Whenever I discover a new poetry website, be it a journal or conceptual project, I am always curious to see if there’s a directive that’s been publicly established, and if said directive has been pulled off. The quality for success of a website centered on contemporary poetry relies upon the communication of the poetry’s website. Because writing poetry digitally and publishing it digitally doesn’t do it for everybody, IE, the spirituality of the screen, or lack thereof, and the temporal experience of reading text on the screen, is only further supported by poetry’s relatively short or disembodied form. It is very easy to read a poem and click away without ever going back to it, and I would argue the lack of hesitancy is not nearly as strong when reading poetry on the page.
What does all of this blabber have to do with the new journal, Country Music? Maybe nothing. But then again, it is a new journal and it does center on the presentation of poetry. I would argue that the directive, or motion, of Country Music is quite clear. The manifesto on the site is a poem, clever, silly and light-hearted, but inevitably grounded:
Country Music believes the more colors
of the rainbow you can name
the more friends you will have.
Country Music knows it takes
between three and six pounds of corn
to make one pound of beef.
Country Music wants poems
that improve the culture
of which you are a part.
There’s an abundance of food on the site: candy corn, chilies, and the corn/beef recipe above. It’s cute, curious, and maybe a bit whacky. But I found it an inviting door into the world of “Country Music”, a concept in itself that would normally send me fleeing. Like most urbanites, I don’t like most country music, and I definitely don’t like country music that’s being made today. But I think the journal transcends the stereotypes about what most know as music and goes for the kill: there are cultural and emotional universals, ideals or otherwise, that can be experienced through the lyrical art. In the first issue of Country Music the work of the following poets, all of which have impressive backgrounds, are represented: Clay Matthews, Lucy Biederman, Matt Hart, Samuel Day Wharton, Peter Davis, Amber Nelson, Jim Goar, and Jackie Clark. It’s a strong blend of the narrative, lyrical, and abstract.
The poems come with different weights; some are heavy, some light, some strong, and some weak. There certainly isn’t a single school or poetic style being appropriated for publication here, and that’s an obvious signal of strength and fortitude for a magazine that’s trying to capture the universally-comfortable.
What I find really fascinating, and probably the most rewarding from the journal, are the additional “features” of the first issue: some experiments in dialogue called “The Country Music Love and Loss Collective: a Series of Idaho Correspondences”. It’s a bit confusing to see what is being achieved beyond strict, fun, exploratory experimentation; the grand vision is blurry and perhaps a little “thrown together”. But that’s okay because it’s fun to see that roots are being established within the magazine—roots that will probably determine all of the interesting things to come.
All in all, Country Music is an inviting, pleasant journal to experience. It might not have the largest names in poetry or feature the most dynamic, edgy, or accessible work, but reading through the magazine is certainly a positive experience.
By Greg Bem