Finding the Poetry in the Pain – A Pandemic Anthology from Tupelo Press, Launched On-Line Dec. 6th, 2020

Four Quartets – Poetry in the Pandemic. Tupelo Press, 2020

Dear Tomorrow,

I could do it again, watch the heron carry
my grandmother’s verses to its despair garden.
I could be a citizen of evergreens and tend
to a homeland of weeds in the forest with something
resembling love. I can accept the patience white
strawberries require. I can learn prayers in the spring
kingdom, can learn from my dog bounding after
the deer that it’s okay to believe I carry the instincts
of my ancestors. Yes, there’s still a chance for us
both to be tooth and moon and wild recovery.
There’s still a chance my last love will not become
my new enemy. Trust me, the faith it takes to let
the violets bruise the yard without slurring through
the grass in panic is almost mine. I can refuse
the image its eager metaphor. I know better now.
Dusk summons me home with its sapphire curfew.
Do you want to know how I do it? I expect nothing.
And then, and then then, the bright surprise of your arrival.

Traci Brimhall from Four Quartets – Poetry in the Pandemic, Tupelo Press, 2020

It was last minute. I know. But yesterday I gave a heads up for a fabulous event as it started! Tupelo Press out of Mass. USA wass hosting the launch of their astonishing anthology – Four Quartets. No, nothing to do with T.S. Eliot but everything to do with luminous writing from eighteen American poets and a photographer responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And this anthology is quirky! It is really 15 chapbooks of poetry and a photo essay! And two of the chapbooks are collaborations between poets. We get to read them truly as one voice in each chapbook! Amazing. One is written by well known poet Yusef Komunyakka and Lauren McClung. The other by Traci Brimhall and Brynn Saito whose poem is featured above. What a series of ghazals Brynn and Traci wrote together. Seamless. No sense of two different voices. The poem above is one of two non-ghazals in their collection. Brynn wrote the opening non-ghazal poem and Traci, the last.

I picked Dear Tomorrow by Traci for its lyric flexibility and the gorgeousness of tis lines. This: both to be tooth and moon and wild recovery” Yes. And this: Trust me, the faith it takes to let/ the violets bruise the yard without slurring through/ the grass in panic is almost mine.

Brynn and Traci have been collaborating since 2009! Their collaboration in this collection is enough to justify buying the whole book! And the other poets are no slouches! Each of these chapbooks and the photo essay are keepers. Twelve of the chapbooks were picked by Tupelo then they opened the anthology up to other submissions. They had a 1000 submissioms for twelve pages of poems per submission. They picked four. Amazing. And in record time here it is!

Other poets in the collection are Jimmy Santiago Baca, a long-time favoriate of mine, Denise Duhamel one of America’s great so-called ultra-talk poets, Rick Barot, featured in a Ellen Bass’s on-poing on-line course, Maggie Queeny, A. Van Jordan, multi-media artist and poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Lee Young-Ju, Jon Davis, J. Mae Barizo, Dora Malech, Ken Chen, Shane McCrae, Mary Jo Bang and Stephanie Strickland.

The photo essay by B.A.Van Sise is a stand out. Taken this year, and some if not all taken during the first wave of the pandemic, it has a bleak honesty that back and white photos can deliver so well! The pic of a freighter called EVER LIVING with a black mother and child in the foreground could be a kind of “Pieta” image. And the paradox of a freighter called EVER LIVING while an “ever dying” is going on in the poandemic. Masterful and horrifying.

Van Sise says this: Few of these images are the ones I expected to see— but in reality history, like poetry, never seems to turn out the way it’s planned. Truth is never the same as memory.// These are some of this year’s photographs, from our increasingly infinite present.

This book is a keeper. Not surprising coming as it does from Tupelo Press, one of the top independant literary publishers in the U.S.

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