In my post about Dave Bonta's poems a few days ago I mentioned Qarrtsiluni, the literary journal which Bonta co-edits (with Beth Adams of The Cassandra Pages.) The journal's name comes from an Iñupiaq word which means "sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst." I think Qarrtsiluni is one of the best journals on the internet, not only because it makes good use of the unique opportunities afforded by its medium (daily posts, podcasts of every poem, moving images) but also because the writing is so top-notch. (Full disclosure: I guest-edited the Opening in the Body issue with Teju Cole a few years ago, which was a joy.)
One of Qarrtsiluni's recent issues was an issue dedicated to chapbook contest finalists, 2010 -- poems lifted out of the manuscripts which were finalists in the magazine's second annual chapbook contest. The winning chapbook this year is Watermark by Clayton T. Michaels, which is available both in print and in electronic versions, and it's excellent. (The winner of the first chapbook context, Pamela Johnson Parker's A Walk Through the Memory Palace, was also terrific.)
But the poems in the contest finalists issue give a sense for how difficult it must have been to choose Michaels' manuscript, because it was in pretty remarkable company. One of my favorite poems in the issue is Feeding the invisible cat by Janet McMann:
Feeding the invisible cat
I miss my animals, here in this strange house,
so I put out food
the dinner’s leftovers
hoping something will come.
And something does, a shadow
on the porch of the rental house
sometime after midnight
What you’re feeding, you say
is nothing you’d want,
a raccoon, maybe even a rat.
The guest does not like mushrooms
or onions. It licks them clean
of gravy. They lie on the dinner plate
like a still life.
What I am feeding
is something of distinctive taste
and a certain feel for art, I say.
It will show itself, I will make friends with it.
The shadow flickers
under the distant streetlight.
I put out Beef Burgundy.
A thunderstorm shudders the house
windows rattle all night
and in the pale washed morning
two button mushrooms
on the blue translucent plate
under clear water.
-- Janet McMann
(If you go to the poem's page on Qarrtsiluni, you can hear the author reading the poem, which I think adds something to the words on the page.)
Or here's another favorite -- a poem by Clayton Michaels from the winning chapbook, turned into a videopoem by artist James Brush: Drylung - videopoem. (I'm linking to the videopoem on the Qarrtsiluni site because I think it's worth watching the video and then reading the accompanying text about the artist.)
This is the kind of thing that makes Qarrtsiluni so interesting to me -- not only do they sponsor a chapbook contest (laudable, but not all that unusual), but they also court video artists to transform the winning works into a new form.