Lantern Review

Issue 6 | 2014

Editors' Note

Welcome to the sixth issue of Lantern Review! In these pages, you’ll find our most closely curated (and slimmest) folio of poems yet. As Lantern Review enters its fifth year, we continue to be humbled by the challenge that puzzling together each issue poses. As editors, we live for the moment when we fall hard for a poem, and so, as we assembled the final candidates for Issue 6, we were delighted to discover a group of poems for which we found ourselves tumbling headlong, again and again.

We open the issue with Matthew Olzmann’s delightful “The Garden of Naming Rituals,” in which the poet imagines a weary Adam struggling under the weighty task of naming all the animals in creation. The poem serves as an ars poetica in which the edenic responsibility of naming the animal kingdom doubles for the responsibility of the poet to shape imperfect language around the impossible complexity of lived experience. “How,” the speaker wonders, “do you name something when you constantly / run out of words?”—a sentiment that Rachel Ronquillo Gray echoes in “The Entomologist’s Daughter.” “If my father can kneel & silence a forest / then set it alight with its own song,” she writes, “how did he become the scientist, and I the poet?” Indeed, if the world in its dizzy abundance hums of its own accord, sometimes the best we can do to even keep up, as poets, is to listen.

The impulse to name and classify reveals itself repeatedly throughout the issue. Oftentimes, it evokes the spectres of race- and gender-based trauma, reminding us of the ways in which the act of naming (or the refusal to call by name) has been used to dehumanize women and people of color. We are given, in turn, powerful evocations of the “other” in various guises: as monstrosity (Nicky Schildkraut’s “medusa”), as the anonymous object of imperialist gaze (Michelle Chan Brown’s “My Kind”), as hybrid subject (Gray’s “Half Face Song”). The shades of history stalk the borders of these poems, and yet, their speakers refuse to be subsumed by the identities imposed upon them. Rather, they resist them through the performance of playful transgression: while Brown’s speaker slyly turns the meaning of a phrase over a line to leave the reader wrong-footed (“My kind is a good lay / person”), Gray’s speaker puts on her “half face” identity as if for a fashion show, proclaiming, “You cannot dream of all my black dressed looks.”

Still other poems concern themselves with the problem of exile. Like Eve looking back at Eden, Shelley Wong’s speaker mourns for San Francisco, hungering even for the steel bolts that hold together her memory of the Golden Gate Bridge. The poem hums and vibrates with the bridge’s motion, “its thew thrumming through” the lines as sound and weight move through the cables, so that, by the time the speaker proclaims that “the gold rush / was a dream,” we, too, wake from the poem as if from sleep.