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The American Poetry Review March/April 2020

The American Poetry Review reaches a worldwide audience six times a year with the finest contemporary poetry, columns, interviews, photos, translations, and reviews. Every issue includes new voices, established masters, and exciting new translations.

United States
World Poetry, Inc
6 Issues

in this issue

9 min
carrie fountain

The Voice Outside Dublin, Texas the radio stationsdisappear and I’m left alone with the faintvoice of a call-in psychologist talkingto a man in Cleveland about the voiceof the self, the narratives that voicetells, how they can be sharp and wrongand cut to the bone—whose bone? I don’tknow. It’s hard for me to imagine beinghuman, even at this late a date, and it’simpossible to know with certainty thatwithin my own chest there pumps a heartthe size of my fist. The narrative of the manon the radio is foreign to me—he lost moneygoing into business with a friend and is angryand vengeful and resistant to the adviceof the nice psychologist. And yet hisvoice—the voice he speaks with—is sotender, so familiar. We’re here so briefly,the voice under his words says, and we seeso dimly,…

21 min
on writing poems facing into the broken world

Kaveh Akbar and Jane Hirshfield have been in a running e-mail conversation since January 2016, when Akbar first contacted Hirshfield about doing an interview in his Divedapper series, before his first, widely acclaimed book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017), swept him into the constellation of contemporary poets. This excerpt from that ongoing, now years-long dialogue was created for American Poetry Review in conjunction with the publication of Hirshfield’s ninth book of poetry, Ledger, published by Knopf in March 2020. KAVEH AKBAR So much of your new book, Ledger, and your work at large, seems to be orbiting a nucleus of bewilderment—bewilderment at trees, falcons, history, language, yes, but also bewilderment at our “little souls,” bewilderment at humanity’s capacity for cruelty to each other despite our overwhelming similarities,…

2 min
in the village

1. Shortly before I died,Or possibly after,I moved to a small village by the sea. You’ll recognize it, as did I, because I’ve writtenAbout this village before.The rocky sliver of land, the little houses where the fishermen once lived— We had everything we needed: a couple of roomsOverlooking the harbor,A small collection of books,Paperbacks, the pagesBrittle with age. How, if I’d never seenThe village, had I pictured it so accurately?How did I know we’d be happy there,Happier than ever before? The books reminded me of what,In our youth,We called literature. 2. The sentences I’ve just writtenTook it out of me.I searched for the words,And I resisted them as soon as I put them down. Now, listening to them again, what I hearIs not so much nostalgiaAs a love of beginning. A wish Never to be removedFrom time but Always…

4 min
three poems

Death Fugue: Violin Then I heard a violinand it didn’t matter that I was a Jew,they are painting swastikas on campus walls.What happens when they paint them on my doorfor my kids to see?I will sic the cat after them.I will sic the violin after them.What can a violin doto a man who paints a swastika on your window,––who etches one into the lid of your piano?I’ll tell you what it can do.It can fuck you up.It matters that I am a Jew.That’s what I said to the cat.Then I imagined being dead on the attic floor.The cat would eat my eyeballs out.He don’t care that I come from Poland, Russia, Transylvania beforethe pogrom.That’s what cats do—suck out your dead eyes.Violins don’t do that.When I heard it, it mattered that I…

1 min
given name

No one tells me how to name it, I name itanimal. I tell it never come. I watch itstrengthen on the fever farm, take tendon after tendon, lift its own spoonat the family table, taste. I watch it grow tallwith the family’s starch and salt, the sweat and the family’s wide-awakeeyes staring like light beamsat the all-night ceiling, fear fuel. No one tells me how to name it,I name it animal. I name it clean-crushedbeer can, cop-outfit calling, binge dawn. I tell it come here, come willing to dance, say:take me by the eyes and explainyourself and your blood time with this blood life—this river family,that valley farm. I say What took us downthat day, river-worn, wordless? What takes us down, animal? Explain you. Brynn Saito is the author of two books of poetry, Power Made Us…

2 min
three poems

Good Description Lord I am such a narcissist—I couldn’teven give a gooddescription, having been thinking onlyof myself and whatin my body was breaking and how unmendablethe break, thinking only ofmyself and with what archaic chargewas I complying, crying over and over no,as though to reduce confusionas to whether I’d given permission,when nobody, for that, would givepermission—I mean onlya true narcissist would expect to be faithfullyobeyed, and Lord Iam such a narcissist—I think I am socharming, so kittenish and cultured,uproarious at parties,enlivening conversations with my extensiveknowledge of strangling,how pressure around a person’s neckwill cause a contact lens to dislodge from the iris,making it hard to see, but that’s not funny,not funny to anyoneexcept the company that slicesand sells the lenses—they never turn downa market for replacements, so at leastsomebody’s smiling, snuggling into…