Online Mag Finds Greatness in Its Artwork and Poetry
Part of a great magazine’s allure is its artwork. Along with a mix of experimental and conventional poetry, Pouch curates a portfolio by one photographer each issue. Pouch Issue Seven features images by Cari Ann Wayman. Her works have a fairy-tale, documentary tone. Wayman’s photos, like Cindy Sherman’s movie stills, stage the photographer in aesthetically pleasing, abandoned locations. Her evocative, searching subjects gaze beyond the edge of the frame or inward. They are physically present, but spiritually preoccupied.
In a recent email interview, editor Bradley K. Meyer said, to date, the magazine’s visuals have been solicited. He said, “I wander around Flickr or Behance or some other place on the internet until I find something that fits Pouch's aesthetic, or a particular issue's aesthetic.”
Wayman’s images are the perfect wrapper for the poetry contents of Issue Seven, with themes of longing, loneliness, and cognition, from a mix of older and younger voices.
Other than artwork, Pouch features poetry, generally 10-11 poems per issue (flash writers take note: there are prose poems in Pouch’s archives). Issue Seven is mostly work from MFAs, some with credits in spots like Tin House, Agni, Sixth Finch, and North American Review. Many are creative writing instructors. Some have audio and visual projects, with the majority having one or more chapbooks.
Issue Seven begins with Sarah Bridgins’s “Ocean of Storms,” which puts the addressee on notice: “It’s melodramatic to say you’re an orphan / when you’re an adult.” The tone is at once sarcastic, defensive. It then explores an inheritance from dead parents: some money, some cancer. She says, “I take pills to save / my shedding hair, / to fill the holes / in my dissolving bones, / to speed my heart / and make it ache / from something other than grief.”
The next poem, “Euphemisms” by Noelle Kocot, springboards out of grief and into fourteen lines of a sonnet form, adopting her own meter, her own rules, her own grief. Euphemisms are words of kindness used to express sad or terrible things. One might gather, from details like “a gliding muscle on the outside getting in,” “pockets filled with schemes,” “a ragged bird… against your shield” the terrible thing is a physical assault that revives itself perpetually in “analyses,” a “notebook,” and “words screaming.” Kocot’s second poem, “When It All Falls Away,” is a column of words spanning three pages that muses, “It was our own peevishness that kept us going.”
Next up is James Croal Jackson’s “GETTING HIGH ON MAX’S PORCH,” whose peeves include “a playground of mosquitos,” “gas station lighters burning thumbs,” and the “greasy carpets” of “mildewy basements.” The speaker of this poem lapses into patterns but then reverses rhythms and I was especially fond of its near dactylic wistfulness, of being “full of the future waiting for the future.” It ends with an expectation, a hope for something “to disturb the water so we can fly.”
Flight is contemplated next by Matt Dennison, in “Perfection.” The climax comes as the speaker takes control of a plane in a dream, only to realize he hadn’t the skill to fly it. I like this imperfect speaker who says, “Unless something is perfect I don’t give a damn,” but then gives a damn over a rescued kitten, his daughter, a mortician’s artistry. The theme here is pride, and how much is lost when pride prevents caring for others. Be it corpses, kittens, or one’s vision of the world (eyes are important details throughout), “Perfection is rotten, but it’s all there really is.”
In “Looking Forward To” by Ansley Clark, the fill-in-the-blank momentum of the title is carried throughout the poem, which uses white space as an active ingredient. About half the poems in this issue comment on natural cycles, and here Clark’s speaker revels in the renewed pleasure of the seasons over the course of a lifetime, and “how many times we get to experience a year.”
Sampson Starkweather, whose ekphrastic-seeming “You Sent Me a Picture of an Actual Wolf in Brooklyn” considers both language and time passing, via weather. His self-aware speaker says, “It’s raining of course It’s cliché which is how we know we are in a poem / Nature, etc.” In his poem, the symbol of something is satisfying. “Plastic flowers are still flowers.” I also thought it wonderful he alludes to a Wallace Stevens poem, “Continual Conversations with a Silent Man” and its existential remarks on “turquoise” language.
“The Bog Lemmings” by Barbara Daniels begins the Issue’s movement toward closure, as it ends with burrowing critters, “twisting new passages” as they “bite each other under the snow.” For her speaker, a symbol, the feigned motion, is not enough; “you can mime it but you don’t mean it.” The addressee of this poem is the partner who spurned the speaker. The ex might have had the skill to “”twist a paper napkin into a rose,” but leaves behind only “a pile of torn tissues.”
If Daniels’s poem put one’s thoughts to the underground, “Dirt Dweller” by Elijah Burrell keeps the reader there for a thoughtful moment longer. The small setting is a coffee can filled with dirt and worms. The speaker remembers calling earthworms “baby snakes,” allowing him the “guiltless thrill to lance their clitella saddles with shining hooks.” Here it is the creature above the dirt, (the brown hen beneath the blue sky, to allude to Starkweather’s allusion,) that is to be feared and who strikes at the captive worm “like a fish does for dinner.” The notion of worms as food continues.
The closing voice in the issue is Caroline Davidson’s “Are You Sure You Want to Feed Me?” Her speaker ruminates on “carnal excess,” tempered with “some inherited guilt.” The title asks a penetrating question all the preceding poets have called to attention. Davidson’s poem is a perfect bookend to the opening by Bridgins. In Bridgins’s poem, the speaker is wasting away despite ingestion, but in the Davidson poem, the speaker grows stronger, more demanding. “I want bones, slathered in caramel,” “rhythmic slurps of leg meat cut with mush,” it says. The addressee serves to fatten the speaker with words and imagery, like a mother bird might a fledgling, “monster by gullet-born monster.” What a resounding closing note to the issue.
Pouch has just transitioned from quarterly to twice-a-year publications. Meyer said in a recent interview he’d like, eventually, to open up a “print wing for chapbooks and full manuscripts.” He said Pouch “is on year two of its five-year plan towards that goal, building steam.”
According to its submission guidelines, Pouch considers work in English from poets at any stage in their careers, living anywhere in the world, and has an editorial fondness for understated narratives. Pouch has a 5 percent acceptance rate, per Duotrope. The journal publishes approximately twice yearly. Issue Eight is slated to release in April 2017. Although not a paying market, Pouch nominates for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net competitions.