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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5 AM

Posted By on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 5:02 PM

The 32nd edition of this venerable poetry newspaper, edited by Ed Ochester and Judith Vollmer, is out and as usual worth a look. 

The twice-yearly 5 AM, which has published continually for about 20 years, is devoutly democratic in its approach. By design, the work is accessible (i.e., non-academic). The tabloid-formatted publication is handsome in black and white on 32 heavy-stock pages, and includes lots of poems but no ads, with a wide range of new and established writers, 40-some of them in this issue.

The publication is in fact nearly the opposite of the poetry magazines parodied here by James Valvis in his "Some Poetry Magazines (Seen in Poet's Market)." It begins: "We don't want funny poetry, serious poetry, poetry that's funny but really serious, / serious poetry that's funny, sad poetry, depressing poetry, poetry that rhymes ..." (The poem ends: "please don't send us any.") 

Elsewhere there's work by locally based 5 AM favorites like Jan Beatty, Jimmy Cvetic, Dave Newman and Michael Wurster (plus two by the late Pittsburgh poet Christina Murdock). But the range is wide enough to include nationally known folks like Tony Hoagland.

In fact, 5AM includes poets from pretty much anywhere. The only criteria is that it's stuff that Ochester (who edits Pitt's Poetry Series publications) and Vollmer (a Pitt professor) like. It's political, observational, funny and not. There's even a page of "Quotes without Comment," gleaned from folks as diverse as the late historian Tony Judt, Jay Leno, Edith Wharton and Maya Angelou.

The work is mostly quite good. My only quibble is that I'd like a line of bio about each poet, even if just to learn where they are from.

The issue ends with three poems by Jeff Oaks, who works and teaches at Pitt. In "Crows," Oaks limns an owl:

 

Flies straight lines in the dark, hooks
the nerves of something tender.
The owl who can suddenly unthread

A breath all the way through
the middle of a thing.

 

Subscriptions are two issues for $12 (see www.5ampoetry.com).

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