A Letter from Perihelion's Editor

L ooked down on like a rowdy boy, sound is the least-tamed, least open to analysis, poetic device; the one most often accused of excess, dismissed as “noise”, suspected of conning the reader into a false belief of meaning and apologized for when discovered. Sound seduces most because it enters the reader's consciousness well under the analytical radar, provides a backgound to the poem much as the music in a film provides background to the drama, lending a subtext that leads the reader one way, then another, sometimes in contrast to the overt “action” sometimes as complement or enrichment, all the way to the end of a poem. Try this: turn the sound down on your television and put on Vivaldi's “Winter” from The Four Seasons, see how it casts all the ongoing drama into a fateful and melancholy trajectory, even the news (especially the news!).

The power of sound, especially when wedded to a common purpose with all other devices in the poem, is undeniable. Yet, this poetic device is not much in evidence in contemporary poetry except in a self-conscious, self-mocking way in the post-language group, in a tip of the hat to Stein's soundplay. Fortunately, there are poets like this issue's featured poet, Martha Zwieg, who prove that sound is still poetry's secret weapon:

Wet cat, long-haired tail aloft & parted in fronds,
squeezes in doorwise out of the rain, & just so I was born,
slick, quick & slipped (once) through the twice-
in-a-lifetime only...


and Vera Kroms:

I possum among the hush
and gentle of the purlers,
the rabbit bitten tasties
hiding in the alley
of not yet.

                                                   "Bishop's Weed"

and Ander Monson:

Wondering blood, reliable as an axle
or winter blister, sensitive as a bone
or sinus, stick-shifts hearses
from one country to another every night.

                                                   "The Blood As Designated Driver"

And many others in this issue. Because at Perihelion, we applaud the use of sound in poetry, the ability of the poet to use it as well as metaphor, image and lineation toward a poem's greater meaning and we happily showcase poems that engage the reader's ear. Listen.

Joan Houlihan