In consideration of April being National Poetry Month, poets, readers and word-lovin’ citizens of our nation are being encouraged to take back the night/take to the streets/take a hike and celebrate poetry by writing some or folding them up in our pockets. I tried writing a poem a day for the month of April last year (with limited discipline). This month, I think I’ll take up Didi Menendez‘s suggestion to write a review a week on blogworthy poetry reads, whether book, journal or broadside. First up, Anti-, a new online outfit headed by Steven D. Schroeder presenting full-size online issues, featured poets and chapbooks as PDF downloads (Read: Free Read).
Anti-‘s first chapbook publication, POWER CRAZY GENERAL THAN SHWE (Anti- February 2008) is a 20-page letter-size paper format download. The work of 12 poets jumps off of one poem (reprinted and translated in English in the chapbook), “February 14,” by Burmese poet Saw Wai. On January 22, 2008, Saw Wai was jailed for writing the 8-line poem, ostensibly about Valentine’s Day, which contains a secret message critical of General Than Shwe, the military ruler of Myanmar. The poem apparently got past the government censors, but not for long.
Chapbook as news. Some may understand relevant poetry as writings that are timeless (the phrase “the human condition” comes to mind); this is a chapbook that strives to be timely. Steven Schroeder writes of Anti-, “I’m proud to present a project that takes advantage of the fast turnaround time and unique presentation possibilities of the online format[.]”
Fast is right. I hadn’t heard or read about the imprisonment of San Wai, so when the editor’s note by A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz began with, “On January 22, 2008, in the country of Myanmar, a man named Saw Wai was jailed. . . ,” I experienced a momentary disconnect as to whether the year 2008 was a typo in a story about a political incident 5, 20 or 30 years earlier. The month of Never Ever Ever 1973 was the last time I read an editor’s note for a literary poetry publication dated (February 9, 2008) the same month the pub was available for public consumption (February 2008), commenting on a political/human rights event that occurred 19 days earlier.
The dozen poems by a dozen poets include Pamela Johnson Parker’s own 8-line poem whose lines begin with the words POWER CRAZY GENERAL THAN SHWE and Heidi Sulzdorf’s poem of unmistakable aggression sprinkled with the sweet-nothings of a dictator in “The General to His Wife on Her Honeymoon”. Kelli Russell Agodon’s concluding poem, “Another Roadside Distraction”, brings the fold of a dozen back home with a poem on American war-hunger alongside certain American sensibilities and avoidant behaviors: “Pretend you have instant karma instead / of instant coffee. There’s a war outside between squirrels” and “Elections came / early this year. I wanted to vote for Foghorn Leghorn. I wanted / natural plastics and healthy cigarettes.”
Favorite poem: “Emperor Ink” by A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz
Favorite line in the poem: “So, you see, we must kill the penguins.”