Last Friday on Peach we published “i as in” and “patrilineal,” two new poems by Richard Wehrenberg, Jr., cofounder of Monster House Press and author of the chapbook Hands. My favorite of the two is “patrilineal,” a poem that pulses with images of beginnings and endings, leaving and arriving. Likewise, the poem takes on the form of an uninterrupted thought, without clarity of where one fragment begins or ends, and the reader, let off the hook, is given the chance to read the poem in a multitude of ways. Wehrenberg, who read at our fall EPISODE reading back in October, has a talent for letting lines dance and vibrate with surface musicality. He writes, “in a dream / my children are falcons / perched on my shoulders / then they are just / my shoulders.”
Yesterday on Peach we published “Sto lat,” a bewitching prose poem by J. De Nero, a writer currently living in South Korea. In “Sto lat,” which means 100 years in Polish, De Nero tells the fantastical story of a woman whose home is overtaken by beautiful, dangerous plants. De Nero’s prose is animated by fertile imagination and piercing details. She writes, “They reached out towards the sea / with long tendrils, shaped themselves into flowery / boxes that bloomed with speckled gift wrap petals.” The final scene in the poem is somewhat unsettling, in the way that dreams or Grimm’s fairy tales can be unsettling. Without giving anything away, it involves the narrator’s 98-year-old grandmother and a birthday party.
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Han Kang’s chilling new novel, Human Acts, is a portrait of violence and the horrors of rebellion in the fight for democracy. The novel is written in seven parts, with each belonging to the story of a different corpse that is now piled in a gymnasium as a result of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. The section that struck me the most was the first one, which follows Dong-Ho, a boy with courage and obsessive hope in the search for his presumed dead friend, Jeong-dae. The accounts are painful and urgent, with vivid yet unsentimental descriptions of corporeal decay alongside ruminations on death and struggle. Human Acts is an incredible follow-up to The Vegetarian, which awarded Kang the Man Booker International Prize in 2016.
Last Tuesday night was the reading for Just Buffalo Literary Center’s annual Members’ Writing Contest. This year’s genre was poetry, and the competition was guest judged by Janet McNally, author of the young adult novel Girls in the Moon (HarperTeen, 2016), and the poetry collection Some Girls, which won the White Pine Poetry Prize in 2015. McNally awarded the Judge’s Prize to Aidan Ryan for his poem, “At the funeral of an atheist I didn’t know,” an insightful look at belief against doubt, with a ready lyricism that allows it to stand as a hymn for the nonbeliever. “we don’t / Believe,” Ryan writes, “but see belief in shiny spots / On copper statues rubbed for luck / And in the faces of the strangers who’ve / Mistaken us for ones they thought they knew.” The Audience Prize, chosen by popular vote, was awarded to Khalil Ihsan Nieves for “you should be here now,” a painful poem about distance and absence, death and destruction. In its letter-like form to a loved one, Nieves forges a heavy emotional wellspring with images of need and grief: “need you / like a heart needs a home / like an orphan needs a mother / or a widow / a husband.”