“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” - Wallace Stevens
In Church by R.S. Thomas
Often I try
To analyse the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross.
Have you read R.S. Thomas?
A few weeks ago, my friend, the poet Ken Rosen, ended a long email to me by suggesting, no, ordering me to read The Collected Poems of R.S. Thomas. Who?
He’s the “other” Welsh poet named Thomas. Not nearly as well-known as Dylan, R.S. captured the dark, sparse, beautiful landscape and character of mid 20th century Wales.
He was a vicar, a consistently dour vicar. God is present in his work but there is little grandeur - as in the poem above, “In Church."
A critic once called him, "the saddest man in the world." Others say that persona was cultivated for public consumption. He was quite capable of writing beautifully moving, lyrics, as in this poem, "A Marriage"
under a shower
Fifty years passed,
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
'Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
the last dance, And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.
That's painter Paul Brahms self portrait on the cover - mask on and cautiously optimistic about the future, as are we. Paul provided us with the cover of our first issue - February 2020 - just before we entered this strange, strange time. You'll find more of his work on the inside.
Pick up the Spring issue of Nine Mile Magazine here: www.ninemile.org. In it you'll find a remembrance of Marvin Bell, several new poems by Norman Dubie, wonderful works from several other poets, a cool cover collage by Elena Ciletti, and an important essay by editor Bob Herz entitled, "A modest proposal for editors of poetry magazines." Herz writes about the "scandal" of many poetry magazines taking months (and months and months) to respond to submissions. He suggests that editors show respect for poets by providing a quick turnaround on submissions "which means in a week if possible, and no more than a month if not." Well worth your time if your a poet, editor...anyone who has had work languish on Submittable for months.
We have had the pleasure of working with Emily Kurc, a senior in the Literary Publishing course at Fairleigh Dickinson University since January. Emily provided valuable insight as a reader. She was typically the first to review and react to submissions. Her fingerprints are all over this issue.
Thank you, Emily!
This issue kicks off with an ekphrastic chapbook from Tilly Woodward and Ralph Savarese. Be sure to watch the video that accompanies it. It's dedicated to their children who read some of the poems. Ralph's son uses a text-to-voice synthesizer to communicate, so you'll hear a digital voice in two places.
Take this issue like a walk around a lake. There's a lot here, a spring bouquet of poetry and art. Oh, and music! Much thanks to my collaborators, Nancy Jean Hill, Bill Burtis, Emily Kuric, Jere DeWaters, Michael Hettich, Tom Bruton. Special thanks to Greg Clary, who we may as well call our staff photographer.
I know some of you view this on your phone or tablet and that's good. But it's really designed to be viewed on a larger screen.
And thank you for following this Hole In The Head gang. If you get a minute, let us know what you think. firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to include your book or journal in next month's Last Word feature, just send a copy to: Hole In The Head Review, 85 Forbes Lane, Windham, ME 04062.
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We'll be back in August.
If you are in love with the infinite,
why grieve over earth washing away in the rain?