Friday, May 15, 2009

Café Review, Issa, and the New Yinzer

The new issue of Café Review, part of their 20th anniversary year, has arrived and it has been a long time in the planning. It is an all editors issue: 14 editors from a variety of small press publications, commenting on poetry. Here's what they were looking for:

The Café Review is planning a special Editors’ Issue — to be published in April, National Poetry Month — offering insights on what makes a poem publishable and examining the general health of American poetry today. The issue is part of a series of events in celebration of our 20th anniversary in 2009. The Editors’ Issue will feature essays from the editors of at least a dozen, well-respected poetry journals from across the country in which they tell readers what strikes them about a poem and of both the formal and informal criteria they use to judge submissions. In addition, the Editors’ Issue will discuss the state of American poetry. Is it still useful? Does it still have the power to move a person or change the course of public affairs? In short: Does poetry matter in the world right now? It’s an issue you definitely do not want to miss ...

You can see from the above cover, top right, that I was one of the 14 editors approached to share their thoughts and predilections. Since this is Lilliput's 20th anniversary year, it seemed an appropriate time, to both the editors and myself, to stop for a moment and take a look at the big picture.

In my allotted 1000 or so words, I chose to speak about "the poem" rather than the current state of American poetry, which I feel distinctly unqualified to comment on. All the essays serve as kind of extended guidelines and collectively give folks a deeper glimpse behind the scenes of particular mags, including what they are generally looking for (and, perhaps, what it's not). Lilliput is in some esteemed company here and I feel privileged to be included. The other mags included are Asheville Poetry Review, The Ledge, Beloit Poetry Journal, Rattle, Oak Bend Review, The Broome Review, Hunger Mountain, Measure, Calyx, Simpatico, The Spoon River Review, Free Lunch and The Café Review.

If you are interested, individually copies of the All Editors issue are available for $8, one year subscriptions (4 issues) are $28. A subscription might even be a better way to go. Why subscribe to Café Review? Well, here's a .pdf file of a sample issue that might give you a reason or three.


Because I hate all talk and no action, I want to slip in a few poems from a book I hope to have more to say about in a future post: A Few Flies and I: Haiku by Issa, selected by Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert, from translations by R. H. Blyth and Nobuyuki Yuasa. Merrill is an esteemed children's author and editor, best known for her classic, The Pushcart War. This is a fine, moving selection of translations from two excellent translators and the blend of their efforts makes for an interesting collection. Blyth's renderings are in 3 lines, Nobuyuki's in 4. Though ostensibly for children, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Perhaps it is Issa's great sympathy for and love of children and his own childlike vision and attitude, but this volume works for me in a big way. Here's a couple of poems to tantalize:

------At the flower-vase,
The butterfly too seems to be listening
------to the One Great Thing.

On the bridge
In the thick evening fog–
The horse pauses
A few steps before the hole.

------The child sobs
"Give it to me!"
------The bright full moon.

The Buddha
And points his finger
At a stink worm.

The first and last of these, by the two different translators, are stunning in their simplicity and power. The last is the perfect example of Issa's childlike vision, a poem that speaks directly on a child's level (who farted?) with humor, and a poem that succinctly captures the entire mystery of the universe in a mere 11 words.


On another, even more personal note, the new yinzer's new issue is up on the web and you can find 10 of my poems there.

Thanks, Jay.


by itself
my head bows...
translated by David Lanoue



Frank Parker said...

Thanks for mentioning your poems at "new yinzer". To encounter them a real pleasure, each one. Number 7 hit a resonance with me. You make it new and isn't that the point? To paraphrase Oppen 'above all I want clarity'. Well done.

John Grochalski said...

hopefully they'll straighten out the poem mess...sorry.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jay, hey no problem, people are passing along very nice compliments, witness Frank's kind words, above .. it's the human condition, these things happen - I'm just happy that you enjoy the work ...

And Frank ... more soon. Don

Anonymous said...



Ed Baker said...

well in yAHl's Yinzer dialect

uh been at it a-while
& yet have it!

nice 10-piece run

L. Espenmiller said...

Don - very good to be able to read more of your work. 4 is exquisite (wish I could have had such poetic insight/vision during my too many years of corporate meetings), 6 resonates, 5 stops me short, 9 made me laugh out loud as I persevere through my 6th month of daily meditation practice, 3 - well, the several ants squashed beneath my finger on the kitchen counter this week... sigh.

A real pleasure to read your poetry. peace, Lisa

Tobacco Road Poet said...

What a pleasure to read your poems at "new yinzer", Don. Yes, nicely done. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

LAV, Ed, Lisa, and Curtis ...

Thanks very much ... Don

PS Jay, they corrected the goof and now all 10 are on 10 pages. Thanks again for discerning look at these, most appreciated.