We ran a bit past the one year mark for this issue. It features another great woodcut by Peter Scacco, who is also featured on the cover of issue #23 and issue #21. I am once again grateful to the authors who have shared these poems. Each one is strong in its own way. It leads me once again to a desire to publish a big issue–perhaps for the next issue #25. The idea would be to make it an “Albatross Anthology” or “the best of Albatross.” Maybe what I need to do is to create a budget and launch a kickstarter campaign. Were it to win funding, it would allow me to print enough to hire a distributor and have it distributed nationally. This is a dream of mine.
I just posted Albatross #21 at the main site. This has been a tough year insofar as I have begun to adjunct at Emerson College and so have been busy with researching, creating, and then teaching a new course since September. The work I do on Albatross is always very much squeezed between the cracks of a very busy life, but this year that busyness has increased one hundred fold. At this very moment, I am neglecting some work I should be doing for this course…
But this work must continue as well, and so it does. Once again I was so pleased by the poems in this issue. I still actually type each poem out, so I have that experience of becoming intimate with the poem–as if I wrote it myself. (This reminds me of a story that UF writer-in-residence Harry Crews once told me. In order to teach himself how to write, he retyped word-for-word Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. That was his apprenticeship…)
While a year might be a long time in between issues, I hope you feel like it’s worth the wait after reading these. Some of my favorite moments: the opening poem by Don Thompson (do you notice how each issue starts off with a poem invoking religion or God in some way?), the following powerful poems by Temple Cone, the arrogance and destructive nature of childhood in Joan Colby’s poem, the terror at the end of Ronnie Hess’s poem… and the stunning pair by Adam Penna (which, in the print issue–soon to come!–you will find in the sweet middle-spot, where the journal flips open to automatically).
Thank you for reading!
I just posted Albatross #20 at the main site. The print issue will be out within the next couple of weeks.
There are some amazing poems in this issue. Some of my favorites include William Keener’s and Lyn Stefenhagens’s. I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I have. And the cover art is awesome as well. While visiting my son in Gainesville, we went to a party at an art gallery, and the owner was selling this woodcut as a card. I asked him if I could use it for #20, and voila!
I have found other works of art this way. Another of my favorites, the cover for #10, was done by a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. We were sitting next to each other at Dunn Brothers Coffee House, and he was sketching these cool abstract pieces. Again, I boldly asked to use the artwork, and this is how it came to be on the cover. This cover for #10, by the way, was featured in the 1998 (I think it was) Poet’s Market.
I just finished finalizing the PDF file for Albatross #20 and will be sending it along to the printer. I like to print 100 copies so that there are some in print out there in the world. I guess I’m still stuck in the age of print literacy. But I’ve seen too many poetry websites (and too many of my published poems) disappear when the website becomes a dead link. This way, the poets, a handful of subscribers, and a few university libraries that archive small press poetry all have a hard copy. This way, I’ll feel like I’ve left something behind in the world, something of value, something real.
In the process of laying out the journals, I type the entire poem in and then proofread it a number of times, so I come to know the poems quite intimately. I always have a few that are my favorites. I posted one by Andy Roberts titled “Standoff” in my last post. It’s not very profound; it’s a simple poem, with a simple enough message, but I chuckle every time I read the ending, and that’s been a good 10-12 times of late. Every time I read it I have the same response, so I thought I’d write about it here.
The poem describes an encounter that the persona has with a pair of Canadian geese, who loudly defend their nest, which happens to be on the well-worn path s/he (we’ll call him or her “the poet” from here on out) has been walking regularly for 30 years. After introducing this scene, Roberts concludes:
I will not win this argument
against pink hissing tongues.
I will not win this argument,
not in a million years.
I love this. It’s so simple but so true. We are at present losing the argument with nature, and it will only get worse before it gets better.
This poem could easily have appeared in Billy Collins “Poetry 180” anthologies. In the introduction to the first one, Collins writes,
The idea behind this printed collection. . . was to assemble a generous selection of short, clear, contemporary poems which any listener could basically “get” on first hearing–poems whose injection of pleasure is immediate.
Collins developed these anthologies to try to reconnect poetry to high school students who too often experience poetry as a painful process of reading dense and opaque writing that doesn’t seem to make much sense. As Collins demonstrates–not only in these anthologies but in his own poetry as well–this does not have to be the case.
Poetry–like many forms of art–is an act of communication, and Andy Roberts’ poem does a good job of doing just that.
I received the following poem from Michael Lewis-Beck:
Breath cold, full moon behind a gray veil,
the tree tops map the moon.
Three pairs of socks through my boots
my toes are cold still.
Three hours of hard wood in the Vermont casting
lifts the cabin from 13 to 38.
Vegetable soup and a bottle of Gigondas,
read Frost by bed candle.
Sleep to wind in the high trees.
I liked this poem a lot but had a few suggested changes. First, I was confused by the first line of the second stanza, so I suggested adding a comma between “socks” and “through.” This breaks the flow of the sentence and allows the prepositional phrase “through my boots” to apply to “toes” in the second line rather than to “socks” in the first.
Second, I suggested reversing “cold” and “still” so that the rhythm of the line was enhanced: “my toes are still cold”, which allows the stress to fall on each syllable/word, whereas the original seems to de-emphasize the stress on “still” in the last position. Also, I like the “s” sound of “toes” and “still” when they are brought closer together, yet the change doesn’t cancel the effect of the assonance (the “o” sound in “toes” and “cold”)–in fact, I think the assonance is enhanced by adding a beat (with the word “still”) between the two sounds/words.
Finally, I suggested cutting the “the” in the last line–again for reasons of rhythm. Without the “the,” we have “Sleep to wind in high trees”–every syllable stressed, with a powerful impactful ending. Putting “the” in adds a downbeat and ruins this effect: “Sleep to wind in the high trees.”
These changes make the poem stronger, in my opinion, and the author agreed to the changes. This poem will appear in Albatross #20. I will also post the edited version of the poem as a “featured poem” entry of this blog.
I just posted Albatross #19 at the main site. The print issue is forthcoming in a week or so (finalized the files and delivered to the printer today, giving him the go-ahead to print 100 copies).
It’s always a bit of a relief to get another issue out there. I know it’s a relief for the poets, who have sometimes waited a year or two to see their poem in print. It’s always up in the air, too, until the poem is actually in print, since the journal might fold up shop in the meantime.
I’ve always tried to keep Albatross small so that it never outgrew itself. I’ve seen journals start out as quarterlies only to see them burn out after a few years. Albatross is published about once per year and has been doing so for 23 years, a not unremarkable feat for a poetry journal I’m proud to say!