Thursday, January 15, 2009

Atlas Poetica 3 put to bed

Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place has been sent to the publisher. This issue is a good one -- technical problems transmitting work from a Mac to a PC to the printer have been resolved, so this issue looks the way I want it to look. The contents are marvelous, and include work in new directions and new poets.

New to ATPO is the work of Stanley Pelter, whose extremely modern, fragmentary, almost surreal style shows how the tanka form can evolve beyond its Japanese roots into a powerful medium for the expression of human lives. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Paul Mercken's tanka transcriptions of old Chinese poetry by Bai Juyi translated into Dutch by Prof. Idema, show how tanka is a form that can be used to understand the past and cross cultural barriers. Jo McInerney contributes a Wilsonian sequence in which tanka and haiku alternate in the sonorous rhythms of life by the sea. Jeffrey Woodward's sea in 'Seamen's Bethel' mixes ruminations on Melville with his steps through an old church in a New England port.

Continuing developments of earlier issues, tanka poets address the places of their pasts. John Daleiden's 'Old Memories in the Valley of the Sun' traces a different kind of segregation: growing up black in a predominantly Hispanic town in the time when cotton was picked by hand, culminating in the celebration of Junteenth--the anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves. Kirsty Karkow, 'Understanding the Patient,' reflects on her days as a public health nurse in Baltimore. Amid the turmoil of modern life, there are still quiet voices heard and appreciated. In Romania, Vasile Moldovan listens to the voice of a cricket joining the Vesper service. Angela Leuck finds redemption or at least closure by visiting her hometown in Saskatchewan on a bitter winter's day.

Topical Tanka for the issue include 'War and Peace,' 'Mourning,' 'Urban,' and Summer.' The responses to the 'urban' category were numerous, and taps into an aspect of tanka which is important and voluminous, but which is often neglected in the journals. The dominant themes of tanka at the opening of the 21st century were nature and love, often with the former as a metaphor or symbol for the latter. Bucolic scenes and small intimacies and miniature betrayals were a literary fruit that did not drop far from the ancient waka tree. The Japanese of the classical period didn't want to hear about war and misery--they got enough of that in the news. It is precisely this genteel escapism that so appeals to many modern readers, but a poetry that excludes the harshness of the world will slowly become irrelevant, moribund, and no sort of literature at all. Such large topics are difficult to grasp, but the lens of place provides a way to focus on the details that reflect the larger realities. Tanka's ability to evoke the unsaid is perfectly matched to expressing what is too large for human expression.

ATPO 3 is the first issue that will appear in the triple format pioneered by our publisher: print, ebook, and online. It goes on sale March 1, 2009.