Thursday, May 9, 2013



Arsenic Lobster: Poetry Journal 2012, Issues 26, 27 & 28, Editor Susan Yountz
(A Misty Publication, Chicago, IL, 2012)

There are 44 poets contributing 52 poems to Arsenic Lobster: Poetry Journal 2012.  Those statistics are important because of my response to the collection after I read the last poem.  To wit, I closed the journal and thought: "WOW!  I enjoyed every single poem!"

That's pretty unusual -- my more typical reaction to reading through poetry journals is to have enjoyed some poems and been indifferent to others.  That's not atypical, I'm sure, among other readers.  So -- before I congratulate the poets for having written fine poems, one should offer kudos to the editorial staff for their (at least by my subjectivity) exemplary taste!  Kudos then to poet-editor Susan Yountz!

Now, how to explain why I liked this journal's offerings?  Well, since I claim to have enjoyed every poem, I then can illustrate by opening the journal at random for examples:
Randomly opened to Page 18 to see "In the Good Company of Yetis," by Carlos Matos, a poem I love for its funny deadpan-ness

In the Good Company of Yetis*

They hate time machines nearly as much as I do, have no interest in loops, meeting themselves, or catastrophic butterfly flaps. They don't care much for looking back at all.  And forward, forward is just a hairy step in the snow out of the weather and into each others' laps or on the trail looking for a tasty meal. They are terrific hunters--not many people know this.  And they have--ironically--a highly overdeveloped sense of time. Have you ever met a yeti who was late? or who didn't show up when he said he was going to? They are always five minutes early and never make you wait, sweating those 10, 15, sometimes 20 minutes out in the cold wondering why you don't matter.

You will note an asterisk by the above title.  Perhaps Matos is writing a whole series of poems whose titles feature asterisked footnotes (he has another one in this format in the journal).  It's quite effective, as the footnotes are just as deadpan-funny.  The footnote to "In the Good Company of Yetis" is

*  Several studies in the 1970s concluded that yeti timeliness had decreased by 30% but many contemporary researchers question the data-gathering methods and find the conclusions dubious.

What a hoot!  If Matos ever completes a poetry collection based on this structure, I'll be at the top of the line waiting to read it! 

Next, randomly opened to Page 53 to see "To Chop" by Jerry Johnston for its jazzy surrealism or surrealistic jazziness (your choice):

To Chop

There is a rabbit int he garden, tonguing the rim of an old Coke can. I see him from where I am at the sink. Bindweed blossoms are out, too, detonating imperceptibly, but the rabbit doesn't seem to mind this one way or the other, and so I roll the cuffs of my shirt and begin washing my hands. The rabbit is young and smooth as a new belt, and me I'm obvious and bad with secrets and you you're jumping for a corner of flagging wallpaper that dried and lost the dollop of glue we applied to it back in April. All in this place there a re the clicks of a trotting dog's paws, the jazz of dropped pencils. All in this place there's a scent we take together in the morning: possibilities of sweat and downy feathers like herring bring going between you and me, between the dog, and the bell pepper that fell, and in it we are car horns far off in the Tombigbee fog. Now, as I'm chopping triangles from a Claussen pickle, serving you lunch, the secret of this rings in my mouth because soon you and I will find emeralds in our sandwiches and the rabbit still won't mind one way or the other.

Next, randomly opened to Page 26 to see "The Horse" by Glenn R. Frantz, a poem I won't replicate in full below because all I need to share is its absolutely MARVELOUS opening line to astonish you with its power.  The opening:

Horse, remove your luggage and get a concert; we shall shoulder this night, howsoever unromantic.

Ooooomph.  Doesn't that line make you want to read more! 

One more example.  Randomly opened to page 56 to see "Letter in this Wind" by Sara Lier.  This is a poem that compelled me to read it several times before I could move on to the next page.  There is such mystery here -- and it teeters on horror just enough that you still want to walk away from the poem hoping you just ate a bad donut and never gleaned the whiff of the horror lurking within the poem's lines.  Except that the poem's hooked your imagination so that it's impossible to be untouched by the hinted potential for damage. Damage before (hopefully) redemption -- but who knows even as one hopes?  Life is random.  Life is, as the title references, "wind."

I won't share the entire poem but here's the ending to "Letter in this Wind":

It's September, children,
and the world is making wishes on you
like eyelashes. This is transistor-set season.
Season for dreams of kidnappings. I am learning
to sleep through the iron on my ankles.
We are ripe for the plunge.

It's not unusual to hear of journals or anthologies being praised through the notion that there'll be something in it for everyone, with that "something" being one or some poems. In Arsenic Lobster, on the other hand, I discovered a variety of poems and still found something in all of the poems for me. What a surprise to find such a journal can exist -- and what a lovely treat!


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. An exception is made for the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA as that was co-written with another author, j/j hastain--and it is reviewed by T.C. Marshall in this GR #20 issue.  She is also pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books.  Her 2013 book, THE AWAKENING was reviewed by Tom Beckett at L'Amour Fou; by Amazon Hall of Famer Reviewer Grady Harp on Amazon and elsewhere; by Joey Madia at Literary Aficionado; by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field; by Zvi Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; and by jim mccrary and his cat Iris at Babaylan Poetics.  Her 2007 book, SILENCES: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LOSS, was also recently reviewed by Nicholas T. Spatafora in Litter Magazine.

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