Board minutes: September 13, 2022
Patty Wixon’s collection The Great Hunt and Other Poems begins with a poem in which wildfire smoke dissolves/the sun…leaving the day black. In the final poem, a bright star flickers before sliding behind a lifting sunrise. Indeed, Wixon’s poems move back and forth freely from darkness to light, from past to present, from joy to sorrow, from catastrophe to blessings.
The title of Mark Thalman’s chapbook, Stronger Than the Current, emerges from the dominant character trait of Helen McCready, a native Oregonian. When the rising Siuslaw River drowns McCready’s prize tulips, she keeps her rowboat tied to the back porch from which she fishes for salmon. Her patience is stronger than the current (“Mapleton”). Not a patience of necessity for survival, not a patience of placid waiting for the fish to bite, hers is rather a steadfast mindful trust in and love of the remaining beauty, which surpasses necessity.
I have known Maggie for almost thirty years, having met shortly after her return from living in Japan. I found several of the stories in Firefly Lanterns to be familiar tales she shared while we visited beneath the copper beech in her back meadow in Portland or shared a meal. Other stories were new to me, and even the ones I had heard before took on new life because of her decision to write them as haibun. This Japanese form began as a type of travel writing, making it particularly appropriate for sharing Chula’s memories of her time abroad. It combines prose paragraphs with haiku, allowing the poet to craft detailed vignettes punctuated with crystalized images in the haiku. Chula is a longtime practitioner of haibun and even invented the form of linked haibun with Rich Youmans in their book Shadow Lines. In Firefly Lanterns, she takes varied approaches, sometimes concluding the haibun with haiku and other times interspersing haiku throughout a longer prose narrative.
The poems in M. Ann Reed’s making oxygen, remaining inside this pure hollow note invite the reader into the hollow growing point we share with plants – the silent note through which, as the author says in the Preface, we breathe soul-life into words, words into musical patterns, musical patterns into images, all literary features into meaning. And so this book unravels, teaching the reader how to read it as it proceeds with a sense of movement without propulsion – a sense of moving-with instead of moving-towards. The words do not merely transform, but transform with the reader.
As a poet astutely aware of the challenges facing 21st century America, Emmett Wheatfall has never shied away from the in-your-face-truths all of us need to hear. With Extreme Prejudice, Lest We Forget is his latest foray into truth-telling. This collection bears witness to the history of the COVID-19 pandemic which Wheatfall elegantly describes as The greatest hitchhiker on earth…/making its rounds (“Every Nation Under The Sun”).