Fans of Mary Oliver won’t be disappointed by her “Life Story,” a shape-shifting meditation on belonging to place and nature; Eva Hooker’s “Prairie, Under Full Moon” will leave you restless and drunk on language; and if you don’t have spring fever yet, Michael Hettich’s “The Garden” might make you drop your magazine and head straight for the back door.
And in this issue, we introduce you to poet Susan B. A. Somers-Willet with “Tallahatchie,” her first piece to appear in Orion. The poem, written for Emmett Till, is a mirror, as the Tallahatchie River has made a mirror of the boy’s murdered body. Asked for some background on her poem, Susan wrote:
“Tallahatchie” is a central poem in my manuscript-in-progress, tentatively titled Glass Casket, which takes as its anchoring points photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and photographs of lynching. In these poems, I explore the documentary and political uses of these images with the truly complex emotional responses we have in looking at them. “Tallahatchie” is an unrhymed sonnet whose language literally folds upon itself, describing Emmett Till’s funeral portrait and the location of its circumstance in the first half and my response as a white Southern female viewer in the second half. I wish to explore how these images of others in pain are not apart from us: they mirror us and inform how we see ourselves.
Hannah Fries is poetry editor of Orion.