Volume 108, Number 3/4

Volume 108, Number 3/4

pl10834-lg This is the night mail crossing the Border,

Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,

The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

—W.H. Auden

Cover Caption: Ozark children at the RFD box, Missouri, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.


This issue is sold out, please e-mail managing editor Eleanor Tipton to request a reprint. Back issues cost $9.00 (plus $2.00 shipping & handling).

Editors’ Page

Today’s mail arrives: a 21st-century jumble of local real-estate notices, solicitations, bills, catalogues, and advertising flyers. If we’re lucky, there’s a postcard or a letter in the mix, a few lines of script in a familiar hand, and maybe a magazine. Even in the digital age, the letter exerts a mysterious pull—and the journal (Poet Lore, perhaps) issues its own clear invitation.

But for the young girls on our cover, walking to the mailbox was a serious rural ritual, the day’s post a lifeline linking farm routes and cities, family and friends. For those without telephones or the resources to travel, a letter’s voice had transformative power, speaking from another place, another time—making it vivid, there and then.

What kind of lifeline does poetry offer, what kind of “news”? Dickinson’s “letter[s] to the world” still astonish and instruct us; and Whitman’s headlong dispatches continue to unfold as if his American moment were our own. Conjuring the heft of sensory experience, their words bring news from the human interior and deliver it safely across any distance.

This issue opens with an introduction by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (whose early work appeared in Poet Lore – Vol. 91, No. 2) to Tarfia Faizullah’s poems on identity, desire, and personal agency. Other poets in these pages send missives from war zones (Bill Glose’s “Gathering Intelligence”), classrooms (Ted Lardner’s “Assignment”), jails (Joseph Bathanti’s “Huntersville Prison”), and pilgrimage sites (Jane Medved’s “Leaving a Note at the Western Wall”)—from the precincts of poverty (M. Nzadi Keita’s “102.”), nightmare (Lucinda Roy’s “A Mind Full of Winter”), and longing (Bruce Lowry’s “Love Song for Anna May Wong”).

Like a letter arriving just in time, Mitchell Untch’s dizzying epistolary poem, “Dear Betty Blythe Francis,” reclaims an ardent friendship after nearly half a century. In closing, it resurrects a season, enacting the dual urgencies of memory and insight: “…October, // the maple’s red hands, spring rain signing the grass, and the two of us still alive in this world….” Still alive—a claim that might describe the stubborn force of poetry itself.


Poets Introducing Poets

Tarfia Faizullah Introduction by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey
Stockpiling for the Hereafter
What I Want is Simple
The Anatomy of Prayer
Tell me where it hurts
Fair & Lovely



David Wagoner 
Ahead of Time

David Wagoner
Amounting to Something

Gary Fincke 

Anne Dyer
Stuart In a Classroom is a Body

Liza Katz 
Artist’s Model

Chelsea Wagenaar 

Ted Lardner 
Stella Blue

Bruce Lowry 
Love Song for Anna May Wong

Mark Rubin 
I’m in the Phone Book

Matthew J. Spireng 

Mitchell Untch 
Dear Betty Blythe Francis

Phillip Sterling 

Anne Sheldon 
Shots of Garrett County

Anne Sheldon 
Dream Sequence

Marilynn Talal 
The Samurai’s Wife

Mary Crow 
Blind Spots

Laurie Zimmerman 

Ann Gerike 

Sally Bliumis-Dunn 
Portrait of a Reader

Shane Seely 
The Frozen Pond

Alison Prine 

Kate Peper 
View from the Jungfraujoch Railway Café

Lucinda Roy 
A Mind Full of Winter

Mary Parham 
Caged Animals

Joseph Bathanti 
Huntersville Prison

Joseph Bathanti 
This Mad Heart

Joseph Bathanti 

Naton Leslie 
Watching Wild Kingdom

Gary Fincke 
The Wide Astonishment of Air

June Rockefeller 
The Smokehouse

Katherine Robinson 
Turkey Vultures

Jane Medved 
Leaving a Note at the Western Wall

Jonathan H. Scott 
Home from Damascus

Frannie Lindsay 
Prayer of a Prodigal During Holy Week

Frannie Lindsay 
Old Dog Suckling

Bill Glose 
Gathering Intelligence

Ted Lardner 

Javier Zamora 
14 May, 1980: Hundreds Float

Richard Jones 
The Chair

Richard Jones 
The Call

Richard Jones 

Alex McRae 
Killarney Fern

Stuart Friebert 
Some Sun on Cloud Tops

R.T. Smith 
Winter Tying

R.T. Smith 

John Balaban 
Remembering Elling Eide

Sid Gold 

Julie E. Bloemeke 

Kathleen Winter 

Deirdre Callanan 
Something Else

Anya Silver 
At the Station

Rob Sulewski 

Carrie Addington 

Ariana Nadia Nash 
The Night We Came to the Forest

Carol V. Davis 
Nothing Left to Do

June Rockefeller 
Open Closets Are Sad

J.T. Ledbetter 
Last Light on the Marsh

Ellen Devlin 
So Far to Gather in My Hair

Brianna Noll 
At the Mercury Fountain, Barcelona

Travis Mossotti 

M. Nzadi
Keita 102.

Mark Lilley 
The Check

Mark Lilley 
The Choice

Rick Mulkey 

Carina Yun 
Through the Stockton Street Tunnel

Robert J. Levy 
Shopping Without a List

Mary Ann Larkin 
We Live in Longing

Brian Simoneau 
City Champs Celebrate Unlikely Win in Back of Coach’s Pickup

Jason Gebhardt 
Equanimity (A Poem in the Form of the State of Georgia)

Ken Poyner 

Lee Rossi 

Rob Sulewski 
Late Lunch

Caitlin Cowan 
Vanishing Act

Steven Ratiner 
Horizontal Tower

Jaydn DeWald 
Triptych for Morgan, Bird, and Brown


Essays & Reviews

Jaydn Dewald
“In Praise of Constraints: Inciting the Unexpected”

Marci Vogel reviews Alight by Fady Joudah

Zara Raab reviews Year of Reversible Loss by Norma Farber

Debra Wierenga reviews Mark the Music by Merrill Leffler