Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review
No. 44, Fall 2018


Cover of the 2018 Poetry Review

This year's issue of the poetry review takes on social media. We are in our inaugural year on Twitter and Instagram, dragging this old magazine into the future, or into the present, you could say, and in thinking on that we also started thinking about the ramifications of media and platform on poems themselves.  As such, we have put together an issue that includes both poets who are building their careers almost entirely through the use of social media platforms and poets who have likely never been on social media.  And, like social media itself, the poems cover a wide array of topics - from the political to the personal to the religious to the bizarre.  Maybe we ended up thinking that poetry is a social media.  Maybe we ended up thinking that poetry will resist whatever obstacles we throw at it.  Our 4x4 contributors, Kwame Dawes, BK Fischer, Tara Betts and Nikita Gill will help you sort it out, but in the end you'll need to figure it out for yourself.  We're still trying.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!


Dan Albergotti
Ciaran Berry
Tara Betts
Rick Bursky
Gabriel Chávez Casazola
John Casteen
Robert Cording
Kwame Dawes
Gregory Djanikian
BK Fischer
Nikita Gill
Eugene Gloria
Regan Goodh
Morgan Harden

WJ Herbert
Kirsten Ihns
Ellen Kaufman
John Koethe
Karen An-hwei Lee
William Logan
Margaret Mackinnon
Thorpe Moeckel
Jason Myers
Richard Spilman
Dujie Tahat
Jess Williard
George Witte

Virtue by Nikita Gill

As any virtuous but bitter child, I am built of portions of wanting
to be nothing like my mother and wanting to make her proud.

I do this by practicing the small habits she left in me in silence.
A deliberate prayer, imagining my prophet to be a lodestar.

I wash the kirpan with oil and water, keep it where I keep the holy book,
I do not know still if I am faithless or faithful. I do this simply for ritual.

The ritual is to remember. The ritual is to pardon my mother for the sins
I am bearing for her. I believe if I make it sacred, maybe I can absolve her.

A long time ago, I met a priest. He told me there is no way to turn
a darkness inherited into something virtuous, but you could turn it honest.

So here is the violent truth they never tell you of love: everyone you love
will hurt you deeply and you will hurt them too, the only difference

lies in the magnitude of pain you give each other and how much
you are willing to carry and how much you are willing to forgive.

Unnatural Light by John Koethe

We prize clear-headedness: saying
What we mean, meaning what we say,
A metavirtue that blows the real virtues away.
Examples abound, but a lot of good they do:
Politics and the cult of authenticity
Disguising base and ridiculous views;
The TV shows I’m stuck with in the gym,
Where people with no discernable occupations
Level with each other; the way we talk to one another,
With simple rudeness offering itself as candor.
I’m not exempt: this clarity of style
Obscures what lurks beneath the surface
Of a juvenile mind whose explanations are too smooth,
Inventing stories and waiting for them to come true.
You’d think the difficulty would be obvious,
But it’s not, since it’s only visible from far away
And we’re too close to ourselves to see what we really are.
Poets like to think their new poems are their best ones,
Though they usually aren’t. Poems are mostly
Wishful thinking, especially the dark ones.

Room with Three Windows by Robert Cording

August. Only the immediate is apparent.
Lilac leaves, rhododendrons, holly,
trunk and branches of an ash.
Everything so near.
Leaf and branch pressing up to the screens.
A kind of otherness
in the ordinary catbird’s dark eye
in the window. Seeing a matter of being
quiet. A wren. A hummingbird. In June, a tanager.
As if what is secret is also visible.
I’m happiest looking one moment into the next,
the hours clocked by the leaves’ green changing
in the light. Silver green. Bright green.
Dusky gold-green.
Faith in the holly, in the birds, the ash tree.
Thirty years and counting in this room
where what comes and goes
comes and goes unrehearsed. So little happens.
So much. Day after day this is what I do. Wait
for what arrives at my windows,
equally thankful for what is new,
then old, then new.