From deep inside the Polar Vortex – the Dark Ice of the Moon, Winter 2018-2019 issue.
“As he looks at corpses of muskrats – ‘puts some thought on porcupines,’ – or pauses while dragging out a deer on snow, thinks about how ticks wait out their prey, Justin Watkins’ poems take us into the heart of the Midwest as lived through its language.” —Jim Johnson is the former Poet Laureate of Duluth. His latest book, Text For Our Nomadic Future, came out in August 2018.
His blog, Fishing and Thinking, where he writes under the pen name “Wendy Berrell”, is a truly special place to read the ruminations of a scientist who sees a value in living life close to the land. Beyond his blog, Justin’s book of poetry Bottom-Right Corner from Red Dragonfly Press is a brilliant work of outdoor poetry about life as an outdoorsman in South Eastern Minnesota. So I’ve been a fanboy for a long time.
In his newest book A Mark of Permanence published by Shipwreckt books, Justin takes his work to a new level; integrating poetry and his uniquely stark factual prose, Justin has created a series of vignettes into life being lived in modern Minnesota as it was lived centuries ago. His deep respect for the quarry in his tales along with the land and water they live in shines through like rays of sun through a dark grey cloudy ceiling. Yet Justin achieves this feat without flowery language or high-minded soliloquies. Instead, he tells you the facts like they are and lets the overwhelming reality of just how interconnected we are with the world around us speak for itself.
I think nothing better exemplifies this amazing talent of Justin’s than 2 stanzas in the poem
Paleozoic Seas have come and gone here
Flooding and receding
Leaving shelved limestone
That our boot cleats bite and hold
We study the ceaseless hefting of water
For there is no other signature
Water rock two hunters and the fish:
Dark shapes deliberate in the shallows
K. Bartlett: “Thoughtful stuff by Justin Watkins. My copy arrived and I thought, “I will just read the first poem.” Then I sat down and read the entire book in one sitting. Fantastic writing for anyone who has an appreciation of life and the outdoors.”
When the poems in Steven Schild’s new collection are at their best (and his batting average is pretty darned good), they tackle our primary work: ‘being human,’ something that too often these days seems to be regarded as a sort of silliness. He writes, We kiss and commiserate / we cling without question to even our oddest others, / we comfort like angels, / like lower-case gods. These poems celebrate at least as often as they mourn, soothe more than they fume. That the reader is allowed to participate in the journey is no small gift.—John Reinhard is the author of On the Road to Patsy Cline and Burning the Prairie.
These Humans is a symphonic presentation of us as a species. In parts 1-1V Schild examines us under the magnifying glass of the journalist he was and teacher he is—the images are clear, the language is crisp, and the lyricism is deft. There is a tone of disdain appropriate to the times in which we live; Schild presents the empirical evidence as he has witnessed it. In parts V and VI the voice of the poet takes over: the poems go much deeper to the soul of who we are. The responsible and articulate public witness becomes more personal, sharing (our) fears and vulnerabilities, our moments of joy and quiet delight. There is a balance in this book—of citizen and next-door-neighbor, of husband, son, grandson and father, of fellow traveler, of journalist and poet. And always the poetry exhibits an unerring ear. Thank you, Steve Schild for composing and sharing this orchestration!—Ken McCullough, Poet Laureate of Winona, Minnesota, is the author of Dark Stars and Broken Gates.
Short fiction & essays
Steve McCown. Six Poems. Lee Henschel Jr. Forty Lenten Haiku. Tufik Y. Shayeb. Three Poems. Robert Wooten. Four Poems. Michael Ceraolo. Eighty Days. Kay Bosgraff. Three Poems. Steve Toth.Three Poems. Steve Schild. Three Poems. Ed Schwartz. Five Poems. Marcus Hines. Three Poems. Nicole Borg. Waiting for the Prince. Ken McCullough. The Levee: Then and Now
Everybody has one — Op-Ed
Tom Driscoll v5n2. My Crystal Ball
Nicole Borg lets us ride shotgun on these road trips toward home. Home: where love and hope reside. Where we find what fills us. Where we are blessed by the moon and rooted in the stars. Borg leads us down a new path, and we’re richer
for having been on the road with her.—poet and editor Dara Syrkin.
This is a collection of sustaining drives across country and time with a woman who revisits herself, packing courage in a rusted suitcase that demands to be unlocked. The scenes along this road trip unfold risks she took to love, to be alone, to confess, and to maneuver herself into freedoms borne from raw storytelling. The poems often roll, subtly, to a surprise punch stop. The language draws a quick inhale from the fresh and sudden image of the truth that was waiting between the lines.—Stillwater poet and editor Elissa Cottle.