poem adds another layer by employing a narrator who appears to have witnessed the event. “I was a silverfish struck dumb/in sudden fluorescence/by a flicked light switch.” Enough said.

Everything holds life in C.M. Taylor’s “Each house in twilight, its own.” They’s poem moves from anonymous homes to singular car to familiar supermarket and back to house, one occupied by the poet and their partner, but the pacing never sacrifices image or pathos in this mediation on persistence in the pandemic. At one point in the poem, the poet is on foot and so are we, the readers, taking in the sights and sounds of a neighborhood on this brisk but unhurried walk. Taylor’s poem begins and ends with image, with movement between, its poetics a testimonial to the strength of repetition, choice, and familiarity.

To return to a personal note for a moment, I am transitioning to a new role at Citron while keeping my position as Senior Poetry Editor. As many know, ZEST is a feature of Citron, a creative forum where our editors review books, conduct interviews, and more. Look for exciting posts in the new year. I see ZEST as a way for our readers and team to get to know each other better while giving our editors the opportunity to tout others’ work. Of course, we do this by publishing writers, nominating for awards, and writing letters in each genre, but ZEST offers something extra. Right now, I’m thinking of Online Editor JR Walsh’s recent interview of Jules Archer, a discussion of her short story collection Little Feasts. Also, Charlotte Hamrick’s Q&A with Tara Isabel Zambrano is landing in this issue. Do check them out along with our winter picks! I envision similar conversations in ZEST in the near future. 

The winter issue is my last issue as Managing Editor, but I remain active at Citron, particularly with poetry, and I look forward to guiding ZEST. Happy holidays, and we at Citron wish you a safe and happy new year.

Warmly, 

Eric Steineger
Senior Poetry Editor
Editor of ZEST
The Citron Review

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