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Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
Three Featured Poems
The Interview with Aaron Poochigian
by A. M. Juster
Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His book of translations from Sappho, Stung With Love, was published by Penguin Classics in 2009, and his translation of Apollonius’ Jason and the Argonauts was released October 2014. For his work in translation he was awarded a 2010-2011 Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book of poetry, The Cosmic Purr (Able Muse Press), was published in 2012 and his second book Manhattanite, which won the 2016 Able Muse Poetry Prize, came out in December of 2017. His third book American Divine, winner of the Richard Wilbur Award, will come out in 2020 (Evansville University Press). His thriller in verse, Mr. Either/Or, was released by Etruscan Press in the fall of 2017. His work has appeared in such publications as Best American Poetry, POETRY, and The Times Literary Supplement. See www.aaronpoochigian.com.
AMJ: Good to talk with you again, big guy.
AP: Yes, it’s a pleasure. Our careers have so many parallels. This conversation is overdue.
AMJ: So I know you’re moving from Fresno, California, back to New York. How does New York influence your writing and, more specifically, is the complexity, clutter and chaos of your verse novel Mr. Either/Or a product of life in New York?
AP: I am very eager to move back to New York. I love its noise and density, its dirtiness, and all three are elements of my verse-novel Mr. Either/Or. My time in California has been an extended writing retreat, but I don’t want to retreat any longer; I want to advance. New York is where I came of age as a poet—it is where I murdered the last of my literary affectations and got down to the business of writing 21st-century poetry. My narrative Mr. Either/Or is, among other things, an homage to Manhattan. I hope the poetry in it is as compressed as that borough, and that a reader encounters as diverse a range of diction and tone as a person encounters when walking around in Central Park. New York City is numinous to me, electric. The conclusion to my poem American Divine (set in Union Square) best expresses, I think, its significance to me:
This is the numinous, this is the hub
from which the stacked, starless and luminary
city spokes—the streets, the trains, the towers.
It starts this evening, in the winter flaw—
seeking new prophets, modern sites to cherish,
finding divinities in earthly powers.
You are a church of one, a private parish;
be passionate in the pursuit of awe.
Also, I have realized that, to be happy, I need a literary community around me, and that’s one of the things I have missed since leaving New York.
Publisher’s Choice — Free Verse
Ears red, I walked my way back
to the English Muffins
like it was no big deal.
Then I put back the popcorn
like I wasn’t breaking inside.
The spinach was pre-bagged
the zucchini was not.
I pared down
twenty more dollars in my cart,
until my spartan selection of
sat alone, unadorned by spice
I walked back
head high, and
paid on credit,
Feeling the cooling wind
in the parking lot,
after a walk that seemed like
I put my bags in the trunk
and drove home on empty.
Josh Medsker is a New Jersey poet, originally from Alaska, and is the author of five poetry chapbooks. In addition, his work has appeared in many publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, Haiku Journal, and Contemporary American Voices. www.joshmedsker.com
Editor’s Choice — Free Verse
Croix de Guerre
Let me tell you
chiefs and chefs,
I don’t know,
haven’t the faintest idea,
how to accept all this honor;
how to show, without fraud
my deep feeling,
my gross emotion,
and all in all
thanes, your gleaming
eyes bespeak an honor
not mine, but of all
those who died, pro patria;
gutted like perch,
their holy stink
ascends to Valhalla.
Let me say thanks;
my parts are here,
arms, legs, eyes;
the net has not been
cast over my
eagles, no thanks to you—
in the baldric my scars
start and end.
So I say I am honored;
honored by your respect
honored by the tombstone
I carry on my back.
But let me tell you,
generals and commanders,
I don’t want
lunch or dinner;
in the field the
wheat is broken
and the stumps of the slain
have cast their final vote,
raised dead limbs skyward.
Kameraden, let me tell you
go and give the
Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired. He once owned a cat that could whistle “Sweet Adeline,” use a knife and fork, and killed a postman.
Editor’s Choice — Formal Poetry
Encounter with a Tapir
One somehow feels united with a tapir
In a way that seldom seems appropriate
With others of one’s kind; the million years
The tapir race has spent surviving
Makes their friendship more desirable.
The way this one before me now
Stands his ground and stares out silently,
Gently flexing his proboscis in the breeze,
Brings my own unfocused life before me—
How busy I can be at nothing of importance.
His ears are lightly tipped in white,
Like the ring of fur around his snout.
He spreads his toes out in the mud
And I soak up the sight of him, wishing
I could be that certain of my place.
Michael Fraley finds a creative community in the many voices of the poetry world. He has contributed to Better Than Starbucks, Blue Unicorn, The Road Not Taken, California Quarterly, and Plainsongs.
Pont de Charing Cross, London, 1906 by Andre Derain