It’s one of the last stretch-out-beneath-the shade-tree days of summer; I sit, feet bared to the wind, wondering how many poems I might have read and misread over the last (yikes!) 50 years. The noisy crows downfield are concentrating on scaring off a red-tailed hawk. They remind me that as the world goes about its business poems are being written and read everywhere on earth. How fortunate one is to be able to read and hear poetry, to sing it, hold it close to the heart, offer it to another. This receiving/reading of poems is both flexible and unpredictable. So is poetry itself and the spirits of both are in alliance; I couldn’t live without them.
For reasons almost beyond me I lived in Arizona in the 70’s and when Porch Magazine also arrived, accompanied by editor Jim Cervantes, it became the first literary magazine I ever watched. How it prevailed, assembled like a great meal, was something I came to respect deeply. I really cared about it! Later, The Salt River Review was the first on-line publication I ever encountered and I squiggled up my nose wondering if being on-line meant it was actually real. By golly, it sure was.
How strong today’s late August breeze and the first tinting out of green along the hills. Now, before my eyes is an invitation of voices, this beautiful anthology flaring out its stories and poems which also includes a fine selection of translations. Another pleasure is that a fair number of poems included here are new work. Tone, flavor, cadence, heart—in a poem they all recognize each other. And here, while the arrangement is sensibly alphabetical, the pieces are so well selected that the effect is that of orchestration. The prose which follows enhances the book’s structure with the embrace of a retaining wall. The fiction here is various—from traditional structures to the oddball, intuitive declarations of Anne Germanacos’ “Saying I Love You in a Variety of Ways.” The arraying of writing is exhilarating!
As a reader, eating words with my eyes, I am part that “child suspended in memory” introduced in Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s “Interpretation of December” (translated by Mark Strand.) She’s a busy child!
As we read, voices rise across time and circumstance, from the days when we all smoked cigarettes to when we mostly don’t, from Iron City beer and bologna sandwiches, to oatmeal and 1% milk for breakfast. The poems and stories fly through wars, losses, space travel, broken marriages, births- whatever it’s all made of –for us and the crows. This gathering up makes the book feel local. Readers and writers at home together.
As the afternoon pulls tighter along the horizon, the crows keep at their business and I wonder if the intensity and timelessness of poetry itself could please these clever birds. Perhaps they are always reciting for us. Poems and stories may be clever, instinctual, ‘well-wrought’, or mostly musical—but it’s always more than artifice; even the most despairing writing is made from, and of, life itself. “It is the child in us/ or outside us/harvesting the myth.” Those lines from “Interpretation of December” are, in part, my path into this anthology; those children might be the writers, readers, the editors. It’s all three which both make and celebrate In Like Company.
August 2014, Hawley, MA
“Afternoon Preface” is taken from the new anthology, In Like Company: The Salt River Review & Porch Anthology, edited by James Cervantes. Available at Mad Hat Press. All permissions granted.