Newsletter #141 May 2023

Newsletter #141 May 2023
November 6, 2023 Christina Mullin

Photo Credit: The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation / Art Resource, NY
Artist: Lawrence, Jacob (1917-2000) © ARS, NY
Description: The Photographer, 1942. Gouache on paper, 22 x 29 1/2″.
Location: Private Collection

May, 2023

Welcome to Plume #141

May –and, for once, some actual news. After much discussion, we have decided that Plume Poetry 10 will be our final print venture: Anthologies, always a hard sell, have become even more so, of late – the usual: paper, printing costs, postage for contributor copies (especially overseas). I’ll speak more of this next month, but for now let me offer some…comfort to those who might be disappointed in this turn of events. The format of the later books – reductively, “poet introducing poet”–  will live on in a new column titled Station to Station,  which will debut in the June issue. We have lined up what we believe is a pretty impressive duo for this inaugural run. I think – hope – you’ll agree.

(Also in this vein, another “surprise” is, if we can pull it off, on the way. Watch this space)

OK, then.

Let’s turn now to Joseph Campana, who writes from Tallinn on Estonian poet Doris Kareva’s “And I love you because”, in which brevity and timelessness mirror and intermingle and describe a kind of  Spartan, omnipresent love.

Brevity is the soul of something, surely. Maybe it’s the sharpness of mind sometimes called wit. More often brevity is a product of haste. Or even distaste. What’s all this talk of brevity? Most poems are short anyway, right? (And let’s leave epics aside for now). What’s short anyway: 14, 20, 32 lines? Even short poems get shorter in their quotability as those crystalline phrases and lines seem to separate themselves out from the integrity of even, say, a sonnet like “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” That’s the end of Shakespeare’s most famous, sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It already had 14 lines to promise eternity but here it does it in two.
But here’s a poem by Estonian poet Doris Kareva, who I’m thinking about as I visit, for my first time, Tallinn. And after a visit to a lovely English language bookstore, I realized I knew nothing about Estonian poetry. I still don’t, truth be told, but here’s a start. Kareva’s poem never meant to be even 14 lines and whose title, in an even greater gesture of economy is simply its opening line:

And I love you because
I love you.

Why meet —
you are but air for me.

Ever present.

Translated by Doris Kareva and Andres Aule

Maybe it’s the brevity that’s doing the talking, but the poem is so spare that it doesn’t seem to generate any extraneous words except perhaps the “and.” Or maybe the “and” suggests the poem was inset in a larger After thousands of years of love poetry, is there much more to say than that “I love you because / I love you”? This little lyric gets right at the heart of the self-justifying loop statement that is love. I do this because I do. I’m in Estonia because I’m in Estonia. I’m writing about Doris Kareva because I am.

So many poems are about meeting a lover or being frustrated by not being able to meet a lover. Here’s one that sets all that aside: “why meet”? One could even call it a metaphysical principle that arises. Lover needn’t meet or fail to meet or get waylaid by a lion on the way to meeting (as in the story of Pyramus and Thisbe) or meet in a tomb (as in Romeo and Juliet). No, they simply coexist. The beloved is air for the lover, surrounds and sustains, like water for a fish. This makes the lover a creature of breath, which also makes sense—all the sighing, the panting, the weighty suspirations that come with desire.

This too means that the lover never leaves. So many love poems promise this. I’ll never leave, you’ll never leave, we’ll never leave this bed, we’ll never leave this world. Or, we’ll leave but we’ll leave together. Perhaps it’s also easier for a poem to linger with such seemingly simple sentiments. I worry immensely about how limited my attention has become, and, sure, it’s apparently an epidemic brought on by our devices, which is really a way of saying we’re short circuiting our brains for conveniences and for the hope of never being left alone with our thoughts. “Ever present” feels weighty indeed.

But here’s a poem that insists it never needed that much of your time or thought to stay a long long time. The poem, like a lover, is “but air” and it is “for” me, you, or anyone else stopping by.

For more about Doris Kareva, see the Estonian Writer’s Online Dictionary.

What else?

A sad note, to mark the passing of Diane Vreuls, whose poem Bush|Serial we published in Issue #12 April 2012. Diane was married to another long-time Plume supporter, Stuart Friebert. Quite a team, these two; she – and he – will be/is missed.

Speaking of Plume supporters, always nice to be able to congratulate one of our regular contributors, in this case, Cynthia Cruz. You can find her most recent poems here

Our cover art this month is Jacob Lawrence’s “The Photographer”, (Photo Credit: Photo: The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation / Art Resource, NY  © ARS, NY 1942. Gouache on paper, 22 x 29 1/2″. Location: Private Collection.)  For more information on the artist, a good start might be made here

Finally, as usual, a few recently published/forthcoming books from Plume contributors:

JT BARBARESE             After Prévert
Paisley Rekdal                West: A Translation
Monica Youn                   From From
April Bernard                   The World Behind the World :Poems
Devin Johnston               Dragons: Poems
Patricia Smith                 Unshuttered: Poems 
Carl Philips                     Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020

And a special mention for The Abduction (translation of Maram Al-Masri, by –also — frequent Plume contributor Hélène Cardona),  just  out this week from White Pine Press.

That’s it for now — I hope you enjoy the issue!

Daniel Lawless
Editor, Plume