I enjoy reading The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine. One of the reasons is that it unapologetically publishes poets from around the world, including many for whom English is not their first language. Issue 22 for example, features poets from India, Bulgaria and Canada. Lolita Ray from Sweden saw two of her poems published in Swedish, without translation.
But more than that, I like The Seventh Quarry because there I find poems which are firstly, about something and secondly, written with considerable thought to the form, much more often than in other publications – paper or online.
Peter Thabit Jones interviewed a poet and a philosopher Christopher Norris for this issue, who talked about high-class poetry journals, “where review-articles are often much better written – even at times more poetic – than the sorts of poetry they typically publish.” [p.23] I found so many times that, after reading a poem and a short description by an author, I think, “Yes, this description is so interesting and poetic. Why did you not say precisely this and in this way in your poem?” It’s a bad sign for poetry when reviews and descriptions are better than the poems themselves.
Christopher Norris’ “The Beauty of It” explores the thoughts and feelings the creator of Kalashnikov, Mikhail Kalashnikov, might have had about his creation. The poem is composed in rhymed couples of iambic pentameters. This adds an imitation of machine gun fire: ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta-ta-Ta to the iambic pentameter’s repertoire.
Jane Blanchard definitely writes about something. Her “Encounter” is enchanting both for its elegant form and for its subject matter: an encounter with a moth and wishing it well.
This is a stance poets often have to take in life: noticing little things – so that there is stuff to write about. But how about noticing a whole person, yet walking past him because of his unsightly look and unpleasant smell? “scabbed with dirt, sores, pus,/other excrescences” This is “Squalid Sights” by Gary Beck, a mercilessly accurate observation of contemporary society.
I liked Maria Mazziotti Gillan‘s poem “Gray Clouds” for its optimism, which is expressed in detailed and sensual description of colours and textures of her clothes, namely – the move away from the gray wool shawl to multicoloured, multi-textured garments. The coloured drawings on Gillan’s website are just as lovely and life-affirming.
“Revenant” by Jenny Hockey caught my eye because I am currently reading a book about vampires (not in the gory-fictional sense, but to find out the origins of many folklore and mythological beliefs about evil spirits). The two long stanzas of sometimes loosely rhymed, lightly rhythmed lines kept holding my attention. Partially it was due to the clever use of line breaks, which took me to the next line. Moreover, the flow of narrative of tense and mesmerising – which made this poem stand out for me.
Sue A’Hearn’s poem “Anyway” delighted me with its bravery and freshness. The text emulates everyday speech of working class people and features the refrain “Anyway”. The feeling I had reading the poem brought me to a conversation I had long ago with a friend, when it struck me clearly that my friend was not in control of the words she was saying, but rather they drove her.
My friend was using some sort of a staple, like “Anyway”: perhaps “You know what I mean”. I remember realising that she did not actually mean what she was saying, but was producing the words automatically, and every time she did, the conversation took a new predicted turn. This is similar to what happens in “Anyway”.
Furthermore, the use of this street lingo brings home the conundrum of reading a poetry magazine of writing for it. What words do we use as poets and as citizens? For whom do we write poetry?
I mentioned Carolyn Mary Kleefeld in my previous review of The Seventh Quarry. In this issue, her poem “Plowed by the Love of You” touched my heart with its direct joyful abundant images of universal love. Both the love of this kind and its reflections in poetry are rare these days. The poem is accompanied by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld’s illustration done in Persian style.
The poem by Adam Szyper (who, incidentally, speaks Polish, English, Hebrew, Russian and Esperanto) “Father of mine behind great waters of time” lifted my spirit by its simple yet lofty message. The lyrical hero simply asks his father to give him strength, so that he “can ascend the rest of my life with dignity,/Proud among stars and columns of clean air.”
Amen/Amen/אָמֵן/Аминь and amen to that!