Sometimes our best is not good enough. We make mistakes. The most painful ones are those that harm a loved one. Stress and grief leave us in agony, and we play our choice repeatedly wondering if we made the right decision. We cannot let ourselves off the hook either merely because we are human.
In Joan Schweighardt’s Gifts for the Dead, Irishman Jack Hopper arrives home barely alive and without his brother. What could he have done differently? Guilt-ridden, he needs time to sort through the events in South America’s jungle. In the meantime, his mother and his brother’s sweetheart, Nora, nurse him back to health. They wait patiently to learn specifics of Bax, Jack’s brother. To make matters worse, Nora eased Jack’s pain and he liked it. He had always secretly cared for her more than he should have. As time passes and Jack heals, and the two grow closer until they take a trip to South America where Nora then learns the truth.
Schweighardt is masterful at historical fiction and Gifts for the Dead is an example of her skill. Not only does she entertain with accounts that examine the perplexities of being human with its heartening moments and struggles, but she also inspires thoughts about the human condition.
How does one justify bad choices simply because they are human? Why can we not be better than that, and what about the good that comes from bad choices as a result? Will Jack Hopper find that good thing?
Gifts for the Dead is a thoughtful and entertaining read, especially for those who enjoy historical adventure mixed with suspense and a little romance. A wild escapade that thoroughly entertains.
Review by Christina Francine
Christina Francine is an enthusiastic author of a variety of work for all ages. When not weaving tales, she teaches academic writing at the college level. She’s also a licensed elementary teacher. Picture books: Special Memory and Mr. Inker. Academic: Journal of Literacy Innovation.
Stepping back in time to 1960s-Manhattan, author and former supernumerary actor with the New York City Opera Company (NYCO), Edward Hower reminisces of sharing the stage with the magnificent, world-renowned coloratura soprano, Beverly Sills in “Echoes.”
Readers, performers, and devout season ticket holders alike are presented with backstage passes to one of the most opulent, velvet-covered theaters in the world. Hower’s recollections are so detailed that we can smell the sweat seeping through the make-up, pantaloons, and Roman breastplates.
Through a tender, adoring lens, Hower observes how Sills’s pianissimos float through the air forever, with descents so dazzling that guests are left liquified. Questions of purpose and place are contemplated in between the echoes of scales and vibratos: whom to love and how to love them, refusing to give up by giving in, and to what ends one must sacrifice for the sake of maintaining their integrity. As audience members we too may feel, as Hower expresses, “the tremor of applause rising through us” as we seek triumphant courage amid the tyranny of doubt on the stages of our own lives.
Review by Camille Sleight-Price
In the second edition of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2019), authors Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin provide 18 entertaining and motivating prompts that range from the light-hearted to the serious and challenging. Drawing on both traditional forms and contemporary experiments, the authors encourage the use of found text, song titles, facts, and quotations. They propose scenarios and invite a poetic response. They even show how to “translate” the text of a poem written in a language you can’t read! Each prompt is followed by suggestions for getting started and sample poems written in response. What distinguishes Poems for the Writing from other poetry-prompt collections is that most of the sample poems are by undergraduates, community workshop participants, and some working poets. The responses are fresh, energetic, and unexpected.
This is an excellent book for poets and for teachers of poetry. The authors, both poets and teachers themselves, have selected prompts that work well in the classroom—for poets at any level and just about any age. They encourage emotional orientations, helping the students to plumb their personal experiences—and with just enough structure to help students struggling to organize and articulate emotional responses. But all of this comes with a touch of levity. Like Fox and Levin’s own approach to teaching, the book is friendly, open, and eclectic. The results are a testament to the extent to which prompts can trigger new and imaginative insights and jog one out of a routine approach to the blank page. Prompts are entry points—doors and doorknobs, as the authors put it—to new rooms, new emotional and intellectual spaces. The results are likely to be both surprising and satisfying.
Review by Antonia Clark
Antonia Clark has taught poetry and fiction writing and is co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, Smoke and Mirrors, and a full-length poetry collection, Chameleon Moon (2014, 2019), and the forthcoming Dance Craze. Her poems and short stories have appeared in numerous print and electronic journals, including The Cortland Review, Eclectica, The Pedestal Magazine, and Rattle, and she has reviewed poetry collections for The Rumpus, Literary Bohemian, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and IthacaLit. Toni lives in Vermont, loves French picnics, and plays French café music on a sparkly purple accordion.
“B.K.” by Robert James Cross stands out in Issue 52 of Fiction International. Instead of straightforward text on the page, he utilizes other means: telegrams, “handwritten” and typed letters, an illustration, and official documentation.
The story unfolds in messages between Michael and Linda, siblings growing up without parents and left to rely on each other. Their letters take place from 1963 to 1967. In between the chatter about family, the two discuss their current historical events of John F. Kennedy’s death and the Vietnam War. Between this all, their love for each other brightly shines through.
The variety of means of communication makes the piece visually appealing and turns the idea of storytelling through letters on its head. Seeing these written or printed items given a physical form makes the piece feel more real and personal. Cross’s bio claims he is “under the influence of the unconventional,” and that definitely shows in this piece.
Cross isn’t the only one getting creative in this “Body” themed issue. Plenty of other writers push the limits of their craft, including Carol Guess & Aimee Parkinson in “Girl in Medical Trials1” Ivars Balkits in “Brain Talking to Brain,” and D.E. Steward in “CRISPR.” In Issue 52, Fiction International offers readers a group of talented writers unafraid to push boundaries.
Review by Katy Haas
“The Suit,” published in the Spring 2019 issue of American Literary Review, is an essay by Julie Marie Wade in which Wade questions, but never resolves, what it means for her to be born in a female body.
Much of the essay is set in scene and centered around a tight-fitting suit that Wade’s mother is committed to squeezing her husband—Wade’s father—into. When Wade’s image-obsessed mother is not home, her father splurges on James Bond films and hotdogs and explains to Wade that “every man wants to be James Bond,” even though he doesn’t believe he will ever be similar to the handsome agent.
Meanwhile, Wade’s mother encourages Wade to nominate her as “Most Inspirational Mother,” via a department store writing contest. Between scenes, Wade gives us drafts of her contest submission where she wrestles with representing her mother in “equal parts nice and true.” Wade tries to define her mother as a woman who “can see through who people appear to be and identify who they might be.” In these drafts, we understand that although Wade praises her mother, she also examines how her family relationships influence the way she approaches her own identity.
Through metaphor, shopping with her parents, and contest drafts, this coming-of-age essay is a story that explores gender identity in a home that explicitly encourages traditional roles.
Review by Alyssa Witbeck Alexander
In the Fall 2019 issue of Southern Humanities Review, William Walker concocts a suspenseful, haunting tale with “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
The short story brings readers out into the country where William and his mother live. The piece begins: “A car idled at the end of our driveway, and its lights were setting the living room curtains aflame. Somebody was out there walking around, but we could only make out the silhouettes stepping and out of the high beams near the pine trees.” The first pages continue with suspense as the two wonder if it’s William’s father outside watching them, the mother and son then learning how to shoot a gun in self-defense and surrounding themselves with familial support.
We’re momentarily lulled into putting our guards down as Tom Kaczynski comes into the picture, inserting himself as the new father figure to William and the new lover to his mom. William’s annoyance at his presence takes over the piece. Even as Tom takes measures to make the family safer, William’s dislike for Tom eclipses the worries of William’s dad.
However, the story reaches a brutal, explosive climax, shocking readers back into the state of tension from the beginning of the piece and we must watch as William tries to sort through his feelings in the days after tragedy strikes. Walker writes with clarity and detail, causing me to double check which genre I was reading several times. Was this fiction or nonfiction? At times I could believe either, a testament to Walker’s skill.
I recommend reading this story with several lights on, and only after you’ve double-checked the locks on your doors.
Review by Katy Haas
David Salner‘s The Stillness of Certain Valleys is impressively sustained. I could quote memorable lines from every poem. "Beer for Breakfast" is a pitch-perfect opening poem, and the subsequent sequence "A Dream of Quitting Time" is very strong. Then comes the agonizing "Goodbye to My Big Toe." Salner writes with gritty authority about many kinds of work, including a stint as a cab driver in "Like Silver," as well as in steel mills and coal mines. Now that world is in a state of collapse, hence "water drips from a tipple / to wild strawberries sprouting from rail beds" in the title poem. I admire the moving way he evokes the dignity of a working man in "Horse Trailer with Beans": "nothing / but the dirt under his nails / and who he is." This first section concludes with the understated "Steel Lunch Pail."
The second section begins with a boy learning to be an artist, which could be the poet himself or Winslow Homer: "He creases uniforms, / inks the hollow of a gully. With purple shadows / he molds the blunt, half-buried stones." Then come a series of poems about major American figures: Whitman during the Civil War, Melville brooding on human pain, Frederick Douglass working at the dry docks in Fells Point.
The third section features poems about his grandparents and growing up, before returning to the world of work, which Salner always depicts with convincing precision. Near the end in “The Lakefront Closes at 8 PM," the poet notices as he walks to the parking lot how the weeds have "white flowers." It's that impressive eye for telling detail that make the whole collection a compelling and convincing read. Salner has been there, done that. As Whitman once said, "I am the man. I was there."
Review by William Heath
William Heath has published three books of poetry, The Walking Man, Night Moves in Ohio, and Leaving Seville; three novels, The Children Bob Moses Led, Blacksnake's Path, and Devil Dancer; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest; and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone.
Readers can find the 2019 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize winner and finalists in the Fall 2019 issue of Southern Humanities Review. The contest honors the late Jake Adam York [pictured], and the winner of the contest receives $1000 in addition to publication. This year’s contest was judged by Vievee Francis.
“Burning Churches” by Dante Di Stefano
“Transubstantiation” by Jubi Arriola-Headley
“All-American Mexican” by Michael Torres
“A Different Alphabet” by Susan Cohen
“Near Miss” by Allison Adair
Issue 19.4 of DIAGRAM gives us “Call of Duty,” a riveting essay that explores the juxtaposition of needing and wanting. In this piece, Amy Long shares her experience with the unintended effects caused by opioid addicts for those who truly need the medicine and the lengths she went to in order to find relief from her own pain. Through beautiful and sharp phrases such as “I’ve betrayed the one person who really trusts me,” “I don’t want to turn into that patient,” and “I don’t lose everything. I don’t lose anything,” we get a sense of the narrator’s pain and the mask that she puts on and lives with in order to keep the trust of the people who matter most to her.
As most essays in DIAGRAM, Long’s relies on form and structure to move deeper the fear of judgement and misunderstanding. The essay comprises words, printed and cut up, that have been scanned onto paper in unique designs. Glassine envelopes are replicated in the story as well, providing more words, thoughts, and stories that are kept safely at first, but eventually spill freely onto the page. Stories such as these cannot be contained. We see, too, that through the use of font size, italics, wisely placed words, and bolding, Long remains apprehensive about the revelation of such truths; she still struggles with making any sense out of them. Only by letting the story spill out of the glassine packet does she even begin to make sense of what has happened to her body, her health, and her future.
Review by Tyler Hurst
Greg November opens the Fall 2019 issue of Boulevard with “The Business of Killing Tony.” After initially skimming the first sentences as I paged through the issue, I found it nearly physically impossible to stop reading: “Tony’s death—the first one, I’m talking—last a week. We had nothing to do with that one, Gwen and I, at least not directly.”
The story follows three siblings, the narrator Don, Gwen, and Tony, in the days and weeks following Tony’s death and subsequent resurrection and even more subsequent deaths. Prior to the death, their relationships are strained: Don is detached from the other two siblings as he separates from his wife and moves into a new condo; Tony, addicted to drugs and alcohol, orbits as the family black sheep; and Gwen halfheartedly takes on a motherly role as she attempts to organize an intervention for Tony (which is where he dies the first time) and get Don to participate. Tony comes back with a newfound clarity, death becoming the push he needed to finally sort himself out. But he has one problem: he wants to stay dead and can’t.
November’s characters are wry and detached, and the universe he’s created is lightened with dark humor. The siblings react to the news of Tony’s resurrection relatively level-headedly and are brought together by this new task of killing Tony again and again. There are moments November works in feeling, though he never careens into sappy sentimentality. The plot is inventive and interesting, readers not knowing quite what to expect out of a universe where a man can come back to life and make ties between the lands of the living and dead.
“The Business of Killing Tony” is a great opener for this issue of Boulevard and I look forward to checking out more work by November.
Review by Katy Haas
In “Bought and Sold,” Issue 30 of True Story, author Renata Golden locates herself in the complicated history of the American West after inheriting two half-acre ranchettes outside of Deming, New Mexico.
Purchased in 1969 by her father, a man ready to leave the ordeals of the Chicago Police Force behind him, the land promised a “welcoming warmth.” Fifteen years after his death, Golden steps on ground that had been handed down to her as the American narrative of land leading to wealth and a better life. Instead, the barren landscape and hard crusted earth force her to confront “how primitive land could be.”
Though her father believed the winds of the West “carried a hint of hope instead of despair,” as Golden mines the history of her inheritance, she discovers the injustice, violence, and death inflicted on the natives and land grant owners who first called the land home.
Despite framing each scene of the essay with excerpts from historical documents, Golden writes, “I know that some voices have been lost to the winds that carry a palpable sense of grief. I do not know the truths of the past. I know only the stories told around campfires and corrals, in letters and ledger books, that have survived. Stories repeated became history.”
Review by Emily James
The current issue of Nimrod International Journal is entirely made up of the winners, finalists, semi-finalists, and honorable mentions of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.
Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction:
“Capybara” by Jonathan Wei
“This Might Hurt Some” by John Tait
Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry:
”Negligee and Hatchet: A Sonnet Crown” by Robert Thomas
“The Adorned Fathomless Dark Creation,” “Getting Out,” “Boys Beyond June,” and “Legend” by Matt W. Miller
The Fall/Winter 2019 issue features over thirty writers, a diverse selection of fiction and poetry. A full list of contributors, including a handful of excerpts, can be found at the Nimrod International Journal website.
Brilliant Flash Fiction recently announced the winners of the FEED US Writing Contest, held between June and September this year. Judge Kathy Fish selected three prize winners.
“TALKING” by Shikhandin [pictured]
“Two Ostomates” by Alexis Wolfe
“Mother’s Milk” by Anastasia Kirchoff
Find the three winning stories, the shortlisted stories, and the longlist at the Brilliant Flash Fiction website. There you can also grab a copy of their first anthology: Hunger: The Best of Brilliant Flash Fiction, 2014-2019.
Last week Concordia College’s Ascent shared a couple pieces of exciting news.
First: a special issue is on the way with twenty-five essays, twenty-one short stories, and a whopping eighty-one poems. This special issue is in celebration of their second piece of news: longtime editor W. Scott Olsen has announced his retirement from his position at the journal after twenty-three years at the helm.
Taking over in January 2020 will be Vincent Reusch, fiction writer and professor at Concordia College. We look forward to see what Reusch has in store for the literary magazine moving forward.Learn more about the upcoming issue and the change in editors at Ascent’s website.
Although published in 1951, any person serious about literature would do well to read or reread Nabokov’s captivating autobiography, if not for the rapture of his complicated life, then for the beauty of his syntactical architecture. A master of form devoted to meaning, Nabokov relays the truths of a man twice removed from his home country of Russia, once by revolution and again with the rise of the iron curtain. He renders through complex but clear sentence structure the pains of diaspora and the call to home which he can never truly answer. Within this beautiful prose he also provides insight into his master works Lolita, Despair, and The Gift. He dangles before the reader a maze of sentences each providing a decadent feast for those who value—above all—the meaning-making capacity of provoking syntax.
Even his first sentence tells the reader more about his lost home and life than many lesser writers could conjure in a length of chapters, “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Although he plays at the duplicity of life and death, so does his opening sentence relay the pain of a man who can never truly return to the womb of his mother country nor escape its call through death. Nabokov rewards the keen reader. He displays the full power of a prose master and does so with all the beauty of a life richly lived.
For those readers who seek reward through art, no writer has ever provided as much in their autobiography as Vladimir Nabokov.
Review by Justyn Hardy
A haunting meditation on the legacy of racism, violence, and abuse, Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen by Gint Aras is a gut-kick of a memoir in which Aras contemplates the far-reaching tentacles of anger and hate from the normalized cruelty of a boy’s childhood to the genocide of World War II. After a prolonged bout of PTSD following a violent attack, Aras visits the Mauthausen concentration camp in Lithuania and reflects on its horrors, acknowledging that as a descendant of Lithuanians, there exists within himself “the energy of the victim and the perpetrator.”
While depictions of the Holocaust remind us of the enduring human capacity for dehumanization and extreme cruelty, Aras’s essay is at its strongest when recounting the socially accepted racism of his Lithuanian-American community in Chicago. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential run provides a backdrop for Aras’s father’s racist diatribes; the community’s anti-Semitism is equally virulent and ingrained in their language. Aras writes: “The Lithuanian word for Jew is žydas. My family used this word to mean snot, and for a time I knew no other word. Mother would see me picking my nose and scold me, Netrauk žydų, or Stop pulling out Jews.” Aras draws the connections between the family’s denialism and scapegoating of Lithuanian Jews as Soviet collaborators with their refusal to see the physical and emotional abuse perpetrated against him by his tyrannical father. As an adult, Aras confronts his father in a harrowing scene, yet a cathartic reckoning remains elusive.
Aras reflects on whether he is imposing “the personal on the collective,” but most readers will recognize how hate, in its various manifestations, informs the cultural assumptions we carry. Aras’s willingness to confront this legacy is a useful reminder that we all bear the responsibility to do the same.
Review by Chuck Augello
Chuck Augello is the author of The Inexplicable Grey Space We Call Love (Duck Lake Books - April 2020). His work has appeared in One Story, Literary Hub, The Vestal Review, The Coachella Review, and other fine journals. He's a contributor to Cease Cows and publishes The Daily Vonnegut, a website exploring the life and art of Kurt Vonnegut.
The descriptions of people, the universe, and abstract concepts are always lyrical and moving. The characters, though isolated in their narrative spheres from other characters, all relate in symbolic ways, interacting like entangled particles.
This is a tale about skydiving, the brave divers through the sky, and the diverse revelations they encounter on land and in the arms of God, up in the air, floating like angels, hovering above the ball and chain of their earth, which to some is an Eden, and to others, an egg, flush with history, pregnant with myth.
It is also about childhood and escape, tragedy, and the infinite potential of the future, told in convincing voices with heart and love and joy. I was enchanted by the realistic characters, the effortless flow of the evocative language, the precise word choice, effective dialogue, and seamless storytelling. The novel works on multiple levels at once, guiding the reader through layers of meaning. It does not engage in handholding, nor is it like wandering a labyrinth. Reading it is like falling—which is a metaphor the novel makes ample use of—into a magical realm. The picture widens as you proceed, and the sky behind you is full of Halley’s comets, decaying gods, and past memories discarded like ballast.
There are many brilliant moments of interstitial congruency, like the following quote: “With the advancement of technology, he knew the future, however distant, would reveal the reality of alchemy.”
Sea Above, Sun Below is literary alchemy. A magnificent novel.
Review by L.S. Popovich
L.S. Popovich is the author of Undertones and Echoes From Dust. They have always been a cat person (a person who like cats, not a cat human hybrid).
In the Fall 2019 issue of Raleigh Review, readers can find the winners and finalists of the 2019 Laux/Millar Poetry Prize, selected by Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar. Readers can easily find these pieces in the current issue as they're outlined in gradient blue (winner) and pink (finalists).
“Iguana Iguana” by Caylin Capra-Thomas
"At the Bar" by Cameron McGill
"The Land in Both Our Names" by Suzanne Grove
"After Watching The Quiet Man" by Hannah Dow
"Sertraline" by Emily Nason
Submissions to the 2020 Laux/Millar Poetry Prize will reopen in April and run through May.
The Tiger Moth Review publishes art and literature that “engages with nature, culture, the environment, and ecology” from Singapore and beyond.
In Issue 2, ko ko thett drew me in by writing about one of my favorite animals: elephants. “Funeral of an elephant” speculates on what is needed to mourn the death of the creature: the amount of men needed to carry the casket, how the casket should be made, what traditions to apply to this funeral, whether or not it weighs more dead than alive. thett prompts readers to hold this death in as great esteem as a human’s. I feel this is especially relevant after recent reports of eleven elephants dying as they attempted to save one another at a waterfall in Thailand. With their actions, as in thett’s poem, we see the humanity in the lives of these creatures.
thett also dedicates a poem to “The Chindwin,” a river in Burma. thett humanizes the river, comparing it to a “soon-to-be single mother,” a dominatrix, a woman puking, pissing, bleeding. There are no gentle verses here, just the ripping force of a river tearing away the landscape and the humans who have wronged her.
In both pieces, thett makes readers consider the humanness of nature, a nice selection to usher in the rest of this issue of The Tiger Moth Review.
Review by Katy Haas
It’s never easy to say good-bye, but readers should still take the time to say their farewells to the fiction monolith Glimmer Train. The Fall 2019 issue is here, marking the end of an era for the literary magazine.
The final issue features stories by Stanley Delgado, Rachael Uwada Clifford, Marian Palaia, Douglas Kiklowicz, Erika Krouse, Victoria Alejandra Garayalde, Arthur Russell, Robin Halevy, Peter Parsons, Christa Romanosky, Sindya Bhanoo, Alex Stein, Karen Malley, Ed Allen, Emily Lackey, Ashley Alliano, Aleyna Rentz, Kevin Canty, and Arthur Klepchukov. Also in the final issue: interviews with Matthew Lansburgh and Danielle Lazarin.
Stop by the Glimmer Train website to give them a proper send-off. Grab a copy of the last two issues, check out story excerpts, and pick up copies of available back issues.
Exploring the complexities and absurdities of grief, Book of Mutter is a lyrical text that will leave readers returning to its textured fragments of memory and meditation again and again. And each time, those moments will reassemble into something new and incisive.
Kate Zambreno, whose previous book O Fallen Angel won the Undoing the Novel—First Book Contest, reflects on and interrogates her relationship with her dying mother in this 2017 publication. Her mother proved such an invasive force in her life that Zambreno couldn’t help but turn to writing as the only hope she had to “expel [her] from my body.” With some photographs, spent lipstick tubes, hoarded kitsch, and a gardening journal, Zambreno sorts through these “ruins” in search of both a connection to and deliverance from the long shadow of a troubled relationship.
Far from conclusive or definitive, Book of Mutter offers something tragically beautiful and genuinely vulnerable to the perennial struggle of grief. While every page is not filled by text, they are all complete with curious and inviting moments of anger, confusion, peace, and yes, absence.
Review by Mark Smeltzer
Shanan Ballam’s newest book, Inside the Animal: The Collected Red Riding Hood Papers, published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2019, pushes the persona poem to its most shimmering and starved limit. Blending her voice with the perspectives of a depraved wolf, a blossoming girl, and a wilting grandmother, Ballam continually smashes wide the familiar fairy tale and trades reader comfort for animalistic truth. What empathy can be had for the predator? Is there a love story folded into the sheets of Grandmother’s bed? Would Red Riding Hood slip into the wolf again? Continuing the work begun in her 2010 chapbook The Red Riding Hood Papers and furthered in her 2013 book Pretty Marrow, Ballam writes deeply into new velveteen layers of the aged cautionary tale.
Divided into six parts, the childhood world is rewritten for an adult understanding of intimacy and separation, ecstatic connection and pain. Through her passionate mastery of syntax and imagery, Ballam pulls readers deeper into a psychological landscape as sharp and mesmerizing as a kaleidoscope. The new Poet Laureate of Logan, Utah, as well as current faculty of Utah State University, Ballam writes with the bone-deep need to reclaim the story of monsters and naughty little girls into a truth more complicated and warm. Wholly driven and new, Ballam’s tangled reimagining of the condemning Red Riding Hood fable will mark up the mind.
Reviewed by Brittney Allen
The Fall 2019 issue of Carve Magazine features the winners of the 2019 Raymond Carver Contest, guest-judged by Claire Fuller. These can be found online, as well as in the print issue. An interview with each writer can be found after their stories in the print edition.
“Private Lives” by April Sopkin
“Gravity House” by Carolyn Bishop
“The Enchanted Forest” by Brian Crawford
“The Ghost Rider” by Erica Plouffe Lazure
Volume 12 Number 2 of Diode Poetry Journal shows the variety of sources poets draw inspiration from, whether it’s musical artists, medical documentation, or other poets.
Lip Manegio draws from one of my longtime favorite musical artists—Death Cab for Cutie—in “you tell me about your childhood memories of death cab for cutie, and i imagine every future and past we will ever get to live through.” Using Death Cab song titles as a way to jump into each stanza and light, beautiful language, they create a new song for themselves and the person the poem is addressed to.
Charlie Clark turns to “I am the beast I worship,” a line from the song “Beware” by Death Grips as he conjures his own beast, one that “speaks vulgar French,” “his whole demeanor muscle-thick and pissed.” The piece reads like a slow burn, a fiery anthem.
“[Infect this page]” by Hadara Bar-Nadav is an erasure poem made from the drug information for the antibiotic Ceftriaxone. Bar-Nadav creates art through the dissection of medical text and examines both sickness and art, urging the reader to action, to “Infect,” “Inject,” and “Kill / your need to / question / this / garbage art.”
Both of John Allen Taylor’s poems draw inspiration from other poets. “The boy thinks of after,” is written after Laurie Lamon, and “Dear Friend,” is written after and for Brionne Janae. Not only were his poems enjoyable to read, but they also open a door to introduce readers to other poets they may not be familiar with.
The latest issue of Diode shows the many ways writers draw inspiration from the media they consume and offers its own inspiration to readers.
Review by Katy Haas