May 29th, 2009

thoughtful, creative, contemplative

Mythic Delirium 20: Poem by Poem, Part 4

Go here to see what I'm doing.

Genesis by Holly Dworken Cooley

This is a really interesting poem, which approaches the Judeo-Christian mythos from the point of view of a student. The use of the first person plural is quite interesting in this piece, and something that works well. Also, Cooley keeps to a tight web of imagery, using Biblical allusion--"we spit on their eyes to give them sight" or "one gold goblet from our feast/at the table with 12 chairs"--as well as child like imagery--"This is the day of the first crayon. Today we draw the animals in red wiry lines."--to create a solid piece. What puzzles me is the purpose of this piece. I'm not sure what point Cooley is trying to make; I can't tell if this is a critique on religion, a critique on man's attempt to understand the Divine, etc. so I'm not sure how I feel about this piece overall. I think there is certainly a discussion being provoked by this piece, which is always good, but I'm not sure where Cooley stands on that discussion, but I'm not sure that that's a bad thing, either. Not all poetry needs to have a strong 2x4 in the face message, and there's certainly enough here that multiple themes could be taken from this poem, which is always a good thing.

Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon by Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica Paige Wick

This is an interesting tale in two voices about the way a seductive, entrapping fairy (elf? sprite?) gets tangled in his own web by his victim. The first thing that grabs the reader, literally from line one, is strength of the metaphor in this piece--"You're as stubborn as the cleft in a goat's hoof" or "the wind is a knife on my flesh". The metaphorical language is only strengthened by the richness of the surrounding imagery which almost drips from every line. On top of that, there were a lot of sonorous qualities to this piece, alliteration, assonance, and the like, which aided the reader's enjoyment. Were I made to take issue with anything in the poem, it would be the use of questions in lines like “Egg-shell stew? Is that a joke?/A crackerjack box cruelty?” However, this is probably an issue of personal taste, and certainly not something which detracts from the overall poem. If I was forced to choose, this was possibly the best poem in the issue for me. Almost everything is working, and working well.

Lake Vostok by Deborah P Kolodji


This is an interesting take on a speculative theme, using a scientific concept as the vehicle for a metaphor in which the tenor is a relationship. Kolodji explores the possibility of reaching this ancient sub-surface lake, and juxtaposes that exploration with images of the relationship, which she then compares to a return to an innocent Eden like state of mind, in which the speaker and audience “splash in our nakedness”. I am always a sucker for solid uses of juxtaposition, as well as anything that forces the reader to make their own connections.


Major Players by Anselm Brocki


For me, this piece doesn’t read as a poem, but more philosophical quandary broken into lines. The abstraction in the piece was much too heavy for me to read this as a poem, people “obviously/being material products of/the universe” to their development of “language, self-/awareness, cosmic awareness, and the ability to think” or the universe’s intention of those people “to give it worthwhile, ethical/direction and more perfect,/glorious fulfillment”. It’s an interesting quandary, but not something that reads, in its current incarnation, as a solid poem.


What If I Were Secretly the Phoenix by Darrell Schweitzer


Schweitzer creates an interesting scenario in this piece using the famous mythical creature, the phoenix, as a jumping off point. Taking the idea that, every 500 years, a phoenix builds a nest and then incinerates it, rising from its own ashes, Schweitzer’s narrator takes stock of their life, and wonders, were they the phoenix, what would survive. There is a lot of interesting detail in this piece, especially when the narrator considers their “nest/filled with books, pulp magazines,/a stamp collection, a whole wall/of phonograph records” and even a “1962 vintage Aurora Model Kit Dracula/in perfect condition – complete/with the original bat!” These details provide a unique look at the sort of person who ponders such questions, and what people hold on to in their lives, as well as what we would consider lost were their entire lives to burst into flames with them as the only survivor. This is a very interesting exploration of humanity using a mythic element as a starting point, and a very solid poem.


Myth by Kim Malinowski


Malinowski begins this piece describing a mythic cosmology where “the world is resting on the back/of a sea turtle with Nut arching over us.” This combination of either American Indian or, possibly, classical Hindu with Ancient Egyptian cosmology is a peculiar one, but one which Malinowski brings hurtling into the present as the turtle is “caught in nets and plastic rings.” Malinowski’s piece is a mash-up of ancient past and modern present with an overarching theme of ecological awareness that works well overall. However, some of the lines are a bit awkward, especially in the middle of the poem where “reaching.” and “The earth” are left to flounder on their own. Most of the lines are three to five accented syllables in length, so these two one accent lines are a bit off putting, and read as rhythmically awkward as part of the overall piece. Still, the poem itself is working on many other levels that such flaws are not as readily apparent as they might otherwise be.


Lavoisier’s Final Proof by Stephen Malin


I’m not sure that I’m reading this piece correctly, or getting all of the allusions, so if I’ve missed something, I hope another reader will catch me and correct me. What I think is happening in this poem is that Lavoisier, in the face of death, continues to perform experiments, even those concerning the length of life after beheading. This is an interesting poem, and Malin builds well towards the final lines, but the individual lines themselves, which vary in rhythmic length, but also break on awkward words, such as adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions, seem rough. Now, this could be intentional, forcing a false tension in the lines to increase the tension of the piece, but the length of the lines themselves extends the breath to the point that this feels awkwardly crafted, as though the line lengths and line breaks are working at cross purposes. Still, this is overall a solid poem, and the content is enough to overlook the weak craft.

So that's it--Mythic Delirium poem by poem. While I didn't particularly enjoy every poem in this issue, it certainly was worth the $6.50 cover price. I'm also looking forward to Issue 21, which is themed around "tricksters". Having written the occasional trickster poem myself, I'm curious to see how others tackle the topic. As a reader, I can only hope that Mythic Delirium continues to remain as strong as this issue, if not more so. From what I've seen, there's very little to stop it from doing so.