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- The Best Reviewed Books of the WeekMay 18, 2018
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Per Diem Press received more than 1,200 submissions, from locations familiar and startling, near and far and, in one case, fictional. The call for submissions encouraged poets of every stripe to apply, and accordingly the spectrum of poets was boggling: poets of nearly every conceivable age and cultural background and professional status are producing poetry in hitherto unimaginable spans of form, tone and content, including, um, dramatic redefinitions of the phrases “eightish pages” and “in English.” (Binary code, anyone?) I read them all and am forever grateful to be reminded and educated on such a wide spectrum, if a narrow stripe, of the poetical imagination of the species.
It was impossible to choose a winner, so I didn’t. Per Diem Press is giddy to announce the forthcoming publication of chapbooks by three poets: Jurassic Desire by Rohan Chhetri, first one thing, and then the other by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, and “Fish Walking” and other bedtime stories for my wife by Arisa White, a trio of poets of varying perspectives and strategies but also all glorious to behold. I am thrilled to bring these poems to an audience and expect the audience to be thrilled too.
I am out of words.
But I am never out of feelings.
Once Dad and I were driving in a 1964 Plymouth. I was eight years old.
The world stretched out infinitely around me. And a song came over the radio waves.
A voice, dusty, rusted.
Pure and beautiful, too.
We slowed down to hear it longer.
Laughed, it was so sweet.
It comes back again, I promise.
My face is wet.
The house is a quiet dog.
Maybe the sick bat is waking up.
I am glad to be alive.
I am glad you are alive.
Am I allowed to say it like that?
I love you.
–Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Too many of ours were taken, & we grew
heavier not with grief but numbers, as if we’d
suddenly become aware of the air we stood in.
As if we’d only walked lightly in a dream before.
But we heard on the news a man had trekked seven
hours across the war-torn border into Aleppo
to smuggle toys for the children, so they could play
inside a bomb shelter. Someone heard the mad
sultan’s ghost weeping near the old mausoleum in Delhi
the day an old man died in a stampede outside a bank.
In a lab in Berlin, scientists tickled rats till they giggled
to their little deaths. One morning in early November,
a stunned silence sealed the air of fall, as if
some brute had risen to power. Nervous laughter
broke in corridors, & all day yellow leaves emptied
aspens in a feverish spell. A man drew a knife
inside a city bus, & the thick snow curtained
the world outside in a vast white of indifference.
The quiet that followed, just as the one that settles
after the barbarians come down. History, that slow
child, kept working on an infinite homework.
HER HEART, HER HORSE
She gave up her mustang for the carousel. For the one horse, dappled and gray. Gilded reins and a sunburst painted in its eye, it was neither in gallop or standing. In the middle of the air, her “I do” became a golden gate and she stood there in the fog and traffic rushed behind her and the ocean waved and she tossed her heart to rabid rocks.