Poetry News

A Closer Look at Fence's Summer 2012 Issue

By Harriet Staff

It's not often we see journal reviews. But hey! Just in time for their Theatrical Evening with Denis Johnson is a looksee at Fence's summer issue, over at The Review Review. Writer Steve Karas avoids the term "experimental," preferring instead to note that "each poem seems free to roam as it would like, unbound by parameters." More:

Take Judith Goldman’s brilliant piece, “Negentropics [Large Eddy Simulation::Amoebaean Song || Naphtha-COREXIT remix],” concerning the Gulf Oil Spill. It’s written in an almost detached technical-speak, a language of its own, and sprawls across several pages like an oil slick itself. Goldman writes:

Surface ’n subsurface recursive dispersive there’s less undispersed on the surface it’s crude not counterinsurgents
Crude plume’s precursor’s carbon-carbon for catalytic hydrocracking
Upgrades heavy fractions, Carbocation
A delayed coker for anode coke or needle coke
In soaker visbreaking the bulk of the cracking reactions occur on the
Surface ’n subsurface recursive dispersive there’s less undispersed on the surface it’s crude not burning plastic

[Ed. Note: Please see original post for correct line breaks]

Then there’s Brandon Shimoda’s epic, haunting poem, “The Grave on the Wall.” With an otherworldly, post-apocalyptic feel, Shimoda proclaims:

The man with his ribs exposed says, These are my ribs
Head belonging to ammonia, These are my ribs
Turning forgotten boils to life, These are my ribs, but why
Would he want it to be
Quietly the brain end of each day

Allison Carter lightens the mood with her melodic tribute to breakfast, a handful of poems from her series of “35 Breakfast Poems” (“The windows open wide to other kinds of life / Doors open wide to other kinds of life and we / can see the steam rising and a coffee mug perched / yes perched tangentially / on a stump”). The issue includes two delicate pieces from the poetry power couple, Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop. Rosmarie writes: “But the sycamore stands in the yard all day and all night. And now, though still lifeless in appearance, quickens. Roots gripping farther down.” Though there are far too many poems to give them all justice, other memorable ones include those by Margaret Ross, Cathy Eisenhower, Geoffrey Nutter, and Ana Božičević with images like “tenses lock thyroids to scissored eyelids,” “sweet delicious dew beneath the morning bridges,” and “creeks wash down stained cheeks.”

What ties the poetry together is a generally serious, or at least cerebral, tone and the handful of lighter, quirkier fiction pieces that are mixed in provide a welcome relief. I’m not familiar enough with early Fence to know if it’s moved closer to the center with age, but there are a few stories that are as accessible as those you would find in any other more mainstream journals of Fence’s caliber. Worth noting, this was fiction editor Lynne Tillman’s last issue at the helm.

That's news in itself! Read the full review here.