August: And our 50th issue! That exclamation because I am indeed astonished. Not only that time has passed so quickly — as one ages, inevitable — but that Plumehas survived this long. A whim, the vaguest of notions, become, as noted, corporeal, enduring. To celebrate — you, readers and contributors, whom I merely bring together each month — I asked some poets, Plume stalwarts whom I have not already pestered to no end, to send poems that we might run in this issue. Reasonable, yes? But I did not count on the response — though given our shared history now, in hindsight an obvious error: misjudging these artists’ generosity, their uncalled for kindness. So: our celebration will be extended: one of those parties that sprawls over a long evening, picks up steam the day after, and tumbles into the evening after that. Which is to say several issues.To mark this issue — you’ll note it is a bit late, some of you (we try to get each issue out on the 15th) — will you see, even in this newsletter, that we have changed our look a bit. Almost four years is a lifetime, I am told, in the digital world, and I have been persuaded to institute some alterations. Nothing major, nothing off-putting, I hope. The format of 12 poems, Editor’s Note, and Featured Selections remains untouched. Nor will we suddenly now accept advertisements, run contests or reviews (save for book recommendations and an occasional longer piece in that vein), or link to favorite journals, or blog, etc. In other words, the focus of Plume remains where it always has been: on the work. To that end, in response to many readers’ suggestions, we have changed, most obviously, the background to make the reading easier. And the font, too, for the same reason. Cover art will now expand across the top of the page.
But, we’ll see how it evolves: this refresh is very much a work-in-progress. Too, we have added a photograph of the Featured Selection poet, and much against my protestations, my own picture will appear inside the Editor’s Note — I wouldn’t want to frighten the horses. There is some talk about adding photographs of the poets as well, but I resist that for now: I like, and readers seem to like too,the sparseness of Plume, its lack of clutter: its Zen feel as some have labeled it. For all of this, let me give a tip of the cap to Heather Henderson: a gifted designer, and a name some of you know from your correspondence with her in the matter of edits and revisions of e-proofs.
I think that’s it, for now on that subject.
Time to turn then — you see? things are not so different — to our usual format: a “secret” poem, Andrea Cohen’s “The Committee Weighs In” introduced by Tara Skurtu, herself a Plume contributor and needless to say most talented poet.
on Andrea Cohen’s “The Committee Weighs In”
This poem will slam you. It slammed me the first time I heard it (and it has ever since). I was at a panel celebrating the Blacksmith House Poetry Series, and Andrea Cohen was reading a few poems. She said something about this particular poem being “little” or “short” (as a lot of her poems are–brilliant, precise, compact–like prayers carved into individual grains of rice), and my friend turned to me with this look on his face: You just wait. The poem was over before I knew it, and before I knew it, I’d laughed, gotten chills, and felt as if someone were standing on my chest.
Four sentences, eight lines. Two people playing a “little game” revolving around a joke. It’s playful, humorous. It exemplifies humor in its most elemental sense. The ride of this poem meets the moment in which you laugh at a joke and then realize this joke’s on you, or, you realize while laughing that it isn’t a joke at all. We’ve all been there–laughter as relief, laughter that’s confusing, laughter as coping mechanism. Humor is often tense, and there’s a swift tension in–to quote Cohen in “We Lost Our Everything”–the we-nessof this poem. The speaker strives to reach this we, but the striving is somewhat of an asymptote: these lines continually approach a given person but do not meet her at any finite distance.
To put it simply, this poem blows my mind. I read it to people of all ages. I share it on social media. I love the responses: Wow! Oh my god! I didn’t expect that! I love watching the faces of students and friends when I get to the final line that turns the poem on its head. I read it, thinking: You just wait.
“The Committee Weighs In” begins Cohen’s new collection, Furs Not Mine (Four Way Books, 2015). It conjures up absence like a prayer on a grain of rice–or perhaps it’s more like a psalm, one in which the speaker becomes the solitary “committee” praying or playing with the memory of a voice, the solitary we-ness of the self speaking to the mind.
I tell my mother
I’ve won the Nobel Prize.
Again? she says. Which
discipline this time?
It’s a little game
we play: I pretend
I’m somebody, she
pretends she isn’t dead.
Plume has a slate of reading sets for the fall, three of which will commence in September. Below, you will see the sites and dates and times; the Boston/Cambridge roster has been filled, and the NYC almost done, too, as I write.
Boston/Cambridge Cambridge Library Wednesday September 9th, 7 p.m.
New York City Poets House Friday September 11th, 7 p.m.
BookCourt Saturday September 12th, 4 p.m.
Readings to follow in Asheville, I think, and New Orleans, perhaps New Haven or Providence, certainly at AWP in LA in March, and in Paris and London in May. Should you feel inclined to read at any of these sites— and some of you already have asked to be included — please, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Also, and I think this bears repeating (see the PR below), I think many of you are instructors in some fashion — colleges, universities, low-res programs. Can I suggest that Plume would make an ideal text for your creative writing classes? Several of you already have indicated that you will be using The Plume Anthology of Poetry 3 as such in the fall. And although I am aware that text-ordering deadlines might have passed for some, perhaps for this is not the case for all. Should this interest you in the slightest, you can order copies directly from MadHat Press at a discounted rate. Contact Marc Vincenz at that site.
Plume in conjunction with Bob Devin Jones at Studio@620 http://www.thestudioat620.org/ has organized a monthly series of poetry readings in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The Studio is a wonderful site, near downtown (suddenly hip, if you can believe it), and the readings I have been to there in the past have been well-received. The remarkable Jay Hopler will kick things off in late September. So a heads up to any area poets, or poets touring in our vicinity, on the lookout for a venue, please keep us in mind, and contact me at email@example.com to get on the calendar.
Congratulations are in order for winners of 2016 NEA Translation Fellowships: Any Gjika for her work with Luljeta Lleshanaku; and Dzvinia Orlowsky and Jeff Friedmanfor their translations of MieczysÅ‚aw Jastrun. Both poets were featured in past issues of Plume. And to Juan-FelipeHerrera, the new US Poet Laureate, who will read for the fourth annual Plume Poetry Series in Saint Petersburg, Florida, in March. You can see his work in an early issue of Plume.
And, this, again, as promised — threatened — above: The Plume Anthology of Poetry V 3 is available for purchase now, at Madhat Press a bargain at $21.95, I think, given the very high quality of the work, the poets, its eclectic range, and sheer size — 323 pages. (Soon available at other venues, as well — Amazon, B &N, etc.) Some very nice people have said some very nice things about our little endeavor. Below, just a few of the comments Plume V 3 has received:
“Plume’s apparent lack of a narrow editorial policy (except a fondness for interesting poems) makes for lots of strange bedfellows, but what was the last time that was a bad idea?” ~Billy Collins
“Of all the things that might claim one’s attention, and they are in the multitudes! Plume is well worth making time for since it isn’t just another magazine. Its difference? Wonderful work, on the edge, room for play and dash, new forms, a great discerning editor in Danny
Lawless!” ~ Tess Gallagher
“Plume is one of the most exciting, eclectic gatherings of writers on the web. Editor Daniel Lawless has a knack for putting together voices that create surprising neighborhoods of words, related in complex ways that only gradually reveal themselves. It’s one of very few webzines that I always read.” ~ Chase Twichell
“Plume is rapidly becoming one of the best places in America to read poetry, online and in print, thanks to the untiring efforts of Danny Lawless. It’s where to find dazzling work by new and established writers, and, thanks to the new technology, it is available instantly to readers by the millions. Plume proves once more that poetry is essential to our lives, and that ‘Men die every day for want of what is found in it.’” ~ Grace Schulman
“Plume continues to publish amazing poets in beautiful formats–both online and in-print. The magazine has an exciting vision, embracing a broad gamut of poetries, including collaborations. The work has a consistently intriguing quality about the joys and unsettling aspects of being alive.” ~ Denise Duhamel
Our covert art this month comes from Al Gorman — a long-over-due return of Mr. Gorman’s wonderful work that enlivened the initial six issues of Plume. For more on Mr. Gorman, please see the Editor’s Note in this issue. Likewise, for New Work Received: quite a list!
A heads up: our International Editor, Marc Vincenz, has new book out very much worth taking a look at: Becoming the Sound of Bees.
And, finally, this month’s reading recommendations from David Cudar (and I can only second his remarks on Benabou, too little read in the US):
1. Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books Marcel Benabou Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books by Marcel Benabou
A novel, or an anti-novel, that only a Frenchman could write. A member of the Oulipo group that includes Perec and Queneau, Benabou’s text is deft and brilliant: an Escher-like meditation on inspiration, composition and expression. Would that we could all not write this well.
2. Njal’s Saga Robert Cook Njal’s Saga
One of the most interesting and original texts of the Middle Ages. It is at once a history of Iceland, an allegory of justice, and a ring-narrative of consummate design. Njal’s Saga is as modern as we are. A subtle book that demands (and rewards) re-reading.
5. Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs Sally Mann Hold Still by Sally Mann
Photographer Mann’s inventive memoir of text and image. She considers her unique perspective on the American South, race, family and her own history. Fascinating in both design and content.
7. Girl in a Band: A Memoir: Kim Gordon Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
The aloof bassist of Sonic Youth, Gordon has written a lyric and open memoir of her life as a mother, band member and icon.
8. Deep Lane: Poems: Mark Doty Deep Lane by Mark Doty
Doty is a poet who never stops surprising himself, which is one of the gifts of his voice. Lucid and mystical, concrete but transcendent — Deep Lane is yet another brilliant volume in an already scintillating oeuvre.
9. Nothing to Declare: Poems: Henri Cole Nothing to Declare by Henri Cole
Winner of the Guggenheim, Cole’s poetry has a certain affinity with Symbolism, yet is uniquely its own. Sonorous, rich, softly desolate, it declares itself to those of its kind.
Plume in conjunction with Bob Devin Jones at Studio@620 will be organizing a monthly, or even twice-monthly, series of poetry readings in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The Studio is a wonderful site, near downtown (suddenly hip, if you can believe it), and the readings I have been to there in the past have been well-received. Should any area poets, or poets touring in our vicinity, be on the lookout for a venue, please keep us in mind, and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the calendar.
For more on this issue’s cover art and forthcoming Featured Selections, please see, well, you knowâ€¦