Notes on the Poetry Selections

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June 20, 2021 by The Citron Review

As I write this letter, it is humid in North Carolina, even in Asheville. In other parts of the state today, temperatures hover in the upper 90s Fahrenheit. Some of us tend to our gardens, urban or country, trying to will a pepper from wet soil. Some have never had access to their own soil. As we know, there are many cultures in the world, each with their own food, music, and rhythms.

The poetry selections of this issue (Citron Summer) arrive from across the globe and with their own nostalgia, culture, and  mark of importance. Suchita Hariharan, an exciting young poet from Singapore, kicks off our poetry selections with “Wisps,” a poem that crystalizes a series of images from her past before measuring the cultural distance between then and now.

the photo where you posed proudly
wearing a fiery salwar kameez, gold jimiki earrings
and a luminous smile,
circled by wreaths of fairy lights.

Three words: remember, know, and imagine pull us closer to the poem and to the poet’s upbringing and maturation. When reading this poem, I felt immersed in the poet’s experience. 

Ross Thompson’s “La Zenia” brings us to a touristy zone in Spain for a meditation on transformation and escape, which reminds me of Gregory Corso’s poem with the same title though the two poems are nothing alike. Thompson’s concise verse shows that sanctity can exist on a beach. It can ebb and flow within distance of a karaoke bar.

Emma Lee’s “Ashes with Hindsight” is an ekphrastic poem that goes further. Many ekphrastic poems are vivid renderings of an inspirational object; few, however, also connect to larger, human considerations. The piece inspired by artist Steve McQueen’s work, Ashes, involves a Grenadian man on a boat shown on one screen and a possible destination for him on the other screen. Tacitly, the viewer is invited to participate and that’s all I can reveal about Lee’s excellent poem. 

Beth Gordon has two poems in the summer issue, “(Antenna) (Whiskey) Template” and “(who) (what) (when) (where) (why) template,” which are contemporary in style and poems I come back to again and again. “(Antenna) (Whiskey) Template” uses verbs as imperatives (“unravel,” “gather,” “stand,” and “sing”) as a form of meditation on the day. Who is the subject? You are—or you become it. In “(who) (what) (when) (where) (why) template,” language is dismantled and reconfigured to explain the origin of a moment. 

china cupboard mouse/attic mockingbird
the changing light ignored/the nearest star swallowed/the furthest star impaled/
(confront the damage/explain the riverbed)

Gordon’s use of repetition in the poem lends an incantatory quality to it before ending with a memorable, unexpected last line.

“Portrait of Young Man, 1919” by Lane Fields rounds out the poetry selections for Citron Summer. Lane’s poem follows a young man, John, as he walks back from the docks ready to make a decision that may impact his life. I was drawn to the language of this poem, its lived-in quality and skill with line breaks. The poem is tight and more importantly, it tells a story that hopefully, one day, we will learn more about. 

Enjoy the summer issue, friends. Thank you for your support.  We hope you can carve out some time for well-deserved fun.

Best,

Eric Steineger
Senior Poetry Editor
Editor of Zest
The Citron Review

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