reviewed by Kristina Darling

Published in Issue No. 116 ~ January, 2007

The current issue of Diagram features poems that masquerade as lists, chapters from Machiavelli’s The Prince, diary entries, and dialogues. While Diagram is full of these experimental poetic forms, poems in the zine that use more traditional frameworks, couplets and sestets, for example, are also included and prove to be just as innovative. Characterized by a match-up of form and content, these diverse works are alike in their unexpected metaphors and their use of unusual adjectives, which often compliment and complicate the subject matter of the poems in surprising ways.

One of my favorite pieces from issue 6.5 is “Desire Not Well Tended” by Gina Abelkop, a poem about love and how it can be complicated by trauma.
Abelkop’s poem combines confessional style and delightfully strange associations with a remarkable amount of specificity, often lingering on the
speaker’s fingers or hands. The poem is written in a mixture of very long and
extremely short lines, creating a rhythm that fluctuates as the poem progresses. When I first read this poem, I was impressed by how well the confessional style worked with the unusual diction and varying line-lengths,
the end result being a poem in the tradition of Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath,
but made new in its use of nonlinear structure and fragmented thoughts and images. Abelkop’s poem often circles back to images from earlier in the poem,
like the speaker’s hands and the dolls that she compares them to, gracefully
unifying the elusive images of “Desire Not Well Tended.”

I enjoyed the way many of the other poems in Diagram use similar devices, such as the specificity, fragmentation, unusual diction, and nonlinear structure of Gina Abelkop’s poem, but that these characteristics interact differently with the varying form and unpredictable content of each poem. For instance, “The Man’s Watch” by Michael Martone, is about a watch changing hands over the course of a man’s affair. Structured as a numerical list, the poem used a great deal of specificity like Gina Abelkop’s,
but in a different way, the precise details about the watch aroused as a means
to unify the narrative of the man’s affair.

Filled with direct diction and declarative sentences, Martone’s poem offers a wonderful match-up of form and content, the scientific precision of a
numerical list of sixty things fits the extraordinary attention to detail in
describing the watches journey from one woman’s wrist to the other’s.

Other poets featured in Diagram 6.5 include Corinn Adams, Marco A. Dominguez, Michael Greenburg, Daniel Gutstein, Andrew Kozma, Erick Nordenson, Brendan O’Connor, Frances Justine Post, Bonnie Roy, D. Antwan Stewart, Tony Trigilio, Caroline Wilkinson and Brandon A. Wyant, rounding out an issue of great poetry from both emerging and established writers. I’d recommend Diagram to anyone looking for poetry that takes risks, but in the end still has humor and heart.

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Kristina Marie Darling, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in English, received a nomination for a Pushcart Prize in 2006. Her chapbooks include: Fever and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girls Press, 2006) among others.