In the latest issue, American Literary Review brings readers the winners of the annual ALR Awards. The 2019 winners feature Ellen Seusy in poetry, Cady Vishniac in fiction, and Julialicia Case in nonfiction.
Seusy’s “The Spiral Jetty” is an ekphrastic poem about Robert Smithson’s titular art piece. Seusy’s speaker compares Smithson’s creation with six-year-olds creating bowls from mud and spit, pointing out how “It’s the making that matters most,” even now that “we’re / out of breath, still running. Still tasting / dirt and salt. The work holds water, still.” It isn’t the finished product or the public reception that matters most—it’s the act of creating.
The narrator in Vishniac’s “Bumper Crop” faces the consequences he’s created for himself. The main character—bitter and a bit insufferable after his recent separation from his wife—encounters chickens on the way to the daycare where he works, an interruption to his usual day of hitting on his co-teacher, being too protective of his son who attends the daycare, and holding grudges against children. Vishniac crafts an entertaining story with a satisfying karmic ending.
Karmic endings also come into play in Case’s “The Stories I Do Not Know For Sure.” The nonfiction piece centers on Case’s former coworker David and his wife Sandra. The two concoct stories about their lives, stories that eventually fall apart, revealing muddled truths underneath. Case ends the piece reflecting on the stories we tell and the realities they create, recreate, or destroy. The gripping piece almost reads like a thriller, each paragraph revealing a new detail about Case’s story and the stories David and Sandra weave.
The winners of the ALR Awards are a great introduction to American Literary Review, and this year’s contest is currently open for submissions until October.
Review by Katy Haas