April 25, 2014

Up The River: Issue Two

For the second time in a year AlbanyPoets.com, has issued a print “journal of poetry, art & photography” Up The River in conjunction with the annual WordFest celebration. While the Capital Region of New York State is rich in readings, open mics, & other spoken word performances, print venues have been rare. Issue Two, edited by Jill Crammond, Kevin Peterson, & Thom Francis contains 62 poems from 43 poets. While there is a healthy dose of poems from poets in the Capital Region, most of whom would be familiar to anyone who attends open mics on a regular basis (or who read my Blog), the work of poets from all across the country are included.

Flipping through the zine I was intrigued by the West Coast poems of Richard Whitlock, “Subdividing Heaven and Earth in Downtown LA” & “Blue Notes for Fireball Whiskey & Ginger Ale,” but when I looked in the back of the book there was no bio (I do like finding out who these poets are as people). When I looked up his poems in the table of contents they were attributed to one Jeffrey Alfier, who is listed on the Poets&Writers website as a left-coast poet (one who also lists Richard Hugo as a “favorite author,” as does Richard Whitlock). But nothing like that for Richard Whitlock. Hmm? A bit of sloppy editorial production? Who is Richard Whitlock? Jeffery Alfier? I liked the poems whomever they were by. But, was this sloppy, or intentional, or something else?

The poems by the local poets are welcome additions to my shelf of pieces I have previously only heard at fleeting readings. But some of the out-of-area poet’s poems, while intriguing poems, were strangely similar to each other, aleatory, & synchronistically in close proximity in the book, notably the poets Art Heifeitz, Raffi Kiureghian, & John Grey.

Fernando Pessoa the Portuguese poet is reported to have as many as 72 “heteronyms” — personas under which he wrote poems, complete with individual biographies & distinct poetic styles. After all, it’s only words, & as they say about The Buddhist Theme Park, “It’s all an illusion.” No matter what, Up The River a fine collection of poems, ones I will keep at my bed side to indulge in before the reality of the night’s dreams.

Another thing I don’t get is the touting of being a “Pushcart Prize nominee” in a poet’s bio (not just in Up The River, but everywhere else these days). Small press publishers can nominate anyone they have published in the past year for a Pushcart Prize. Obviously it is to the publisher’s advantage to nominate someone, anyone, that they have published so that if, perchance, the poet wins the prize, the publisher benefits from the publicity & extra sales. I’ve been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, & as my father often said, “That & a token will get you on the bus.”  I have never gotten a prize (or a token) -- it’s like your Mother saying “you’ve been a good girl.”  If you get the Pushcart Prize, then brag about it.

Do buy Up The River, particularly if you don’t have many poems around your house, & even if you do, then Support Your Local Poet. Go to AlbanyPoets.com to order your copy.

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