Friday, October 21, 2005

NEW! Review of Coconut

Coconut #1.

Reviewed by Teresa M. Pfeifer

When you arrive, Dear Reader, you will want to laugh. Maybe it is that big red coconut, but Bruce Covey, editor and designer, has a keen sense of web page design. The organization of this site is lovingly ordered for easy reader navigation. The front page connects the reader immediately to the work through five sprouted coconut trees of saturated colors, lined up and hot linked--they are the “buttons” to: 1. Contents (listed by author) 2. Notes 3. Submission Guidelines. 4. Links (a compilation of other online journals), 5. The Associate Editor(s) and Copyright statement. Open any coconut tree button, and find each subsequent page lined with faint coconut tree wallpaper behind the text, except for the poem pages which are infinitely white. Also, at the main page, a very large, very ripe, red, extrovert coconut greets you.

Here's where it gets fun. The font is large enough that it is accessible to readers with impaired vision, it looks great, the words are fairly bulky, and because of many of the writers' take on language, this enhances the word as object in virtual space. It is to Covey's credit that he has forsaken the bells and whistles approach for a form that mirrors content while being pared down to the essential.

Once you enter and click on a poet's name, the author's name is at the top of the page with the poem below it (this is worthy of note because the author's name is hot-linked to the Notes page where readers can shift back and forth to read about the poem, the writer, the process, before, during, or after reading the poem). Reading through the Notes, one discovers that there is a keen interest in the online world among these writers: Covey has used the “I'm Feeling Lucky” feature at to create a composition structure; Aaron McCollough uses what he refers to as “google-sculpting.”

The poetry is a wonderful collection of emerging and established-yet-questing poets with different sensibilities, occupational backgrounds, a bit of a generational mix, and very distinctive voices.

Coconut highlights include a glimpse of Alice Notley's tentatively entitled, A History of the Ghouls, “The Rare Card” being the first poem in the third section of her new work. Trinidad offers two stanzas of a work that, upon completion, will consist of twenty stanzas. His notes reveal part of his modus operandi: “each stanza must be written in one sitting; the first line of each stanza must include the word 'pink'; each stanza must include a confession.” These are heartbreaking and hilarious, reminiscent of Frank O'Hara; not surprisingly, the project is dedicated to the New York School.

Wang Ping (her notes should be updated) has three poems in this issue that throw weighty punches. It's lovely to read a poet who can weave language on a delicate thread that ties one in a rigid, unbreakable hold. Ping can elevate open sentiment to a sacrament, as in “Crab and Catfish,” when the poem's narrator observes what happens when buckets of crabs and fish have been accidentally dumped onto the street in Chinatown. The narrator expresses full throttle sentiment while observing her own reaction from an objective stance: “Outside the crowd my tears come / This is a kingdom where low creatures are killed daily / Like the moon circles the earth / Like hunters hunt, peasants plough / And trees fall for highways and cows / There's no more reason to cry for the bottom feeders / Than for the little girl in a dingy bakery / Devouring noodles and wanting more.”

Jon Leon's language moves like machinery, according to some algorithm that Kurt Schwitters might have endorsed for breakfast were he a digital native. Do they have any siblings?: “5.9 suburban outpost. Get 4.9 jobber, / relative, over. Squeeze ventriloquist shasta. / The sea squires whisking parrot.”

The poems of Frank Menchaca are not for consolation; rather, they take note, with an eye that is bent on observing the unseen. Although only one of these poems was written in response to the collapse of the World Trade Towers, each carries a sense of loss. Weird and wonderful, in “The Secret City” Menchaca perfectly distills the digitized world, its clarity, and its requirement of something human.

Fabulous work by Ken Rumble, the edginess of self-consciousness over everything! The obsessive, awkward, and pleasing rules. And don't miss Amy King's moves from the devastating to the hilarious. In one poem she is able to say “Love has always been / the woman in the lake,” snd later, in the same poem “But mostly, I am taken / by the sense / of a blue suede dress / that shrinks to fit you.”

Alex Lemon's poems read like laments. Laurel Snyder's voice is deadpan funny, Chaplinesque, and, like artful comedy, completely tragic. In her poem “It's Only Natural” the narrator begins “The little girl pulling the puppy's tail / Should stop her pulling. No amount / Of force exerted will turn the puppy / Inside out.” The subsequent turns in the poem are well worth the ride. Also, included in the journal and equally worthy of remark is poetry by Shanna Compton, Katy Lederer, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Lisa Lubasch, and Sawako Nakayasu.

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