Reactions to selections from Arc Annual 2010

Reactions to Frederick Ward’s ‘Blind Man’s Blues’
Powerful. Original. Pared down to the bone. Straight at you. No pretense. Reminded me, with its unusual, arresting voice and imagery, of how lazy and banal day-to-day language is. I loved “Put you in mind of a lone bird at dawn / standing without panic in the dew.” Startlingly perfect—you know EXACTLY what the poet means.
—Moira Farr

Reactions to Pino Coluccio’s ‘Misspent Youth’
It’s sweet, it contains a Star Trek joke (“to boldly go”), it invents an amusing euphemism for breasts (“clauses”), it features a great phrase (“clamping sturdy brackets”; they do look like clamps) and it is a poem about language. Using words to talk about words has always fascinated me. I enjoy just about all meta-poetry I come across. As a bit of a grammatical pedant, I was immediately grabbed by the opening phrase: “Changing that to which and lie to lay.” And I love the implied superiority in the phrase “once a week I’d help her write the things she’d meant to say.” (I admit I’ve sometimes boasted to myself that I was doing that when reading over someone’s writing and offering suggestions.) And then, with the word “desire” at the end of the first stanza, the poem starts to shift from the grammatical to the erotic, which is also a realm I enjoy. Finally, the cadence of the final three lines reminds me (without seeming to steal) of the rhythms of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” a writer and poem I admire greatly.
—Chris Knight

Reactions to Steven McCaffrey’s ‘Position of Sheep I’
I found it most eccentric in a positive way. It is peaceful to reflect on the scene if you were to replace the word with the animals in the lovely green pasture. The word “sheep” is a quiet word, and it’s no wonder people count them to go to sleep, as they are quiet, unassuming animals. There is a feeling of space where the words are located on the page. They’re not all bunched together as some people would refer to them: “Like a bunch of sheep.” Why the lamb? It’s to ensure, once again, that one doesn’t think of them as “a bunch of sheep.” They are each individual from the next. This poem would be very easy to memorize!
—Sherella Conley

Reactions to Charles Bruce’s ‘Back Road Farm’
It reminded me of growing up in PEI. It’s like the first chapter in a David Adams Richards novel, put through a poetry blender. Or like reading a painting by Karen Gallant.
—Peter Simpson

Reactions to Carolyn Smart’s ‘Frangipani’
Ethereal, floating and fragrant. I like the image of the tree on fire.
—Fred Milsum

Reactions to David Margoshes’ ‘Latimer’s Statement to the Police’
This poem annoyed me on first reading. I thought the “found” appearance too contrived and thought it looked too much like an apologetic. I reversed both opinions on second and third reading. The worm in this apple is the “be right back” half-lie that the speaker tells his daughter. This and the reference to stars that twinkle unseen behind an opaque scrim, like the cold truth that the speaker cannot see. Auden: “I look at the stars and know full well that for all they care I can go to hell.”
—Bill Atkinson

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