Newsletter #123 November 2021

Newsletter #123 November 2021
March 23, 2022 Christina Mullin

Thierry Manon, Tableau Vivant, 2007

November, 2021

Welcome to Plume #12

November, and I wonder if our cover art from Thierry Mandon already has caught your eye? (Many thanks to web maestro Roberto Maiocchi for conjuring our new ability to display consecutive images.) If so, maybe as I did you have some sense that it is, while startling, an iteration of a persistent theme: the precarity and absurdity of existence, which spares the tea cup from the tornado, the infant from the twisted wreckage of a car. There’s comedy here, too — think of the great physical feat of Buster Keaton, the house’s façade collapsing around him. And Mystery – something of Cornell, and the Tate miniatures, and Cage. And a heavy – though not heavy-handed – dose of Surrealism. But I suppose what struck me most when I first encountered it, was, inevitably, its subtext: our struggle to retain some veneer of normalcy in particularly trying times: again the familiar tropes, often expressed in versions of art, from the stalwart band striking up “Autumn” on the Titanic, to Hendrix in the jungles of Vietnam, to the poetry and artwork of the death camps. (Of course, this, too, has its paranoid style:  the “winning” strategy of shopping after 9/11, reckless “covid-parties”.) Yes, Maldon’s work is striking: for its novelty, obviously, its barely concealed desperation, even, but also, I think, for its resonance with two touchstones of human experience, our resourcefulness and…our hope.

And so to the latest from Joseph Campana’s: his thoughts on Linda Hogan’s confounding (in the sense of mixing up to the point of indistinguishability, ultimately inviting), “The Way In.”

The Way In

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

Some poems seem more complex than they really are, leaving one to wonder: was it worth the effort? Other poems seem simple or even straightforward, but to enter these worlds is to find neither the route nor the exit clearly marked. So, it seems to me, it is for Linda Hogan’s “The Way In.” The title promises clarity: here it is, marked: “the way in.” And at first all seems clear. Perhaps those opening “sometimes” hesitate, a bit, but then again who doesn’t want the “way to milk and honey.” That it is found “through the body” seems to make sense. And for poets, “song” seems the way in to nearly anything. But the world, as most experience it, can seem to be not even remotely a land of milk and honey or a land of any of the other mythical bounties promised by so many traditions. Maybe that is the source of song—the world that promises and can so easily disappoint.

This is the world that offers, Hogan tells us, three worlds: dangerous, wounding and beauty. And as I read these words, again, I’m struck by the idea that perhaps these are not three different things at all. Here, “the way in” promises not an entry point (a way to paradise) but rather a way of being. As in, living in the world is dangerous and wounding. Perhaps one is lucky enough to find beauty amidst all the threats and pain. Hogan’s poetry habitually understands the world and its creatures to be a place of wonder, revelation, and even kindness amidst the carnage and exhaustion. This poem is no difference, but where one might look to find some easy sentiments about nature, one finds, instead, the implacable life of elements. Here, again, the poem at first seems simpler than it is. Water enters stone through the long, slow wearing away that is time. Similarly, plants burst through soil and stone, gradually forcing their green desires into the sunlight. That they “believe” in water seems worth pausing over, thirst being one of many things to be understood not as functions but almost as philosophies.

So far so good. It may be harder to imagine entering a stone but many cultures have, for a very long time, understood themselves relative to the plant world, increasing and expiring as flowers and plants do. It’s the final two lines that seem to mark a certain turn in the poem (although the poem has been traveling here all along). It makes sense, physically, to think that to enter fire one must be dry in the manner of wood ready to burn. It’s the burning that starts to give me pause. Do I want to burn or do I prefer the provinces of earth and water? Similarly, it seems appealing, at first—“to enter life.” But only is one if food, ready and willing to sustain others. To enter life is to surrender it as well. And it’s an idea like this that makes the poem’s opening promise, of a “way to milk and honey” not remotely naïve, like so many poems “about nature” that refuse the devouring that is the life of a body in time for unlikely, evergreen visions.

The milk and honey, Hogan seems to be saying, is us. The meal, however, is for others.
For more on Linda Hogan, click here

Anything else?

A reminder: in promotion of the still-current anthology, Plume Poetry 9, we have another zoom Station to Station Reading coming up at 5 PM on 6 November. under the auspices of Washington, DC’s The Writers Center and its ringmaster, Zach Powers. Per usual, we’ll feature two sets of “partners” from the anthology – Amit Majmudar and Jane ZwartRon Smith and Stuart Gunter this time — reading their work and generally kibitzing for a bit. The series has been well-attended, and it seems attendees like the format: casual, but not… too.  Here’s the flyer:

For those who have asked, an update on the next print anthology, Plume Poetry 10. It will, indeed, follow the same poet/partner format of Plume Poetry 9. Solicitations will go out this week, with an eye toward a spring or early summer release. More as things develop.

Again, our cover art, Tableau Vivant, comes from Thierry Mandon. For more information on the artist, and this piece in particular, a good beginning might be found here or here.

Finally, some recent/forthcoming books from our contributors:

Rosmarie Waldrop             The Nick of Time

Tomás QMorín                 Machete

Troy Jollimore                    Earthly Delights

Laura Kolbe                        Little Pharma: Poems

trans. by Tony Barnstone    Faces Hidden in the Dust: Selected Ghazals of Ghalib
and Bilal Shaw

That’s it, for now.

I hope you enjoy the issue!

Daniel Lawless
Editor, Plume