The winter issue of Rattle was still in its plastic cover when I finally picked it up to read last night. I read plenty of journals, but not on a regular or steady basis. I'm not one of those poets who subscribes to every journal to pore over its contents and compare to her own writing to see if they are a "perfect fit." I subscribe to journals I like the most, and more often than not that means they won't be interested in my writing at all. That's okay. In fact, I think it's good. It's like surrounding yourself with people who don't think like you do.
My sporadic journal reading isn't a laziness so much as a gravitational pull toward other reading material. I go through memoir phases, essay phases, fragmentary writing phases, play phases, fiction, non-fiction -- and there's always poetry in my life. It's like my mind is made up of rooms, and each is filled with a different type of writing where the doors stay closed to each other for the most part. Theatre doesn't spill over into fragmentary until I read something by Suzan-Lori Parks. Poetry doesn't open its door to visual until I learn about Tom Phillips. I recognize that my door similie makes me sound closed-minded and unimaginative. However, I love and married a man who has spaces in his mind that are multi-dimensional, press up against one another, meld together, and sing. He doesn't just knock on my mind's doors, he knocks them down yelling, "Hey, did you see this yet?"
If left to my own devices, most of my life would spent in the fragmentary phase I guess. There are books on my shelves I haven't read at all, or read one page of, and it feels like I'm cheating on them if I read an entire issue of a poetry journal instead of putting forth the effort for someone's full-length collection of poems. Why is that? It's not as if the poetry journal took any less effort to put together than the book. In fact, it likely took more effort having to correspond with not just one poet but a long, alphabetized list of them. Imagine the proofing of poems, bios, and keeping in contact with everyone (poets move more often than checkers).
In the middle of no particular reading phase, in fact between them, I picked up issue #32 of Rattle, and now I am in love with poems again. So this is a long-winded way of saying that I am inspired by what I read in a poetry journal, which doesn't happen often. The issue has just the right amount of white space, the choice of typeface is elegant, and the cover artwork (a painting by Stacie Primeaux) is subtly supported by the flyleaf color. (Design is important to me as a reader, and I'm a designer too, so I notice.) The poem, "To a Child" in this issue by J.F. Quackenbush had me reading it over and over again, peeling it apart for its honesty. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz's poem "At the Office Holiday Party" glitters with humor and pain: "I don't know how to look like I'm not struggling." Michael Kreisel's brief poem, "Threesome," is theatre. There are other journals that are flashy and fun, filled with gimmicky contests and poetry comics, and I enjoy them, but they dissolve like cotton candy. Rattle resonates.