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Burnside Review – 2011

The Whiskey Edition

Volume 7 Number 1


Barbara Ellen Baldwin

Burnside Review is a diminutive delight. Readers at the outset learn, from editor and founder Sid Miller, that whiskey is an “instigator.” Also both a “prelude” and an “epilogue.”

Burnside Review is a diminutive delight. Readers at the outset learn, from editor and founder Sid Miller, that whiskey is an “instigator.” Also both a “prelude” and an “epilogue.”

I was instantly captivated by Lee Upton’s “If A Wood Chuck Could Chuck Wood He Wouldn’t Chuck It Around Me.” The speaker notes: “They don’t chuck wood, actually. They chuck grubs and berries.” Ah, finally some clarity! As a child I wondered why wood chucks ever engaged in such fruitless activity. Upton is informative, initially: “The wood chuck is known variously as the land beaver, the groundhog, the alfalfa nuzzle, and best of all, the whistle pig.” This piece fairly sings with charm, and engages endearingly.

Nicholas Reading’s lines in “It’s Not Whuskey” also pulls one in, but leaves a crack in the heart, as well. Here’s an artful portrait of one beloved man, flawed, human, and remembered:

My friend John pronounces whiskey
whuskey. A pronunciation passed down
from strangers doubled as saints
with cue ball eyes, tortured to say
whuskey. John claims the curse.

John is “godfather / to the gas station attendant’s daughter.” With one last delicate image, haunting and heartfelt, the poem closes gently, with craft and tenderness.

Any music fan will wake right up for Lisa Alexander’s “Tennessee Bourbon.” Chock-full of brevity and bombast, our guy here, is a fast-talker who gets right to the point:

I wanna get knee-walking
        with Dolly Parton
on her porch in Tennessee

This snippet of a teeny poem has power, panache and sensuality. Alexander lets us hear the character whoop out for comrades, refreshment, and harmless, hilarious fun.

I love Kevin Miller’s “The Bureau Of Wear And Tear,” because it skirts outright mourning, obliquely noting its effect on those left behind. Rituals command the proper garb: “This drawer holds black socks / for twenty funerals, and while I prefer / to wear them to weddings, odds are poor / at my age.”

Readers can smile, tear up, identify and wonder at the accumulation of foot coverings, saved for what? The man with the appendages is a bit superstitious, then regretful and pensive. He knows “faith is a missing person with no photo.” What then, will become of the plethora of never-worn ebony socks? “I have a plan, this pair for my brother / I will keep for other nuptials if they occur, / the rest I will burn after each ceremony / of the dark-suit, and when…” Well, “when” is preferably much, much later and any ceremonies around that day will include the only appropriate beverage…whiskey!

In “Dithyrambs In The Distillery,” Paul Hostovsky tells a tale of two chemists, in luck, although perhaps not precisely in love. The two collide, lab-coated. The result? Entanglement and that initial blessing: Filthy lucre. Crowded by equipment and Bunsen burners, he

…accidentally bumped her beaker
which led to a chemical reaction
on the floor. And it was the greatest discovery
in the field of chemistry ever, and the world
benefited from this discovery and named it
after them, and they won the much coveted
chemistry prize, and shared all the money
and grew rich overnight and stayed rich overnight
for many many nights.

Hostovsky is too canny to let the hapless couple thrive and thus come to ruin. They save themselves. Readers might sigh, always wanting those Happily-Ever-Afters. Still, no one will be disappointed in this little gem’s nifty, righteous ending!

Burnside Review: The Whiskey Edition offers memorable work. In “Pour More Whiskey In A Glass,” by Alberto Rios, the final words are so perfect. Dorianne Laux transfixes her rapt audience in “Fog,” and Paul Lindholdt’s ethereal “Broncos In The Salon” ends with brilliant images, bittersweet and smooth to the last drop. Here’s to a generous helping of whiskey-soaked prose and poetry! Clasp this small book between your palms. Pray or meditate, or wait. Then turn the pages back, and call for a second round!

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