- Young Poets Introduction
What an immense pleasure to read so many excellent poems this year. They all demonstrate a real commitment to poetry as an art form, to using poetry as a way of understanding complex thoughts and feelings. Many of them demonstrate particularly strong command of sentence and line, of image, of music and timing.
Jay Martin's "November Picnic with Louise" stands out to me among the very best poems for its boldness and verve, for the tension between its direct sense of address and the complexity of its emotion. Nothing feels mannered here: "It hurts to sit, / but I don't mind much so long / as you still like to eat my grilled cheeses." And yet, within the idyllic premise of a picnic lurk graver dangers: the pack of boys at the window, the dead grass, all that cannot be expressed to Louise except in the poem. Martin relies on the compression and shapeliness of the sonnet-like form to bring readers from the picnic to the ocean; from a balmy November day to deep, snowy winter; from a narrative to a surprising confession, in which the poem itself is invoked. Like the best poems, it can say so much in a small space, can make us feel the hugeness and terror and beauty of desire in the crispest and most tangible details.
Martha Shaffer's "Stars" is masterful in its tone, as its matter-offact reportage of a personal narrative yields to a meditation on loss, violence, grief. Taking the reader from text message to the Torah, the poem links its elegies through the figure of stars. "Real is a body, // a thing you can touch," the speaker reminds us, even as she abstracts loss into a constellation of numbness and pain. Shaffer's writing here is sophisticated and memorable.
Stephanie Chang's "Post Meridiem" gorgeously navigates the landscape of dream, bringing readers on a journey—at times ecstatic, at times terrifying—while exploring relationships between mother and daughter that feel authentic and urgent. The imagery of the poem is [End Page 70] violent and intense ("I am searching her eyes // for knife wounds"), and the stakes of the poem are high ("My mother doesn't know we came here / to say goodbye"). Although the poem imports the fantastical worlds of Hayao Miyazaki's films, the dynamism and sense of movement in "Post Meridiem" is pure poetry. [End Page 71]