Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review of the new Los Angeles poetry anthology "Angle of Reflection"

I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles poetry community over the last 15 years; its diversity, micro-communities, and its outliers. I founded an online magazine in an attempt to harness the incredible ocean of literary talent that exists within its borders, which is why I was curious to read Angle of Reflection ( © 2017 Arctos Press), which showcases the works of ten of L.A.’s poetry elite: Marjorie Becker, Jeanette Clough, Dina Hardy, Paul Lieber, Sarah Maclay, Holaday Mason, Jim Natal, Jan Wesley, Brenda Yates, and Mariano Zaro, (with an introduction by David St. John).
Angle, in no way, is a measure of the rich totality of the LA poetry scene, but it does offer a testament to a group of poets who are, above all else, committed to their craft. As noted by David St John, Angle, in part, was born out of this group of poets affectionately named “The Monday Night Poetry Posse”, which got its start at Beyond Baroque, LA’s nonprofit literary center which hosts workshops, readings, and literary activities designed to engage the literary community.
For the record, I personally know, admire, and have published some of the poets whose work appears in Angle. As a small press publisher, I appreciate the hard work, as well as the time and care the editors of Arctos Press put into producing an anthology for lovers of poetry. I especially  admire the fact that Angle is favorably represented on the female side, which is often the reverse for anthologies I’ve read over the years - and this includes one I published. I also respect the commitment this group of poets has for each other, and the work each one produces.
However, my admiration ends where poetic “face” begins with three poets in Angle, Becker (woman/sex/romance), Hardy (abstraction for its own sake), and Lieber (restricted narrative). While the poetic mechanics are above reproach, and their command of language enjoyable, they’ve not, in my opinion, provided enough of a diverse selection of their best work. I understand the need to put one’s best poetic foot forward, as well as the constant desire that exists in every poet who writes with an audience in mind. I’ve read, and been moved by, the work of these three poets in other publications, and I strongly encourage all who read Angle to seek out the works of Becker, Hardy, and Lieber through their poetry collections and chapbooks, as well as the journals they’ve been published in over the last two decades.
That being said, there’s more than enough beautiful diverse poetry in Angle, from Clough’s philosophical elegance in her poems “Evocation” and “Salt”; Maclay’s enraptured darkness in “Night Text”, “Grille”, and “Woman Chained to Fire”; Mason’s masterful balance of modernity and myth in “Reciting the Water”, “Midpoint Mercury Retrograde”, and “Inside the Radio”; Natal’s shamanic vision in “Borderline”, “My Student Writes”, and “Rain in L.A.”; Wesley’s personal witness to history in “Double Exposure”, and “First Boy”; Yates’ cinematic “The Universe’s Clock”, “Martini II” , and “Objects at an Exhibition”; and finally, Zaro’s tender and engaging moments of family intimacy in “Figs”, and “On Being Jewish, Perhaps”.
No anthology, like any poetry community, is perfect, though, I do agree, with St John, that this group of poets have evolved, and their work overall, “blazes with and without the accelerate of the group". Angle of Reflection will take its place as another milestone in the evolving literary legacy of Los Angeles, and I recommend reading it for both its strengths and weakness, and to keep reading the work of ALL of these poets, long after Angle of Reflection gathers dust on a shelf.

Angle of Reflection, © 2017 Arctos Press,, ISBN 978-0-98978471-9, 181 pages, $20.00

© 2017 marie c lecrivain

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