Comments on Frogpond, Summer 2003

I wrote the following comments in August 2003 about selected poems from Frogpond 26:2, Summer 2003.

Comments on selected poems from the summer 2003 issue of Frogpond:

        first spring day
        the chatter
        of the Starbucks staff

                Pamela Miller Ness, p. 8

This poem somehow conveys sparrows in the second line, yet twists that with the surprise of the third line. Also, this may not be the actual first day of spring by the calendar. More likely it’s the first spring-like day, thus the increased energy of the coffee shop baristas.

        Crescent moon—
        the white claw of a crab
        washes ashore

                Edward Zuk, p. 12

Ed’s poem may seem rather simple at first glance. But there’s more to it than just the echo of the moon’s shape in the shape of the crab’s white claw. Rather, there’s a greater unity here, in that the tide has washed the crab’s claw onto the beach, and the tide, of course, is caused by the moon.

        late summer
        black men spreading tar
        on the side road

                Lenard D. Moore, p. 18

Something about this poem raises my attention. Is it the word “black”? Or is it the word “side”? Or is it that we wonder about both—and the possible correlation? Either way, we can feel the heat and smell the tar. And then perhaps we notice that the word “men” is plural and wonder why all the men tarring this road are black. Perhaps they are blackened by the task at hand, but then again, perhaps not, and we are left to wonder about race, economics, and even perhaps slavery.

        school letting out
        a muskrat scurries
        back to the water

                Tom Clausen, p. 21

There’s some karumi (lightness) to this poem. The lightness isn’t just with the topic and its humour, but the more important way that the poet has touched his topic “lightly”—without manhandling it. Indeed, the poem reads effortlessly, recreating a simple observation. Yet the observation is not mere cause and effect, but perhaps, on an interpretive level, symbolic of the adult world sometimes avoiding the noise and mischief of schoolchildren.

        winter sun
        the patina of small scratches
        on a dinner plate

                Peggy Willis Lyles, p. 25

Whether Peggy intended it or not, this poem brings to mind, for me, Anita Virgil’s “a phoebe’s cry . . . / the blue shadows / on the dinner plates.” The similarity of the last line makes Lyles’ poem what I’ve been calling “déjà-ku”—a poem that alludes to or repeats part of another haiku (usually well known). In this case, Lyles’ dinner plates become blue, at least for me, and the poem grows because of my memory of the Virgil poem.

        no ears
        on my shadow—
        winter quiet

                Mark Cunningham, p. 25

This poem is deceptively simply, yet shows a fresh observation of the haziness of a winter day, the indistinct shadows somehow echoed by the day’s quietness. The greater unity of the poem is that the time of year has “removed” the person’s ears, so no wonder it seems quiet.

        moon
        under
        ice
        where the divers have stopped
        searching

                Judson Evans, p. 26

There’s a chill and depth to this five-line poem. The last word punches the reader with sadness.

        Easter Sunday:
        the astonished looks on all
        the bowling balls

                Patrick Sweeney, p. 31

Patrick’s poem is not just an amusing anthropomorphic look at bowling balls, but a deft juxtaposition with Easter and the astonishment at the resurrection of Jesus.

        crowded mall
        water magnifies a goldfish
        in a plastic bag

                Peggy Willis Lyles, p. 33

In this poem not only do we see the goldfish in an comical way, but ourselves, too, for perhaps we are all in a goldfish bowl—magnified and on display—when we visit a shopping mall. Or at the very least, while shopping, we’re often wide-eyed.

        at the fair
        two didgeridoo players
        swap email addresses

                Catherine Bullock, p. 41

This poem amuses us not just because it evokes human nature but for the contrast between old and new, between cultural artifacts separated by both a symbolic and perhaps literal ocean.