Summer 2006

Guest Co-Editor: Andrea Carter Brown

Where so much is symbol, as it is in Washington DC, the ordinary comes freighted with history, and public usurps private wherever you look. For poets, this presents a particular challenge.

Every city has its history, but for no other American city is the struggle between its local identity and national role so acute. I was struck by this issue in every poem we received. The burden of giving voice to it, however, as I came to realize, also offers opportunities, which the poems that follow amply demonstrate. The task of negotiating this duality informs every poem in this issue.

In Joshua Weiner’s “National Pastime,” a Little League team is invited to play a one-inning game on the South Lawn against the President and Vice-President, with unintended ironic, and devastating, results. A popsicle known as the “Bomb Pop,” one of my favorites as a kid, takes on new meaning in Kathi Morrison-Taylor’s poem when purchased near the White House. In “The Fifth Fact” by Sarah Browning, a mother helping her child learn about Harriet Tubman for a school project suddenly finds herself imagining Lincoln and Whitman passing through her neighborhood. In these poems, the personal becomes public.

In other poems, the public becomes private. The descendent of German immigrants fortifies himself with matzo ball soup at the Holocaust Museum before braving the exhibits in Peter Desmond’s “At the Museum Café.” Two girls, learning the ropes of racism to see Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, survive a bombing in Elizabeth Alexander’s “Early Cinema.” The same public monuments which thrilled me when I first visited D.C. as a Girl Scout in ninth grade serve as the ocassion for a personal epiphany in Linda Pastan’s “At the Air and Space Museum,” and also as the backdrop for an ordinary holiday in Fleda Brown’s “Christmas Day in Washington.”

Present and past co-mingle throughout these poems, the war dead with vibrant street life, urban violence with healing, both of body and mind. Music, dancing, and art abound. Faith comes with scepticism, despair and grief with unexpected, sometimes shocking, occasions for redemption. Work, community, love; politics, of course, and the corruption of power: the city is, as William Carlos Williams writes, “a living coral.” Against this human drama, nature takes a back seat, and what there is has been humanized: rivers notable for the bridges that span them or the neighborhoods and parks that bear their names; buffalo transformed into sculpture and birds into commuters, the famous cherry blossoms flowering into currency.

Over all, the spirit of Whitman resides, informs, and presides – from the first poem, Patricia Gray’s “Washington Days,” inspired by “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” to the next to last, Kathleen O’Toole’s “Lectio: Leaves at 150,” a lyrical meditation on the power of words. In Philip Dacey’s spare but eloquent poem, “Whitman: The Wall,” past and present, the still living and the loved dead, public memorial and private memory come together in a moving whole.

It’s been a great pleasure to co-edit this issue with Kim Roberts, whose love and knowledge of Washington is the inspiration for this special issue. I thank her for allowing me to share in the bounty which came to us and for the fun we had shaping it.

Both of us would especially like to thank our prodigious mapmaker, Emery Pajer. To see more of his exciting work, please visit his website at http://www.emster.com.

Most of all, though, Kim and I would like to thank the poets who sent us their work and, in doing so, enriched our appreciation of and affection for a place we both love. May we all be, in the words of May Miller, “possessed of this city.”

Andrea Carter Brown
Los Angeles
June, 2006


Andrea Carter Brown’s collection, The Disheveled Bed, was published by CavanKerry Press in March, 2006. She is also the author of a chapbook, Brook & Rainbow, which won the Sow’s Ear Press Competition, and her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Five Points, Ploughshares, The North American Review, and the Mississippi Review, among many others. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry has received awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Writer’s Voice, Thin Air, River Oak Review, and The MacGuffin. In 2004 she won the River Styx Poetry Prize for her double sonnet crown “September 12.” A longtime resident of New York City, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she is Managing Editor of The Emily Dickinson Journal and teaches creative writing at Pomona College.

Read more by this author
Andrea Carter Brown on Mona Van Duyn: Profiles Issue
Andrea Carter Brown: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Andrea Carter Brown on M.L. Rosenthal: Poetic Ancestors Issue

Table of Contents

I. A Living Coral

Patricia Gray: "Washington Days"
William Carlos Williams: "It Is a Living Coral"
Baron Wormser: "Washington"
Robert Lowell: "July in Washington"
Sarah Browning: "The Fifth Fact"
E. Ethelbert Miller: "Elizabeth Keckley: 30 Years a Slave and 4 Years in the White House"
Philip Dacey: "Whitman: The Wall"
Scott Hightower: "Dignity at 'Trumpets'"
Linda Pastan: "At the Air and Space Museum"
Kathi Morrison-Taylor: "Bomb Pop"
Joshua Weiner: "National Pastime"

II. Glory

Sterling A. Brown: "Glory, Glory "
Martin Galvin: "The Burghers of Calais"
Bernard Jankowski: "Pay Phone at the Bottom of Rock Creek"
Kenneth Carroll: "Montana Terrace"
Dean Smith: "Bullet Fragments, Mount Pleasant"
Elizabeth Bishop: "Visits to St. Elizabeths "
Peter Desmond: "At the Museum Cafe"
Hilary Tham: "Mrs. Wei on Governments"
Belle Waring:"Storm Crossing Key Bridge"
Star Black, "Glory"

III. Cathedral

Terence Winch: "Cathedral"
Elizabeth Alexander: "Early Cinema"
Karren A. Alenier: "Against the Wall"
Lyn Lifshin: "Ladies Room, National Archives, Washington DC"
Richard Peabody: "I'm in Love with the Morton Salt Girl"
Carly Sachs: "Jack in the Pulput No. 4 "
Simki Ghebremichael: "For Coretta"
Fleda Brown: "Christmas Day in Washington"
Joseph Awad: "Stopping at the Mayflower"
Mary Ann Larkin: "Labor Day at the Shrine of Our Lady"

IV. Playing Ahead of the Beat

Patric Pepper: "Alley"
Thomas Sayers Ellis: "Tambourine Tommy"
Sami Miranda: "The Tecata Dances on Park Road"
Fred Joiner: "Song for Anacostia"
Gregg Shapiro: "The Fortune Cookie"
Brian Gilmore: "billy ekstein comes to washington d.c. (for gaston neal)"
Joe Lapp: "Turning Over the Corpse"
Greg McBride: "Over Arlington Cemetery"
Yvette Neisser: "The Slow Passage to Anacostia"
Andrea Wyatt: "The Cormorants are Diving"

V. Possessed of This City

Evie Shockley: "Cafe Tryst"
Mark Tarallo: "John Hicks at Twin Lounge"
Michael Gushue: "Big Ben's Liquors"
Barbara Goldberg: "Once, the Buffalo"
Rod Jellema: "Washington Migrants"
Derrick Brown: "Missed Train"
Naomi Ayala: "Santa Rosa Restaurant"
Miles David Moore: "Full Moon on K Street"
Rosemary Klein: "Cherry Blossoms"
Kathleen O'Toole: "Lectio: Leaves at 150"
May Miller: "The Washingtonian"