When Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit asked me to participate in her National Poetry Month Blog Tour, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take a look at THE LINEUP: POEMS ON CRIME books and to highlight a wonderful poet. Today I'll be looking at Issues 2 and 3 of THE LINEUP.
The introduction to Issue #2 was written by Patrick Shawn Bagley. And I thought his comments were especially powerful not only for crime poetry but for poetry in general:
"So why do we write crime fiction, let alone crime poetry? One may as well as why we write - or read - anything at all. We do it in an attempt to understand. We do it to find some kind of meaning in events that all too often leave victims, perpetrators and everyone around them damaged or destroyed."
Then Anthony Rainone wrote the introduction to Issue #3 and addresses the question why do we read crime poetry:
"It will tell you about life in astonishing ways. We all either know what it's like to put our hand to the flame, or have the desire to do so, or to understand the attraction better."
So these two collections look at victims and perpetrators and those around them. But they make use of the freedoms and creativity that aren't always as plentiful in prose. Sarah Cortez uses police radio speak to put a tone-setting twist on her "Tuesday A.M." poem in Issue 3. Henry Chang's "Takeout (as we roll)" rolls in its formatting, veering from the traditional left justified stanzas.
Some of the writers create effect by playing with punctuation or capitalization. Patricia Abbott's free form "Articulating Space" appears to be one long sentence. She's adjusted the symmetry of the poem like the quilt squares of her poem in Issue 3. And Michael Flanagan opts to write his poems, "more than enough nights like this" and "trick or treat", with no capital letters which works to reinforce the feeling of helplessness as a victim.
The poet has to make a lasting impression within a short framework. Every word counts, every literary device needs to be sharp and make an impact. Deshant Paul knows how to make that work in his Issue 2 poem "The Job."
"Red lips and glass rim met in a wet kiss"
The reader can see, hear, feel the effect of this single line in the poem. Reed Farrel Coleman creates effect through short, sharp sentences - every word counts in "The Dying Man":
"His chest heaves./He shudders."
The poems of THE LINEUP are powerful because the poets take our fears, our experiences, our prejudices, even our craving for justice and they blend them harshly with poetic devices. We might be watching from the outside or encountering through memory or new vicarious experience.
The poets in both issues of THE LINEUP construct windows that allow us to attempt to understand life in astonishing ways; through these windows we examine the victims, the perpetrators and everyone around them. And if we don't cloud those windows with our own condensation, we may understand the attraction much better.
To see additional posts in the National Poetry Month blog tour. You can access Serena's introduction post at Savvy Verse and Wit. And make sure you stop back tomorrow because I have an exclusive and very special post highlighting one of my favorite poets. Don't miss it!