Issue Four – May 2019

Letter from the Founding Editor:

Curating Rockvale Review, Issue Four was a lesson in how to sit in quiet meditation and let the music of the poems speak. The voices of these jewels of language were varied on many levels: pitch, tone, tempo, rhythm, and choosing among them was like choosing between the notes of a song. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a decision maker. No one would call me wishy-washy. And yet I sat cross-legged in the floor of my office, the printed Round Two poems laid out in front of me, and bemoaned the decisions I had to make. We’ve tried hard not to let this journal become an unwieldy hodgepodge of fifty or sixty poems. We keep our acceptances to around 30. In the finalizing of this issue, I had space for 8 more poems and I had 40 beautiful contenders. So I sat still, listening.

In the end, 33 poems, from the almost 1500 we read, create Issue Four’s symphonic composition. These poems speak with diverse voices and with diverse forms, yet there is commonality in purpose: to explain some aspect of the human narrative, why we are as we are, why the things that inspire/haunt/affect/illuminate and live in us must be further defined, in some sense turning the formless into form, the nebulous into at least partial focus.

These poems breathe with energies that rise like different instruments in an orchestra. Maybe the frenetic pounding of Brad Garber’s “Final Road Trip” aligns with the tympani, while the clean images contained in Elizabeth Spencer Spragins’ three short place-centered poems are grounded like violins. This line from Sheila Dongs’ “Apache-Sitgreaves:” “I stare at the stars / and think about permitting the forest / inside me.” seems to sing like woodwinds, while the first stanza of Kelly Samuels’ poem, “Sissinghurst:” “You will be asked to walk out among / the blooms after your supper and deadhead // the roses.” calls like the brass. From one, a coming in, and from the other, a going out. Even the most confusing experiences, the most desperate losses, are tempered with a sort of unfailing, hopeful melody, much like the tulip petals in Sarah Lilius’ poem “Eulogy in the Dark,” which fall in remembrance of the dead and are counted simply “for good measure, / for stupid love.” It’s the base motivation we can’t ever escape. From love, all the rest of the music ascends.

And that brings us to the partners in this issue. The editors of RR believe strongly that one creative genre can blend with and enhance the understanding of another. The poems in all the issues have been paired with art. Issue Four introduces Nashville artist and poet, Ashley Trabue. Ashley’s poetry appears in Issue One, and I’ve long been a fan, but her visual art awes and stuns me. Varied and complex, the movement and line in Ashley’s art invite the viewer inside, deeper into color and texture, into an unveiling of emotion. From paintings to collage to photographs, these pairings speak to and through each poem with remarkable clarity. RR is delighted to introduce new viewers to this talented artist’s work. With unbounded love and appreciation, Ash, thank you!

But we can’t stop there! Issue Four reveals a new creative combination. Music! Nashville poet and composer, Sherry Paige, agreed to read and study every accepted poem and write short musical compositions in response to 5 of them. I’ve read Sherry’s poems, I’ve heard her piano compositions, so I knew the creative spirit that burned bright in her. But I never dreamed the created music would be this astounding. Some are melodic and travel along the edge of song, while others are dramatic and dissolve into the narrative scene of the poem. I encourage everyone to take a moment to read the chosen poems and view the paired art, and then listen to the response of music. Prepare for a creative feast! And Sherry, you’ve outdone yourself. I’m honored and delighted to have your magical touch as part of RR. Love and gratitude!

And much gratitude to our 33 poets. Thank you for trusting RR with your work. We hope you enjoy Issue Four and will take the time to explore its many facets—from poetry to art to music. We value you and we value the power of your words. #believe


Click HERE for “Note from the Featured Artist” – Ashley Trabue

Click HERE for “Note from the Featured Composer” – Sherry Paige

Click HERE for Information on Rockvale – “What’s in a Name”

If you wish to order a print copy of Issue Four, you can do so by clicking the red MagCloud link below. Print copies are $18.00 plus shipping. Digital issues for all your devices are free with the purchase of a print issue. Digital copies only are $4.00.

Rockvale Review Issue Four

By Sandy Coomer in Rockvale Review

80 pages, published 5/3/2019

Rockvale Review Issue Four contains 33 poems selected from submission received January – March 2019. Each poem is paired with original art created by artist Ashley Trabue.


Click on each poem’s title to read the poem, the poet’s bio, the artist statement and view the entire piece of art. Poems that were chosen for a musical response are designated as: “CHOSEN FOR MUSICAL RESPONSE.” For these, you’ll find the audio file and composer statement included on the webpage. We hope you’ll take the time to explore many of these poems plus the art and music that goes with them. Enjoy!