Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I mean like when you find out the dude you've seen at local shows for the past few years was best friends with your girlfriend's brother when they were little dudes. Or like when you find a 2003 issue of Indiana Review in the free box of a bookstore and you discover that it's got poems by some of your now favorite poets.

I'm a booksale stokedbro. Like if its a buck, why not? Sara and I always came out of booksales and thrift stories with at least a sack. Now what? I've got these two big boxes of never-gonna-read famous novels, poetry that didn't strike my heartgut, and anthologies or journals that I've devoured but can't find an excuse to keep. (Side note: I plan to sell these two boxes of books online for CHEAP soon, so eyes open.) After moving home and getting the GOTTA GO pile and the STAY HERE BUDDY pile figured out, I discovered this old copy of Indiana Review: Celebrating 25 Years.

I flipped to the back cover and man oh man what a list: Robin Behn, Nick Carbo, Michael Dickman (Listed as Michael Conrad Dickman), Denise Duhamel, Martin Espada, Mark Halliday, Terrance Hayes, Tony Hoagland, David Kirby, Michael Martone, Gary Soto, David Wagoner, and a bunch of others. I was like WOAH LET'S READ. And I did.

Reading these poems in a journal, eight years after they came out, was a strange process. I recognized the developing voice of Dickman, the earlier voice of Hoagland, the markings of the great beginning of Hayes, and so much more. It was reading beyond the page, but for one of the first times, reading with a significant contemporary gap. I mean I read online magazines and see like Mike Young poems and think about how they compare to the We Are All Good Enough... poems or how the Matt Bell's first ever published story (republished in Volume I of Stoked Journal) developed into the How They Were Found pieces, but never had I'd engaged with a collection nearly a decade old with a bunch of writers whose current work I'm digging now.

Michael Dickman's is probably the most interesting poem to me. A sectioned long poem with left-alignment and long stanza'ed sections, "How To Make Love" shows the poet with the startling images, the fearlessness of well-placed abstractions, the calm unleashing. But along with the listing as "Michael Conrad Dickman" (not sure why that's so weird to me), this poem stretches itself so far that it's actually thin in parts. One thing I've already loved about this Dickman is his ability to deliver so much emotion with such fluidity. As someone still finding his voice, it was cool for me to see someone so noticeable in his current voice trying to find his own early on.

I loved Lighthead by Terrance Hayes, and having seen him read after that book came out, I can say he's a oddly charismatic manpoet. Sometimes he still pushes it too far, too wild outside his comfort zone, like that one list poem about t-shirt ideas. But his poem in this issue "The Blue Etheridge" seems almost an introduction to Hayes as a poet, a strong voice in an interesting poetic climate. Here are two sweet parts of the poem:

Let's just say the parable
of the Negro who uses his dick for a cane
and the parable of the Negro who uses his cane
for a dick convey the same message to me.


But I won't be telling you the story
of the forlorn Negro or the Negro cutthroat
or the Negro Hero or the Negro Tom.
I won't be telling you the story of the night
I died. I believe everything comes back
to music or money.

My favorite poem in the issue is "Sometimes It Takes A Long Time To Get Burned" by Gary Soto, a big-time poet I'm unfortunately not all that familiar with. Perhaps because of that fact, I was able to most engage with the poem itself, singularly. The poem basically talks about a dead guy in a Lincoln and the world revolving without him, not knowing he's dead--a dog barking, construction workers coming nearby. Because of the subject matter and story-telling style--very plain-spoken word choice and syntax and the use of sequence markers (First, Second...)--I marked that it reminded me of Stephen Dobyns. I think I love this poem because like Dobyns, Soto doesn't try to cram too much in there (content or language-wise), but rather illustrates this odd, sad, and deep image and situation without worry about how and why he died or what's gonna happen to him long-term. It's as if Soto is saying DUDE DIED AND THE WORLD KEPT GOING. Which is a harsh reality and I think the third person helps me see that and think about that. The title, however, is heavy-handed. Nonetheless, a sweet sweet poem.

Third, a dog barked. Fourth, a car stopped
And the driver took pictures, then pulled away.
The fog returned with the acids of an industrial laundry
Two miles from the dead man who, when alive, drove past it,
His own shirt starched, his pants done right.

Definitely an old issue of a journal that's sticking around.

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