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Editor’s Note: It has been my honor and privilege to write another omnibus review for Diode Poetry Journal, this time a review of four full-length poetry collections. Each of the poets that are the subject of this review have been featured here on the Saturday Poetry Series, and diode gave me the opportunity to expand my inquiries into these collections and to help share the gift of poetry with the world. Read selections from the review below, then hop on over to diode and read the full review and the incredible issue.

diode 9.1, by Sivan Butler-Rotholz

New from [Red Hen Press, Texas Tech University Press, Black Lawrence Press, and The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective] are four full-length poetry collections from four visionary writers. Whether crafted by award-winning artists or carefully curated, whether hand-selected or born of generous mentorship, these thoughtful and painstaking works gift the reader an exquisite unrest. Vivid, lyric, and evocative, the words and ideas proffered within these books enable the reader not only to question, but to reconsider, not only to reflect, but to be transformed.

Seemingly disparate, these collections grow from the fertile soil of common ground. Each one stems from the rich roots of questioning, and among their boughs are inquiries into science and religion, genesis, generations, and death, the infinite and the inevitable, history, humanity, and crossing over.

from Review | Histories of the Future Perfect, by Ellen Kombiyil
The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, 2015

Imagine a world freed by the boundless realms of a child’s imagination. A child, that is, with a PhD and the resources of NASA at its fingertips. And a heart that has lived more than one lifetime. “Of the heart,” Kombiyil observes, “one might say that it slows,” and “love is / lava spilling out & cooling into rock.” From earth, she imagines the stars, and from space, she longs for earth. In “While Sipping Lemon Tea on Saturn’s Ice-Cloud Deck,” the poet experiences “Dizzy days and sleepless nights—elongated years,” wistful when admitting that “I’ve forgotten the outline of my body against you.”

from Review | The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, by Rachel Mennies
Texas Tech University Press, 2014

The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards “cradle[s] a weight unasked of it.” This ambitious collection is laden with questions of religion and God, of Judaism as a uniquely weighted experience, of the tension between a lost matriarchy and a present patriarchy—“prayers as old as a thousand matriarchs;” “Sarah had Rebekah had Leah and Rachel had… no use for sarcasm but lived thick within God’s ironies…” Woven between the fibers of these themes are the intrinsic considerations of—and reflections upon—history and those relationships that are the genesis, generation, and continuation of life.

from Review | Decency, by Marcela Sulak
Black Lawrence Press, 2015

When the book considers history, that consideration is varied enough to encompass Cortés, the Holocaust, and the southern backyard of the poet’s own childhood. Sulak writes of La Malinche, a Nahau (Aztec) woman who was born noble, sold into slavery, and came into the possession of Cortés:

              They call me La Malinche,
              because I betrayed. Cortés called me
              Doña Marina. Our friends
              called us by the same name.
              You can call me mother,
              of course. But what I like most,
              is the unanswered calling in the sun
              and the corn and the coins, those luminous
              voices eternally seeking their gods

And of the poet’s own history:

              At the end of our marriage, I remember
              the raccoons of my childhood . . .
              how my brother set the spring-triggered steel jaw trap for the coons
              in the dim light of the barn floor; my cat stepped into it and caught her paw,
              and how she howled, her desperate twist, and when I bent to release her
              she bit my finger and it swelled ten times its normal size, how that’s what
              my father said, when you touch an animal in pain.

from Review | River Electric With Light, by Sarah Wetzel
Red Hen Press, 2015

The driving force and metaphor running through this work is water. Rivers carry words, ideas, people. “If I must choose a word for you, / let it be river,” the book opens, and in this way the poet conjures up a world in which water and the you of the collection become one. She then echoes these words with a shift that sets the stage for the ways in which water—and the you—shifts throughout the book, throughout life, and throughout both personal history and the history of the world: “If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows.”

Today’s selections are from diode 9.1. Read the full omnibus review here. Read the full issue here.

Diode: Diode publishes electropositive poetry. Poetry that excites and energizes. Poetry that uses language that crackles and sparks. The journal features poetry from all points on the arc, from formal to experimental.

Want to read more at the intersection of yours truly and diode?
Diode 9.1 – Small Press Full Length Collections Omnibus Review
Diode 8.3 – Accents Publishing Chapbook Omnibus Review

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