The following three poems were hand-picked by Samantha Gennett, showcasing the talent found in her recent chapbook, Pomegranate.
We sit together, you reclined and I upright, enveloped by the nicotine you transmit. As you inhale, I stare at the orange glow at your cigarette end. You look at me with a telescopic grin, shaking your head, not even noticing the ash singeing
a hole through your Nirvana t-shirt, hair resembling elephant eyelashes, lips shining pizza grease and I cannot think of a way to rewire your melancholy or find a way to sew a mustache onto your numb smile. This smoke, strangling our throats—is there a fire?
We sit together in this chain-smoked cloud, I underhand toss you an aging baseball but your hand cannot render the shape of catch, instead your body lays contorted like an ampersand and all I can do is mumble “it’s okay, you’re okay” tenderly.
I have never seen anything less photogenic: foam bubbles out of your mouth, white as pith of pomegranate.
“Throughout Rachel Steele’s collection, ‘Plain-Hearted,’ not everything is absolutely how it seems. Being overwhelmed by the unexpected is an experience repeated in both her fiction pieces like ‘Three False Beginnings to an Incomplete Story’ and ‘Flurries,’ as well as her poems such as ‘Dear Olive’ and ‘Media Mutters: A Glosa.’ While Steele twists perspectives to create thundering shocks, she is continuously surprising us with her straightforward, albeit mysterious voice, and her use of transformative metaphors.
These are elements you confront as Steele stirs her synthetic realities into chaos, such as with her short fiction ‘Flurries.’ She sets up an average apartment, where an ordinary man kills time between shifts. Before he’s off to his next job, he visits this apartment simply to unwind with his precious baby girl, a Great Dane. Steele goes on to illustrate the lives of the other tenants, giving us brief descriptions to capture their dreams and their flaws. She subtly uses this ‘capturing of the mundane’ to distract her audience into a sense of comfort and personal connection before she suddenly rips the entire second floor into oblivion with an inexplicable explosion, and we’re left in a scene of debris colliding with the Chicago winter. What makes the entire piece so extraordinary is how extremely relatable everything feels, so that even the unpredictable is tangible, making the collapse even more devastating.
Just when the reader feels assured they know exactly what’s happening, they’re launched into a catastrophe. Just as with ‘Flurries,’ you never know what to expect with her piece ‘Three False Beginnings to an Incomplete Story.’ It is written as a three-part nanofiction, revealing each character through their unlikely actions. The first story delves into the crisis of a family trying to regain control after a burglary. The two items the naïve thief has claimed are couch cushions and a seemingly innocent Louis Vuitton purse. Like a defensive mother, the child narrator begins ‘sprinting with a steak knife and wearing periwinkle elephant slippers.’ This is when the readers learn that this child is not running after useless items, but the remains of their dead mother, now ash stored in her once favorite purse, closing with a smack of the line, ‘We burned her, we keep her. Those are the rules.’
“Jessica Jordan’s poetry explores the dark nature of humanity, as well as the commonality between human instinct and animal instinct. Jordan navigates through several diverse topics rotating around the popular topics humanity discusses, including the existence of god or gods, life in a small town, zombies, and the complex meaning of tattoos.
Jordan exposes the undertones of humanity while crafting beautiful images through the use of the senses, as in her poem ‘June 12, 2010.’ Jordan’s poem is written in the form of a cento, in which Jordan stitches together lines from other writers to show the spectrum of human cruelty as the poem discusses rape and the violation of such a horrendous act.
‘I did not die – the bile of desolation in every pore.’ These closing lines of ‘June 12, 2010’ shows the violation and despair that is left in the wake of abuse, leaving the reader, like the speaker, with the knowledge of violation but with the simple fact that the speaker of the poem did not die. Jordan makes apparent the desolation the speaker is feeling by saying, ‘A piece of burned meat wears my clothes, speaks in my voice.’ This is a striking image that shows the reader the complete despair the speaker is feeling, but also this cold detachment of being ‘burned meat.’
“Sarah Elizabeth Ford’s collection, Perversions & Saplings, is hauntingly vivid and shows us the destructive path that nature has been forced to take. Each piece contrasts vibrant imagery with the deterioration of creation; from nature outside to human nature. Each piece serves as a stepping stone in forewarning her readers of the damage society has allowed the world to dissolve into, and the declining landscape of evolution.
One such step is provided by ‘British Shorthair,’ a transmutation poem of ‘Science’ by Aracelis Girmay. Here, readers observe cannibalistic instinct supersede the domesticated breed of a German Shepherd and a cat. While readers expect to find the intimidating dog attack an unsuspecting chipmunk, it’s the cat who catches its prey.
‘Your mew was not a lion’s yawn, not a lion’s yawn.’
Her piece provides an element of disbelief that something so tame could be so feral.
“Sabrina Parr’s work delves into worlds of destruction and deterioration, but through lenses of admiration described via language. Parr’s ability to take these images of mass deterioration and flip it into something that contains beauty in some way is done so artfully that you may be forced to read it multiple times.
A cyclical nature is apparent in Parr’s piece, ‘Tinted Lens.’ Parr writes about the beauty which can be seen through a lens — ‘We stare down the lens of whatever’ is a line that’s broad, and yet specific enough that the audience can relate it to whatever they would like.
This piece continues to fill us with excitement and feelings of admiration as she follows up with the line, ‘to love the contents that construct us.’ Here the audience is allowed to feel admiration for what they are viewing, or quite possibly themselves. While it is open to multiple interpretations, the overall message remains positive, however.