I walked up the hill to Euclid for lunch today, had a chef salad at Stuffed Inn then browsed Analog Books. I haven't been buying literary magazines in a long time. Part of it was I would bring them home and they'd sit around unread. Part of it was I didn't want to buy magazines if they weren't going to publish my stuff. 'S the truth.
Anyway, I've been wanting to add some current literary magazines to my browsing paperbacks collection at Claremont plus I've actually been reading magazines again, working through my New Yorker subscription, Parthenon West Review, Beeswax Magazine, Matter. So at Analog I picked up the Spring/Summer 2006 issue (#58) of West Branch and the Summer 2006 issue (#2) of A Public Space.
I started reading West Branch over coffee & a cookie at the cafe across the street from the bookstore. I got through the first five poems. Four by Mike White (editor of Quarterly West, says the bio) and one by Aleda Shirley. Were I editor I would not have published any of them. What, they're Awful? No. But I know the magazine received better poems and chose not to publish them. Death shows up in one of White's wearing a "rumpled smock" and displaying "empty hands", prepping to work once more on the Sistine Chapel of White's inner skull; "Nocturne in Black Monochrome" the title of the painting. I can't think of anything to say about the poem other than Death could be doing better things with his/her time. Aleda Shirley seems to like pairing words, "solid & consecutive", "refractory & lissome", "fulgent & resolute" ... seems she's thinking about a "friend who died suddenly at forty" (ooh, my age) and how this friend's "refractory & lissome residue" has to compete with "planes / pulling banners advertising happy hours & water parks, / with satellites & space debris & ovals of ozone" on its way to heaven. I misread "ozone" as "ovaltine" ... "ovals of ovaltine" ... There's an edit for you! This is one of those poems I'm tempted to rewrite ... "planes drag the sad names of bars through the muck of a sky indifferent even to a boot" ... whew, my god, "refractory & lissome" cramp up like words-of-the-day getting their first exercise after lying abed for months in a convalescent hospital.