This round includes poems that capture the strange textures of the everyday, in ways that especially resonate in our current world. In each, form is used to shape and heighten small details, and emphasize the emotion behind them.
“Bingo Card for the End Times” by Milla van der Have
from the Maynard
is kind of tiny,
looking for a place
to put down roots”
This piece, in an exciting innovative form, puts a dreamy spin on a world full of new catastrophes. Twelve blocks each hold a phrase describing “my apocalypse”, each one esoteric and delicate, less disaster and more a sympathetically troubled character in a complicated story. The blocks can be “shuffled” as well, for dozens of reading combinations; this repetitive mixing pulls you to dwell on each phrase, just as you might your own fears and anxieties. Clever and lush, uneasy with just a touch of humour, this piece evokes a modern mythology to haunt your dreams and nightmares.
“Diagnosis” by Sarah Wetzel
from Ghost City Press
“Call the vine-choked oak,
the caterpillars crawling, chickadees
This piece is spare and haunting, circling the suggestion of tragedy with day-to-day tasks. Anaphora on the world “call” builds into notes of nature with an edge of malaise, a mounting sense of dread the speaker isn’t ready to face. Each detail leads into the next; the poem is framed by the action of calling the dog, a foil who’s unaware of human problems; the feeding of the dog is described in ways that seem closed off and secretive, echoing the true central problem of avoiding the phone call. This falls into sharp close, where nature is projected into a symbol of the speaker’s unease. Inaction is made active and creepingly present in this carefully crafted poem.
“my true self is grocery shopping” by Umang Kalra
from Longleaf Review
“I want to bite into the sky outside and call it names.”
This is a piece that sticks with you, full of bright and often outrageous imagery. The everyday act of grocery shopping becomes lush, spirals out into emotion. The stream-of-consciousness style works here because it’s unabashed and obvious; there’s a line crossed out, there’s spontaneous breaks between words, ideas build on each other, spiral out of control, and then move on, the thoughts kept short and authoritative. Most of all, this poem is tuned into the fact that food isn’t just food, but that our relationship with it is shaped by the people we coexist with, by the systems we live under, by our ideas of beauty. If the grocery store feels like a big part of your life these days, chances are you’ll find a thought that resonates in this piece.