The new issue of Hanging Loose in hand reminds me to protest an injustice done to the poet Jeni Olin, a hardy Hanging Loose perennial, in the December Vanity Fair. There was much to dislike in the article on Larry Rivers, but the sentence devoted to Ms. Olin takes the cake for calculated insolence: "A young poetess, Jeni Olin, was in residence during the last five years of his life." The knowing use of poetess, which sounds like a put down even if you're not PC, combines with the weirdly impersonal "was in residence" to give the impression that Jeni Olin -- more properly described as Rivers's companion or partner -- held the amatory equivalent of an academic fellowship at the Rivers abode. It's a cheap shot, a gratuitous insult founded on ignorance and schadenfreude. .
But to happier things. Hanging Loose Press has new books by Jeni Olin (Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems), Michael Cirelli (Vacaitons on the Black Star Line), and Erika Miriam Fabri's Dialect of a Skirt, In the new issue of the magazine, editor Robert Hershon recollects his days in San Francisco's North Beach in the late 1950s. He arrived on the opening day of the Howl obsecnity trial. "The Chronicle seemed full of Beat this and Beat that. I didn't hear this as literary, just the popular press's tag for the current mode of bohemianism. Soon Herb Caen, the columnist everyone read every morning though everyone denied it, invented the much-hated word Beatnik -- 'Beat' plus Sputnik."
So many notewothy poems here. I like Philip Dacey's fluid rhyme-driven quatrains, Marc Cohen's enigmas (that "baffle me / And the miserable creatures / Who happily live inside me"), Bruce Kawn's narrative "menu," Diane Seuss's long lines full of Whitmanic self-celebration ("I wore a lip gloss // that made my mouth look like glass and rode the frisky horse of time, mane braided / with stars, down the serpentine humps of the slide"). Seuss's "It Wasn't a Dream, I Knew William Burroughs" is a knockout.
Marie Bahlke, approaching her ninetieth birthday, weighs in with a poem entitled "Nineteen Forty-Six" while the section devoted to "Writers of High School Age" includes Nikki Rhodes, of Vancouver, Washington, who "has had work in the Seneca Review and The Battered Suitcase. She has two poems here, but the one that won my heart is "Dear Mississippi." Here's how it ends: "River, it would be the most / wonderful flood; even the moon would come play / with us in the boat. Everyone / important would be there, Mississippi River. / Everyone would be there but you." -- DL