Rare is the journal that works as a true collection of corresponding and communicating poems, each piece leading into the next. Even rarer is the one with kitchen tips. Simultaneously cheeky, vulnerable, funny, ominous, and lyrically toying with what is or is not “accessible,” Forklift, Ohio makes me love poetry again. It even comes with postcards.
In short: it’s a delight. If it is true what Adorno said and we’re barbarians beating the paved poetry path to hell in the post Nazi post 9/11 post Iraq invasion pre Peak Oil but dang close age, I want to go down with these guys “Celebrating 14 Years Without a Lost Time Accident”.
Emblematic of their editorial touch, the front cover prepares us for the feast: a happy chef readies his humongous carving knife for the plump watermelon to come. The back cover hosts a party’s-(nearly)-over guy dozing, candles blown out, but the cake’s still left to eat. Inside holds many graphic bits and found texts which play off and punctuate the poems. And the poems themselves make a story, of sorts.
For starters, the opener is an opener; a dear reader:
G.C. Waldrep’s “Dear Four-Letter Apostrophe,” begins:
This is to let you know that for 21 consecutive years now
poor weather conditions, descending or encroaching at the
last possible minute, have prevented me from viewing the
Perseid meteor shower. I know that you are aware of this,
in the same way that coyotes give every appearance of
howling at the moon…(11)
Virgil Renfroe’s “Giving the Thumbs Up Sign to Mr. Darwin with an RV Parked on My Face” comes next, and the “daisy chain” is set in motion. So that the poems can better intermingle, works by the same author are spaced throughout rather than grouped together. Bo McGuire’s “Loretta” is an inventive portrait in boards and shacks of a “miner’s wife in Butcher / Holler” who’s nailed, brittle, and broken. The following poem, Rachel Contreni Flynn’s “Barn”, answers with: “She hit a boy / with a shovel”. Flynn’s “she” ends up in “nice clothes” (though this isn’t as ‘nice’ as it might sound), which leads into being “locked…away” in the “closet” of Dorothea Lasky’s “Emily D”. Every poem can be read for connections to its neighbors.
Another sign of Forklift’s inventiveness and peculiarity is the appearance of Maud Casey, a writer known for her (amazing) fiction. This, however, is a poetry journal, and her piece is/becomes flashpoemprose. Or who cares what you call it. Also included is James Longenbach, a strident critic as much as he is a poet. Dean Young rubs elbows with up-and-comers. There’s craft and personism, NY and middle America, myth and day-to-day, South America, Beijing, Steam-rollers and an “Island better than any island”. It all comes to make sense. Yes, there ought to be advice on measuring butter and images of cantilevers with graphics of butt-swatting peppered within such an eclectically congealing group of writing.
This isn’t to say that there’s no politics or possible activism here. Todd Colby’s “Seriously” (“Don’t laugh on me: it keeps getting worse.”) and Adam Fell’s “Other Words for People” (“I drive home through a subdivision / that was a cornfield last year.”) come to mind. But this isn’t to say there would have to be. You can read Issue 18 for just how juicy it is. Then, though like Matt Rohrer you “wish / the world were different”, you’ll find you’re so thrilled with the surprise of these lines, you laugh – which somehow does make it different. Or you might read Chad Sweeney’s “Noon” and think it’s too hot in here.
There are poems (interludes?) that are conscious of themselves as poems and say so: “Poem with Another Title in It” or “Poem in which Predilections are Revealed and Fantasies about the Reader are Entertained” and especially “Poem that Addresses the Possibility that You’re Reading this Poem in a Literary Journal” (which starts “Good for you.”) pop up.
Alternately, Forklift includes a few multiple pagers: the incredible “Tiny & Courageous Finches” by Jillian Weise spans seven. A narrative in quatrains, it uses the birds Bitto and Marcel as characters to highlight existential questions and longing. Michael Schiavo’s prose portions on five pages “from The Mad Song” are pure lyric in their repetition and calling. “Come, as the day shrieks its green. I will not see / summer end without you.” Jeremy Hoevenaar’s “Anchor” stretches long lines vertically in its beginning of the end of this issue (nee dénouement). “Having lost any sense of the word, / mornings are for throwing pianos over the bow to moor the vessel.”
This is a journal you should own to cherish. It comes already dog-eared. And hand numbered, limited edition style. (My copy: 90/385.) It ends on itself conscious of itself with “Another Poem about Ohio” – but remember, there’s cake to be had, so though you’ve eaten, you’ll want to eat again (the next issue?).