Monday, September 25, 2006

Chattahoochee Review

The Winter-Spring 2006 issue of The Chattahoochee Review arrived today. I don't know why. I don't have anything in it. There's a letter included that asks for subscribers. I've written a poem on the back of it. Which I probably won't send to Chattahoochee Review. But who knows? Maybe I've sent them work in the past. I do like the word "Chattahoochee" and I went through a period I sent first to magazines with names I liked.

Only a few contributors look familiar. Leonard Susskind has an essay about not alienating Christians just because they're stupid (hey, he says, evolution has saddled scientists with human stupidity, too!) The poets Martha Zweig and Lola Haskins ... I know I've SEEN these names before. Not that I could characterize their work. "Her son vomits as he crawls / downstairs, and they know he may not / live this time, but they laugh because / he looks so comical -- fifteen and not / mastered walking yet." -- Haskins. Francisco Aragon. Which I recognize as I name I've confused with a Bay Area poet or two: Francisco Alarcon?

I'm often struck by how dull the opening line of a poem is. "I could fold laundry every day" ... "Who would have guessed, loves" ... "Down the street from my sister's house" ... "We were hauling boxes of supplies" ...

What makes these interesting as lines? A line, to justify its being singled out as a unit by the line break, ought to give the reader something more than if it were presented as prose.

The first I quote does give us a second line that offers up an excuse for the first's banality. "I could fold laundry every day / for a thousand years", it's a set up but the third line is the real punchline, "and never satisfy the women in my life." (Richard Peabody, "Folding Laundry in My Dreams")

Usually, though, the second line isn't much help. The second first-line quoted above turns out to be mid-sentence. The title begins the sentence: "The Muse // Who would have guessed, loves / To hear stories about Roberto ..." I suppose for those who've heard of him the third line offers up a punchline of sorts when it reveals it's Roberto Clemente that the Muse likes to hear about. Apparently he is somebody one might have heard of. The voice of the poem builds up to a casual slangy sauciness. Looking through the poem I can see lines that are interesting as lines. Seems like to me the poem could have been structured to put one up top. ("My Muse", Rick Campbell)

"Down the street from my sister's house / Where I am staying for the summer" ... If I resolved never to read past a dull first line then told myself, oh just this one time Glenn, and found myself stumbling across line number two here ... sheesh ... what can I say? ("Retards", George Bilgere)

"We were hauling boxes of supplies / from our boss's old office to Tifton, the dark" ... I don't know that it helps that Liz is being smothered by a "blanket of morning" ... ("Almost a Love Song Close to Tifton, GA", Liz Robbins)


David Lee Ingersoll said...

Regarding the Grape Eating Poem -

What's to change? That was great!

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Thanks. Maybe that will keep me from ruining it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Glenn.

Thanks for the reminder about the importance of first lines.

Radish King said...

I got mysteriously sent one of those too.