Kieren Jeane’s poems unspool progressions of vivid and thought-provoking images, depicting an internal landscape in which mental tides continually shift the ground. “The Line, the Stem, the Thread” describes the act of writing as it unfolds in the mind and with pen in hand; these double lines (couplets) explore the relationship between observation and composition, exposing the fragility and vulnerability of language. “Poem (for a Snow Goose)” deploys the mysterious and inconclusive story-logic of fairy tales to explore how the idea of marriage might shape one’s idea of the future, and how a life gets stamped with the incidental, the fateful, the might-have-been. Written in stanzas that expand in line number and then contract, symmetrically, the poem projects possibilities and just as quickly removes, inverts, or replaces them. “Let’s talk about a wedding ring, / A finger collar, a token of knot well-tied, a conclusion / To an engagement, an evolution, an epiphany. // What seems fit is not what is meant to be….” In “Morning,” which is almost a sonnet (13 delicate lines, unrhymed but with short i and t sounds keeping it light & precise), the speaker describes simply how an empty car had seemed to have someone in it, capturing a momentary state of mind in such a way that this question of presence, occupation or preoccupation comes to stand for the act of poetic composition itself.
Wyatt Carson’s poems, like the American landscape in which they are set, have a hidden rigor. For all their untended appearance and apparent rejection of artifice, they are acutely shaped by experience. “I Pray to Anything Glowing” takes place in one moment several blinks long. The experience is intensely interior but rendered with detachment and a deliberately destabilizing awkwardness. It begins with the sudden intrusion of memory at a traffic light. The senses dissolve into oppositions–snow and fireflies, oven and magic markers, the presence and absence of a barely-glimpsed face. Sorrow isn’t something that can be pinned down; the dead leap from one lighted patch along the road to another. The mind also leaps, making sensory, temporal, perspectival and syntactical shifts as sentence plays against line: “The lamp sings goodnight to / her boy not in the humming of the light but / in the rhythm of blinking she catches my / eye then melts down my cheek, I wipe / my face one last time and / grow up.” “Piss House/Nancy” is more straightforward and easygoing, the emotions harder to access. This account of a summer mowing lawns captures something about the experience of working alongside and for other people, and the strange, complex distances in these connections. “Rust” is similarly about the inability to communicate, this time in a particular interaction or dispute which describes words in/as a haunted house, words caught up with shame, words that won't come out except to go down the drain, words that rust on the tongue. We found these poems honest, natural, hokey, self-aware, vulnerable, and perceptive in ways both eerie and blunt. Their descriptions draw our attention to the body, and in doing so, ascribe to the body a visceral level of intimacy ("humid palms”, an “aching throat, red like strawberries”). They teeter on the grotesque in a way that captures the unrefined experience of how we perceive a moment. This interiority, combined with astute observation of other characters, creates a nuanced reality, one that recognizes the complexity of our intersections.