So, too, poetry carries some sort of mixed idea of carrying on the past but leading toward the future. Poetry: as old as the railroad, even older. Poetry is like the steel rails, the historical vessel of delivering the idea.
Walt Whitman described the ability to compose thoughts as an accumulation of experiences.
"After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races, after knowledge, freedom, crimes,
After complete faith, after clarifying, elevations, and removing obstructions,
After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man, a woman, the divine power to speak words;"
These definitions are as true today as they were in 1892. What's exciting when reading contemporary poetry–of many things–is discovering new methods, or engines, of expressing the infinite. We still read lines, but every day we experiment with something new.
That's why I enjoy reading submissions and compiling issues of The New Poet. In the eternal life of poetry there are infinite possibilities of expressing something in a new way.
Here's to poetry. Here's to innovation and risk. Welcome to Issue 3 of The New Poet.
They were on the highway.
The stasis of steady motion.
An oak beside a river.
She nodded. The coffee in her
cup had gone cold,
its white plastic helmet
stained antique brown,
the pressed barrel of its body
made to be filled
with heat just once.
Let’s not have any illusions, he said to her.
The only thing here that isn’t going to end
up in the ground is the song on the radio.
Michael Bazzett’s poems have appeared in West Branch, Beloit Poetry Journal, DIAGRAM, Carolina Quarterly, Pleiades, and Smartish Pace, among others, and his work was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Cream City Review, Rattle, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
One of summer’s last afternoons,
the edges of a few things suggesting
that we paid no mind, splashing in
water, breaking up its trembling
lines til tired, we succumb to late
afternoon, fan above us creaking
on its axis, old world about to
die or be reborn, and as my child
turns in sleep, I touch her back
suddenly kin to the descendant
who finally arrives at the remains
of the old farmhouse tucked just
inside the wood and presses his
hand briefly on crumbling stone—
straining to see through the years.
Jenn Blair is from Yakima, WA. She has published in Copper Nickel, New South, Cold Mountain Review, Kestrel, and the Tulane Review among others. Her chapbook All Things are Ordered is out from Finishing Line Press.
They Would Chop up the River for Ice
So little keeps from that season neither green
in its righteousness or given-to-white
when we could only speak of the trees
on our street, the signs we’d potshot with BB’s,
with a shrug or this gush of nouns,
so hot we couldn’t muse, forget sleep,
and so cold, we’d lost touch with our own skin,
what few memories we could fire up, thaw, from when
we were swapped back and forth between parents—
one who worked second shift at the fish plant,
one whose answer was always the strap,
never talked out again from behind that door
where we’re still leaning on that window sill
looking out past the identical peaks of our capes
to where the clock’s ticks will always be
walked off in shadow-steps, silent as kites.
Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited. His fifth book Flap was published last year by Finishing Line Press. From 2009-2011 he was the Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You can check out his Postcard Project at pplp.org.
Like truck drivers must feel the highway
& home beneath vanishing roads,
I miss the Texas fairytales when
Red Riding Hood wears cowboy boots
& rawhide gloves, the way
her red slippers mirror her soft, raw hands.
Texans build towns along highways,
& name them, even if
you pass by in a blink & never
know you were there. In between I leave
chunks of memory, fuel, & bile in ditches
when my temperature rises too fast
from one hour to the next.
So I drive. Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma,
& back. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona.
The telephone lines tighten. Or maybe
I’m projecting my skin on anything
that stretches further than it wants to,
that feels out of date in my stomach.
Perhaps the lines resent not only
the weight of birds or intimate calls without faces,
but the design of following highways
like lovers who don’t want to lead.
With each mile marker,
faceless connections feel more & more real,
all lonely shiver & hot breath.
Kara Dorris is a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas. She received her MFA from New Mexico State University in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in The Tusculum Review, The Tulane Review, Harpur Palate, Wicked Alice, Cutbank, Prick of the Spindle, Stone Highway Review, burntdistrict, and Crazyhorse among others literary journals, as well the anthology Beauty is a Verb. Dancing Girl Press published her first chapbook, Elective Affinities, in 2011. Her chapbook, Night Ride Home, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is the editor of an online literary journal, Lingerpost (lingerpost.org).
For Jimmie Don Patterson
Thy mercy is great unto the heavens,
and thy truth unto the clouds
Inside, the rooms are full of relatives:
cousins and wives and husbands of cousins.
A family of memories passed ‘round.
Telling their stories in the humid dark
out on the deck beside the new gas grill
the smokers take their turns, puffing, speaking.
The bug zapper’s blue glow flickers. Small lives
complete circuits—electric bursts of light
and smoke and powdered wings fluttering down.
The toads grow fat on barbequed June bugs.
Solemn, they seem to listen to our talk.
We shudder at their girth and at their warts.
“That time we used your dad’s hand drill to bore
a jillion holes in everything—the bench,
the workshop walls, and all of those cigar
boxes he kept his screws and nails in.”
The image of the slow turn of the hand
crank augers into borrowed memory.
Curled shavings wind out from the bit and fall.
A bead of condensation trickles down
his can of beer. He drinks and laughs. “You know,
I think he was the maddest over those
cigar boxes. Said he’d collected them
for years.” The picture now: cigars, thousands,
all turned to ash and smoke that drifted out
on nights like this in their slow burn, mingled
with breath, drifting beneath the trees, half-lit
by moon, as pale and vague as any sense
of what this means, for anything distinct
would be definable, and not touch this…
Another flash casts just enough blue light
to make the mind wonder what it just saw,
—there, by the woods along the cotton rows—
and haunt itself with what it must believe.
Dennis Humphrey is Chair of the English and Fine Arts Division at Arkansas State University—Beebe, and he has a PhD in English with Creative Writing emphasis from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His poetry has appeared in The Oklahoma Review, and his fiction has appeared in storySouth, Clapboard House, Prick of the Spindle, BloodLotus, Spilt Milk, SN Review, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and is forthcoming in Toad Suck Review.
The Transatlantic Flight
The bullet train of my mind already
in New York City, but I’m still
preparing for the journey, snipping
my life here and there with my suitcase’s
shears, the airplane’s steeple wings,
a flying cathedral transforming
me into a peach in a sleeper car,
a bruised journey to NYC via
Istanbul, the silence of planting a coffee
as I pause near the Turkish Starbucks,
my head steams above my cup,
the razor blades of my feet cutting
a cord as I stretch my toes that
will wrap around the trellis of NYC
for several days as I become a penitent
who falls prostrate on the ground
to kiss my first step in a country
from which I’ve been missing, kiss it
like a broken chain, the amphitheater
of NYC like smoke above me, like some great
aunt who visits on holidays bearing
books of fables and scissors to snip
out pictures of this journey to NYC,
the city that bends me like a Venetian Café,
my head a Christmas storefront filled
with sleeper trains full of Jesuits
going to NYC to fulfill their vows
of silence, and I’m flying an airplane
like a raspberry flies a bucket,
the bucket like a schooner or shuttlecock
weaving across the Atlantic, like a maker
of Carpathian rugs, like a pen knife
in the hands of a tailor, shortening the hem,
shortening the day, shortening
the distance between my body
and a brain already in NYC.
Timothy Kercher has spent the last six years overseas—four years in Georgia and two in Ukraine—and is now moving back to his home in Dolores, Colorado. He continues to translate contemporary poetry from the Republic of Georgia. He is a high school English teacher and has worked in five countries overseas—Mongolia, Mexico, and Bosnia being the others. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of recent literary publications, including Crazyhorse, Versal, Plume, upstreet, Bateau, The Minnesota Review and others.
Belle, Ling Hoi Ching
Can’t choose the right colour to describe your vest—uncooked sago in coconut milk.
Pay attention to the threads, they mark out the labyrinth of your guts.
This peach, the colour of a monkey’s red butt, reminds me of my most primitive blush—
shy not coward. Chew it, turn it back into seed-small grains. Open your palms.
Ten-thousand-mile road, reread for ten million years by the sun, never surprises a cliff,
which forgets how cold the ocean is—like you, no—me. Hold on to the blade.
Can’t remember the first word as well as the last you spoke—
Never say it again to me.
I am just a little flower pot, as tiny as a newborn’s hand,
can’t hold any more water other than your spit.
Belle, Ling Hoi Ching is a university graduate from the University of Hong Kong, and has completed her Master of Creative Writing in the University of Sydney in 2008. Her manuscript A Seed and a Plant was shortlisted for The HKU International Poetry Prize in 2009. Her favourite novelist is Haruki Murakami, and her beloved poems are those which can capture insightful images with in-depth philosophical meanings, especially those of Martin Harrison.
The parlor was your “chapel for the music,”
each record whole and upright on the polished
wooden console, scratchless in its paper sleeve.
You dusted once a week and kept the blinds
drawn down, so the colored fabrics wouldn’t fade.
And it was sacred to you, clean and dark and private,
until the heart attacked, in nineteen-forty-eight.
Now grief is an ancient turntable, spinning;
a steel-tipped needle frozen in a worn out place;
the same sad sounds repeating: voices crack, then fade.
Again and again, I play them, listening
to the worn out needle wearing down the grooves;
listening, to each old record, thick and black and brittle,
losing sound to jagged steel.
Bob Meszaros taught English at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut, for thirty-two years. He retired from high school teaching in June of 1999. During the 1970s and the early 80s his poetry appeared in a number of literary journals, such as En Passant and Voices International. In the year 2000 he began teaching part time at Quinnipiac University, and he began once again to submit his work for publication. His poems have subsequently appeared in The Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Tar River Poetry, Concho River Review, Innisfree, and other literary journals.
For weeks I watched his wicked stare entice
My better angel from the avenue
Below the railroad tracks. His merchandise
Heaped in a shopping cart of residue,
The tattered remnants of his straw-man mind.
I greeted him, he flashed his blue tattoo,
And presently our souls became entwined.
I fed him coats and scarves and pocket change
While he recoiled in cold at humankind.
Our conversation was an odd exchange
Of metaphors and meager sustenance,
Though neither found the other wholly strange
To make us question how our quick romance
Could leave us, unchanged, in our circumstance.
Todd Outcalt is the author of twenty-five books in six languages, including The Best Things in Life are Free (HCI) and Candles in the Dark (John Wiley & Sons). He has written for American Fitness, Brides, Aim, and a host of other magazines, and his poetry has most recently found its way into the pages of The Christian Science Monitor, Rattle, Red Wheelbarrow, and Together. He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana and enjoys kayaking, hiking and reading.
Pui Ying Wong
In Sai Kung
I come back to the air of gardenia
and sea brine, where boats rock
like restless children.
The street meanders through villages,
fierce dogs bark at everyone
and at long afternoons.
In the park a huge banyan,
beard flowing like an open dress,
presides over endless card games,
lovers’ quarrels and dull rain.
I look for you where the lamppost
was, in the empty prow
of a wobbly wooden boat
like the one we rode,
many summers before,
chatting so idly,
ignorant of the future
as the boatman steered us
away from the shore
where we did similar things,
thought similar thoughts
as other humans did,
like yearning for love,
like being fearful of not living.
Pui Ying Wong was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of a full length book of poetry Yellow Plum Season (New York Quarterly Books, 2010), two chapbooks: Mementos (Finishing Line Press, 2007), Sonnet for a New Country (Pudding House Press, 2008) and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Blood Lotus Journal, The Brooklyner, decomP, Gargoyle, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Ucity Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the poet Tim Suermondt.