Posted June 25, 2012
This issue of Jersey Devil Press magazine, as the editors indicate, is “chock full of stories about people betrayed by self, undermined by their own best efforts, and ultimately destined to fail because of their inherent, incurable flaws.” Inside the issue, each character and story is definitely unique, pulling the reader through the issue to figure out what the next surprise is.
Ally Malinenko’s short story, although simple in its metaphor, is enchanting, reminding me of a bed time story or a tale a father might tell his daughter. In it, a girl is born with a rare disorder, Ectopia Cordis—“a child born with their heart on the outside of the chest. But even then it is always at least flesh and blood. It is always a pulpy red organ.” But hers was not: “On her chest, the child’s small heart expanded and contracted, crinkling, made of paper, like an origami box. It was white and seemed to have the exact consistency of tissue paper.” As she grew up, her father warned her not to let anyone touch it for fear that it might be crushed. This was successful until a boy with his own strange quality—he had no tear ducts and so was forever crying—moved to her town.
“Change-Me Chelsey” by Thomas Kearnes was entertaining and humorous as a woman is haunted by her child’s toy. And “Bonnie and Clyde” by Nicola Belte is equally engaging as it portrays the relationship of a “furry” couple that have met on the internet. All of the fiction in this issue is endearing, even with the characters’ unique failures.
This issue of The Summerset Review marks a ten year anniversary. Although I had not read this magazine before this issue, if this issue is any indication, I can see why they have made it this far. While small and simple, this publication has a lot to offer. The poetry that started the issue, two poems by Ha Kiet Chau, was especially inviting. The words in “Dizzy Distraction,” easily glide over the tongue in a summer haze that is perfect for the June issue:
Tingly summer skin, dizzy June bugs.
Windows rolled down, traversing gravel roads,
A u-turn, we put on straw hats and sunscreen,
Cover up silence with loud radio frequencies,
Folk music prolongs, harmonica blows
A mouthful of airy blues.
She doesn’t hear me when I tell her,
My heart, she’s distracted.
In “Bricks,” P. Ivan Young builds tension as the narrator admires this seemingly knowledgeable other character as, together, they build a wall:
I hand him bricks like offerings over the wall
we build, he uses his thumb to smooth the lines
of cement. Later, he takes me to a pool hall.
flirts with the waitress, poised to break,
cradles the cue in the round of his fingers,
and pistons it forward. The crack is deafening
and I think of the sound brick makes when hit
with a hammer . . .
The fiction, too, is well crafted. In “No Cat, No Father” by Alana Ruprecht, the narrator copes with the absence of a father in her life as she lets a stray cat into her home that she claims is her father. It is humorous throughout as the cat tries to win over her affection and sprays his territory throughout the house. “The Bread Knife” by Nancy Bourne traces one woman’s desire to live vicariously through another woman’s, but this other woman does not appreciate it as the narrator tries to nurture and control her life.
Anti- is, as the editors explain, “contrarian, a devil’s advocate that primarily stands against the confinement of poetry in too-small boxes. Anti- wants to provide a single arena for a wide range of styles and ideas, so these different kinds of poets and poems can either fight it out or learn to coexist.” What I found most interesting with this issue of Anti- is the vast breadth of styles that it packs; each poet seemed to bring something different. With some of the poems, I was just captured by the titles alone: "Dictator, By Which I Mean the Mother Brandishing a Pistol with a Piñata over Her Head" and "When they squeeze us the wind splinters where we used to be, which is also where we are now."
In Gregory Sherl’s “We Can’t Schedule a Seduction,” the narrator makes collect calls to God, offering up a list of excuses for his actions. “Discarded Cosmos,” by Vincent Guerra, examines the details of people and objects that the speaker passes by or notices, a “constellation of things”:
I tallied the wayward objects: a clustered galaxy
of cellophane marooned in grass, a napkin
crumpled to coral, a drinking straw’s shucked cocoon
flattened on the path. Whose lips these things
have touched and where and why? Whose hands
undid them? Where do the clothes on the forest floor
come from? . . .
More great poetry comes from Oliver Bendorf (“Postcard from Lake Mendota”), Benjamin Sutton (excerpts from Notes from the Daydreaming), Maureen McHugh (two untitled poems), and Naoko Fujimoto (My Father’s Ivory Die).