Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Green Fuse, vol. 9

from the book log (1/4/89):

Green Fuse, vol. 9, a poetry magazine

This magazine is so heavy. So serious, furrowed-brow. It’s got some good stuff in it but, like so many other selections of poetry, after a while I have the feeling they’ve just about all been written by the same person. I haven’t read [all the poems] yet, but the intensity gets boring. I read a few and then they just become blocks of print or I read them and haven’t any idea whether the words are supposed to mean anything or not so I have to stop. One of the ways I judge poetry — “Oh! I wish I’d written that / could have written that!” Liked: Elizabeth Herron, Charles Patterson, Patrick Mikulec, Zel Latner, Michael Emery, Jacqueline Bardsley, (so far). Some of the poems I like I feel a sort of nagging I-wish-there-was-just-a-little-something-more. Also: Amy Trussel.

The mission of Green Fuse, an independent literary magazine produced in my home town of Sebastopol, was to call out the human world for the destruction it visits on the nonhuman. I certainly sympathized with the message. I managed to place a couple poems with the editors, but most of what I sent wasn’t what they were looking for, little of what I write would be. I’m not much of a nature poet, even less of a hectoring poet.

The list of names is interesting. I recognize one of them. Elizabeth Herron was a professor at Sonoma State University, the closest university to Sebastopol. Now that I have a machine-searchable list of my personal anthology I checked to see if any mentioned in the review got included. None.

I have mixed feelings about the judgments. I still want some wit, some play, some surprise in every poem, even those addressing the most serious subjects. Serious themes are not well served by an unremittingly serious tone. The mission of Green Fuse was a serious mission!

As to whether poems come to seem “blocks of print [leaving the reader without] any idea whether the words are supposed to mean anything,” well, I can’t venture a second opinion about the poems in Green Fuse, as I no longer have a copy (or don’t know where a copy could be hiding) but I can say that many a poem I’ve read leaves me wondering at its meaning. This is such a common reaction to contemporary poetry that it has become a rough definition of poetry. If you can’t figure it out but it sounds kind of different, hey, poetry! During the period spammers were filling their emails with seemingly random or collage-like texts to fool the email providers’ spam detectors I saw more than one non-poet friend enthuse about their spam as poetry.

I no longer judge a poem by whether I could have written it. I wonder how long I really did. On the other hand, my personal anthology (see Best Poems of the Year lists) is filled with poems for which I feel a deep sympathy, and I’m sure many, for their style, their choices, their attitude, would not seem out of place in my own oeuvre. Of course, in some cases that’s because I’ve stolen their moves.

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