Thus, the FSR, as with any such journal that casts a wide net, with less of an emphasis on a particular poetics, is a mixed bag. There is a lot of work here that I like. Barbara DeCesare’s poem for Babe Ruth offers irony and imagism in lines like, “A thousand people swim dark water. / You take baseballs, glowing white, to the shore // and hit them, two or three hanging in the air at a time…” Nikia S. Leopold’s “The Miracle” is a pleasant reflection on Italy, ending “We found a place / to lie together full length.... / I swear by San Gersolé / our murmurs / made that fountain weep.” A couple of poets I liked happen to have been published by presses who have published me as well — Drucilla Wall’s “Laurel Oak” includes some strong nature imagery which is subverted by juxtaposition with technology and subtle humor. Jessica Fenlon’s “seed station” subverts its imagism with popular culture: a cardinal is described as having a “tweed jacket [and] / feather mohawk.” Edgar Gabriel Silex’s “Mother’s Day Poem” exhibits an interest in use of language more than some in this issue, as does Chris Toll, who, his bio note unfortunately states, recently died.
I can’t quite figure out why Tony Barnstone’s “Samsara” and “Wheel” are dubbed short stories in the Editor’s Note, when they appear very obviously in verse lines. I’m all for blurring the boundaries of genre, but this didn’t quite seem to make sense — they appear as prosey narrative poems but would certainly read just as well as actual short stories. On the other hand, I imagine Barnstone knows exactly what he’s doing and the matter is simply one of terminology. Juliana Spallholtz’s “Strangers” works nicely as the prose-poem that it clearly is, its spare “sentences” emphasizing the piece’s sense of alienation. Naturally, there are some pieces here that didn’t especially appeal to me, also. Those who know me or read this blog know that I often tend to prefer work that is, as some might call it, “difficult,” and the Free State Review editors clearly are interested in more accessible work. But this is a sturdy debut. I would actually like to see the journal in future issues narrow its focus a bit, to foster more of a sense of identity for itself in relation to the type of poetics it is interested in, even if it were to veer further away from my own aesthetic concerns.
In any case, the Free State Review is an active force and is organizing a number of readings, including one in Pittsburgh on Wednesday 4/17 at the East End Book Exchange, Bloomfield (4754 Liberty Ave.), from 7:00-9:00 pm. There will be four readers, and admission is free. It promises to be a worthy event.