Regular Features Pages
Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
Poetry for Children with Robert Schechter
Experimental & Form Poetry with Joseph E. Petta
The Interview with Sophia Naz
by Anthony Watkins
Six Featured Poems
Sophia Naz is a bilingual poet, essayist, author, editor and translator. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, in 2016 for creative non-fiction and in 2018 for poetry. Her work has been featured in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Naz is a regular contributor to The Dawn, poetry editor and columnist at The Sunflower Collective, as well as the founder of rekhti.org, a site dedicated to contemporary Urdu poetry by women. Her poetry collections are Peripheries (2015), Pointillism (2017), and Date Palms (2017). Her website is SophiaNaz.com.
AW: The poetry in your 2015 book Peripheries has a spare mythical quality, and yet you make sharp points, like quick pricks of the acupuncture needle, hardly felt, and yet highly effective. By 2017, in your book Pointillism, the needles have grown sharper and jab deeper, leaving more of a mark, at least on my ears and in my mind.
If this is a progression, where do you see it going?
SN: Peripheries begins the mapping of “Mnemosyne’s rubbled mineral” in “Shipwreck,” its opening poem:
in the exhale, words
have a country a meaning
they must cross &
uncross the tangled
lines, the barbs of borders
that say this is Hindi, a smear
upon the other’s forehead
& this is Urdu, a bird
we are trying to cage
in long, slender bars
of Nastaliq, so banished
from flight, she parrots
a false fortune
at the wings to bury
a mongrel past
By the time Pointillism is published in June 2017, my focus has sharpened. The points are wounds of calamitous entry:
Shot is a collective term
for small balls
is the most common
its rapid fire explodes
hundreds of pellets
from a single point and shoot
Soft-shell of his body
sieved into unreadable Braille
So now we come to the progression. In October of 2017, the same year that Pointillism was published, I lost my home to wildfires and even though that continues to be a devastating loss, especially for someone like me who is so obsessed with history, it was also a pretty amazing gift as a poet and it fueled the genesis of Open Zero, my latest poetry manuscript which Hoshang Merchant, a prominent Indian poet, has kindly dubbed “a poetry phoenix.”
Open Zero is an exploration of loss in all its forms. The personal loss of my home acts as a springboard to dive into the nature of loss itself, so there’s a wide range of poems here, some soar light as a “Nothing Bird” and some circumambulate the nitty gritty cardboard walls and dripping faucet of the trailer I’ve lived in for nearly three years since the fire. Then there are the dimensions of loss which have to do with politics, gender and ecology. All of these are inseparable in my view.
Of course we are living in a maelstrom of loss right now on a scale that we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. As Paul Celan said, “There are no words but language endures.”
Editor’s Choice — Formal Poetry
A droop-eyed, round-jowled, ringleted Buddha’s head
presides upon a riser, on display
here in the window, unaware a red-
sweatered fashion dummy by a hay
bale in the clothes shop straight across Oak Street
stares blankly at him through the plate
glass glare. Buddha has no arms, trunk, feet,
the dummy has no soul. Both seem sedate.
It’s fall, and shopping season once again.
This little New Age bookstore has its stream
of votaries, who browse and nod, and then
cross to chase that other window-dream.
The weeks will come on colder, soon, and wetter.
Souls will each require a brilliant sweater.
Terence Culleton’s two published collections are A Communion of Saints and Eternal Life. Poems from his forthcoming collection of sonnets, A Tree and Gone (FutureCycle Press), have recently appeared in Antiphon, The Eclectic Muse, Innisfree, The Road Not Taken, and elsewhere.
Publisher’s Choice — Free Verse
I felt the need to destroy
but decided instead to do your laundry.
The sweat on your shirt was stale
but I could still make out the smell
of gasoline on your Dickies,
especially the right hip
where you cleaned off your tools.
I filled your pockets with my hands
letting my fingers blossom
within them as I searched
for lighters, quarters
and lists you make of words you’d
like to commit to memory.
I found a philosophical debate going on
from one pocket to another.
Your grease streaked Dickies are
All your Levi’s whisper of anarchy
until I had enough
notes to make a roar.
You have a sharp pair of plaid chinos
that were quoting Slavoj Zizek
and that wholesome French film
we watched three times in a week.
I sung in Italian as I scrubbed
out the grass on the cuffs.
When they were sun-dry and stiff
I laid out the Dickies on our bed
over a pair of your briefs
and measured your abandoned work shirt
against the waistband.
You weren’t there
but then you were.
Angelica Allain was the Poetry Editor of Soundings East and a Salem Poetry Seminar Fellow in 2019. She has upcoming publications in Weber Contemporary West and LEVEE. She is an avid traveler.
Publisher’s Choice — African Poetry
He loved me when no one would
He brought me wild fruit in a wooden plate
He squeezed the teats of the mother cow
whilst I opened my mouth under its bulging udder
Feeling the warm milk fill my mouth
He aimed at a lone bird with his sling shot
and offered me its fire roasted meat on our date.
He glided with me on the slippery rocks of Tshangane River
After an adventurous swim with the crocodiles
He kept his eyes on the herd of cattle grazing on the plain
While his hand caressed my cheek
We rolled in the dewy grass
He smelt of cow dung and unprocessed milk
Of the wild umkhemeswane fruit
And the bold sweat of toil in the green fields
He respected my innocence
Spoke of sending a delegation to my family
Of giving my father a herd of cattle
Of siring strong little boys and girls
Of a thousand moons passed in the most elegant pose
Of counting stars and singing along with the rain bird
Banqobile Virginia Dakamela is a writer who hails from Zimbabwe. A story she wrote was published in an anthology which was studied at high schools and is a set book in a local university. She writes extensively.
Editor’s Choice — Experimental Poetry
cadet misplaced her brain again, sir
you think uniforms and ranks and m-16s have these magical qualities that transform you and the world into somebody something different, a place where you’ve got it all together and always salute on point. but in reality they’re just another thing to keep track of one more item to remember like Phone Keys Wallet Water bottle Note book, all the things you leave at school or on the kitchen counter when you leave for work in the morning.
flight cap on flight cap off Where’s my flight cap? on my head) fell out of my belt in the hallway again cause I was trying to remember to say Good afternoon gentlemencorrection please Ladies and gentlemen, a cadet rank is this little metal pin and if it falls under a locker Good luck, and an m-16 looks like every other m-16 especially in the dark but if you get the wrong serial number you know—
you’ve messed up again and it’s just like middle school nothing’s changed. but here’s your advantage: you know you’re not owed anything cause it’s all the small things that don’t come easy, class schedules shoeshine legible memos. you’re not afraid of dying or missiles or court martials you can do 20 (30 on good days) you even flew the bomber sim okay, you just pray if you ever get to pilot you won’t leave your airplane on the kitchen counter when you leave for work in the morning.
N. C. Krueger is an author/artist from the Twin Cities whose work has been published in Embers Igniting, Blue Marble Review, Alexandria Quarterly, and The Tower. She derives joy from freezing temperatures, black metal, dinosaurs, and earthworms.
Publisher’s Choice — International Poetry
Crescent moon —
above the trees
at the bottom
of the pond.
The color of fire
in the dark
Embers in the storm
Cyril Ioutsen is from Moscow, Russian Federation, where he works as a researcher at the State Museum of Literature and edits/publishes a literary almanac. He has been writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and composing music, for nearly twenty years.
Editor’s Choice — Poetry Unplugged
I step outside and still,
not a breath.
Stark winter trees
upon pink clouds
lit up loud by the unrelenting city.
The pub door opens,
releasing barroom babble and a stranger
looking all too familiar,
and in sharing a match
we are united by the light.
The first drag,
hard and fast, anticipates
the second coming
deep and strong, confirming
that first acrid taste.
The rest is a matter of habit.
Others spark and tipping ash,
we are pressed into a pack,
happy to be ourselves in each other
as companions of addiction,
banished by common affliction
unto this sanctuary.
From another quarter,
the moon struggles through the clouds
of swirling blue smoke
my smoking, my comfort, my killing,
Ned Nutkins is an out of work road sweeper — an English exile living in South Wales, the stomping ground of Dylan Thomas.
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