Review: The Volta

Comprised of and run as a collective, The Volta is a one-stop shop for all things good in poetry. This may be, at least in part, because they have it all—a complete body poetic with each and every “organ,” as they refer to it, that runs from head-to-toe: interviews, poem-films, more interviews, a blog on poetics and all the haps, a journal devoted to long poems, a journal for short poems, an outlet for book reviews, and a journal of poetics.

Although it remains difficult—at least for me—to determine who, or what started The Volta, it seems that several, if not all, of the organs lead back to Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Noah Eli Gordon, who have enlisted the help of numerous editors/contributor-editors to keep such an expansive thing alive.

George Oppen, nearing his death in the early ‘80s, wrote the following fragment, which seems to have nothing to do with The Volta, but we’ll get there:

I am not sure whether or not

I would like to live altogether

In the forest of poetry


Its mystery and its clarity

I’m reminded of this fragment when I think of what purpose The Volta serves for the greater poetry community—to reveal the enigma of poetry, which can seem overwhelming and disconcerting at times when you just want something concrete in your life, but also to disclose the undefinable, uncanny clarity that poetry provides us, enhancing our lives in ways other things fail to. And while I, too, go back and forth on how I feel about poetry, keeping up with The Volta certainly makes me more confident, at least for a while. Its clean, simple style and democratic foundation, not to mention its all-encompassing mix of emerging as well as established poets, boosts my confidence in my passion for the art of poetry. More importantly, it makes me confident in the state of our art—that we poets are onto something, that we remain relevant, and that there is much that remains to be seen, that needs to be seen, in our living, green world.

They Will Sail the Blue Sail and Heir Apparent, the journals for short poems and long poems, respectively, seem like the best place to start your journey into this new forest of The Volta. You’re trekking down a little path, thinking fresh-air thoughts, and you happen upon a nice tree: “Whenever I see something, I have to think about its name” (from Lucy Ives’ “Three Paragraphs from NINETIES”). You can’t conjure up the name, or the feeling, but you read and walk on anyway, comfortable in not knowing. And you grab at a beautiful chunk of leaves: “In real life, I never do anything. I let things happen” (Ives’), and you simply live in the moment of being lost, letting yourself wander down the trail.

After a break for lunch, you keep moving. You’ve seen a lot of stunning vistas today and your body feels good. Satisfied. Content. Whole. You come upon a thicker, denser part of the forest, and feel around a little bit, though you can’t see too well: “static continues/ in the evening on white paper/ shadows and ice/ filling the void” (from Ben Mirov’s longer work, “echomorphs”). The bark is smooth, the air cooler in here, and the silence goes on forever. You keep on.

Sometime around sundown you finish your long hike and end up back at your car, drive home, go back to your real life, but are obsessed by the names of things, the static in the air, and the general poetry of it all. So you end up coming back frequently to see how things have chnaged, and how things haven’t.

 – Tyler Cain Lacy