Review of VerbalArt – A Global Journal Devoted to POETS AND POETRY

based on Vol.-4, Issue-2, Oct – Dec 2020:GJPP. A Peer-Reviewed Journal. AuthorsPress, ISSN 2347-632X

 

Although the issue mentioned above is my first acquaintance with this peer-reviewed print journal I can already vouch for its very high standard. This value judgement is based on 20 plus years of reading and writing for Indian journals; here I must emphasize that I have not been published in VerbalArt myself and can therefore offer my unbiased opinion. The reasons for my evaluation are twofold. The first category stems from the absolutely flawless professional production of the volume. Dr. Vivekanand Jha and his very experienced team of associate, review and assistant editors have managed to produce a perfect book for AuthorsPress. In this time and age, many readers and authors may take an error-free booklet for granted, but I can assure them that this is not self-evident.

Frank Joussen

The second, more important category is derived from the quality of the contents, i.e. the seventy-nine poems and two reviews written by forty-two authors in the current issue. Not only do these authors hail from different parts the world, they also come from very different backgrounds and walks of life. The simple reason why the reader learns about them is that the editors have granted their authors plenty of space for their short bios at the end of the book. Therefore we know that many of these authors are well-established, multi-award winning writers whose works have appeared in other prestigious journals all over the world. They are all masters of diverse styles and cover a multitude of themes. Together they give evidence that the genre of printed poetry, often reputed to be dead, is alive and kicking. The gratitude of the reading public should therefore not only go to poets who are Nobel Prize winners such as last year’s Louise Glück, but also to well produced printed journals like VerbalArt.

Vivekanand Jha

As to the contents and style, I must emphasize that I can only give a few examples; those left out here are not inferior to the others – neither with regard to language nor to the themes therein. That said, it strikes me first that a number of poems learn from and thereby praise famous writers, without copying their style. The groundbreaking one comes from Joseph Hart: “Proust said that an artist/When he is mature/Will write about the things that he enjoys.” (Proust, p. 56) – Shouldn´t we all keep that in mind? Other famous authors creatively incorporated in this issue are Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Hermann Hesse. The poem which begins with “In the same village as Hesse”, the author aptly combines his observation of nature, i.e. the dancing of gnats at dusk, with philosophical thoughts about life and death (The Same Dance, p. 66). Something similar and equally successful is done by Michael Keshigian when “dried up bulbs”, which the gardener plants despite all the odds and objections, become a metaphor for our necessary belief in love and affection (Wildflowers, p. 67). Susan P. Blevins takes these ideas one decisive step further and includes the whole cosmos in her two poems, her final aim being “Ultimate oneness with creation” (Cosmic Thoughts,  p. 97).

Another theme is social criticism, e.g. in Dhruv Somayajula’s two poems, of which “Social Pandemic” is up-to-date with its, in my opinion correct, criticism of the Covid-19 pandemic as a “social” plague (p. 31), or Gary Beck’s short, but powerful poem “Resources”, which also addresses gross social injustice. - To no one’s surprise, family poems play a large part here, as in most other anthologies and literary journals. Here, however, musing on ‘family’ includes other, philosophical themes, such as the impressive, guilt-ridden second poem by Pankajam Kottarath(Forgive Me, p. 78), the slightly experimental poem by Rajiv Khandelwal, which also addresses the themes of immigration and the Covid-19 pandemic (“Death of a Parent”, p. 79), the loving memory of his brother in James Mulhern’s poem (Brother, p. 49) and others as well.

When I mentioned previously that this issue showcases a variety of different styles I mean that rather conventionally written prose poems stand next to poems which are also written in prose, but have a rather regular rhythm. Half lines and long lines are both found, alongside two poems which use the whole length of the page, like a prose text, but with the important difference that their author, James G. Piatt, does not use capital letters and hardly any punctuation (pp. 46, 47). The effect here, as in poems with indented lines (pp. 61, 79,), poems with half lines and the very experimental visual poem by Jevin Lee Aluquerque, comparable to the work of e.e. cummings and others, have the very important effect of deliberately slowing down the reading process. This effect alone makes them strong poems in their own right. The multitude of newly created images, anaphora, parallelisms etc. enhances this very positive impression.

Not contrary, but complimentary to what I have said before I find it illuminating to stress that many of the poems in this issue are not only beautifully crafted, but also very philosophical. So let me end with a quotation that, to my mind, refers back to the reference to Proust above, but which is even more life-affirming for the individual and humans as social beings:

              Life is like that,

              You do so much, but

              Someone sometime must pick you up (...)

              You move on.

              Surpass your dreams.

              Live the life of your passion.

             

              But someone, at the right time

              Should pick you up

 

              You just try hard to be there,

              At the right place at the right time.

 

(taken from: Nilamadhab Kar, Just try to be there, p. 76).

 

By extension, this holds not only true for life, but also for literature. VerbalArt Volume 4, Issue 2, which also include two very well written reviews of poetry books, is there for all lovers and authors of good poetry – “At the right place at the right time.”

Frank Joussen (Germany)

*** 

Frank Joussen is a German teacher and writer, member of a one-world group. His publications include two selections of his poetry, one of them being a bilingual collaboration with Romanian poet Ana Cicio. He has co-edited two international anthologies of poetry/fiction in India and one of short stories in Germany. His poems and short stories have also been published in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies in India (Poet, Metverse Muse, Prosopisia, Poetry Today, Triveni, Canopy, Celebrating India etc.) Australia, G.B., the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Romania, Malta, the U.S.A., Canada, India, China, Thailand and Japan; some of them have been translated into German, Romanian, Hindi and Chinese. His latest publications include Pulsar (G.B.), Panku Poems (Canada) and Earthborne (Australia), The Poetry Kit (G.B.) and Muse India.

f_joussen@t-online.de


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