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Fifth Wednesday Journal – Spring 2009

“Defining literature. In real context.” is how Fifth Wednesday describes itself, making smart use of the multiple layers of meaning these terms evoke (I especially like “defining,” which works grammatical overtime). That said, I’m not sure what this actually does mean. What I do know, thanks to publisher Vern Miller’s Editor’s Notes, is that each issue is guest edited (fiction editor this issue is J.C. Hallman and poetry editor is Nina Corwin); in this fourth issue the journal has now added a section of book reviews; and the magazine feels “obligated” to bring readers some new voices in literature. Alongside these emerging voices, Issue 4 also includes a poem by the incredibly prolific and popular novelist and poet Marge Piercy and award-winning poet Arielle Greenberg. An interview with Greenberg opens the issue.

“Defining literature. In real context.” is how Fifth Wednesday describes itself, making smart use of the multiple layers of meaning these terms evoke (I especially like “defining,” which works grammatical overtime). That said, I’m not sure what this actually does mean. What I do know, thanks to publisher Vern Miller’s Editor’s Notes, is that each issue is guest edited (fiction editor this issue is J.C. Hallman and poetry editor is Nina Corwin); in this fourth issue the journal has now added a section of book reviews; and the magazine feels “obligated” to bring readers some new voices in literature. Alongside these emerging voices, Issue 4 also includes a poem by the incredibly prolific and popular novelist and poet Marge Piercy and award-winning poet Arielle Greenberg. An interview with Greenberg opens the issue.

Greenberg’s poems often straddle the space between buoyancy and restraint, and she admits in the interview with John Bradley to a decided preference for the use of humor in poetry. I would say that her work sometimes comes across as sly rather than funny.

“In the Pod House, Morren Fruits & Vegetables Farm,” while not humorous or sly, is typical of Greenberg’s work and her ability to convert a seemingly ordinary image into a personal epiphany:

that treefinger nodded at me all night long
against the fast of the moon in wane
and one star was my star
my hip joints opened as wide as they were supposed to
the screen door unlatched, singing on its hinge
and the night came in the gaps, came in, came over, came in

While much of the poetry in the issue is similar to Greenberg’s, quite a number of the works of fiction are less “real” (I am borrowing the word from the magazine’s self definition), with imagined, surreal, or fantastic elements. These include Michael Minassian’s story about a meeting with physicist Stephen Hawking in the supermarket; Edie Meidav’s parable “Kingdom of the Young”; and Henry Ronan-Daniell’s stream of consciousness style portrait of the changing landscape of “Alabama,” which may be intended as an essay, not fiction, or even as a prose poem. Works in the magazine are not identified by genre.

The middle of the issue features 13 black and white photographs by eight photographers in a section titled “Impressions.” Work by Leigh Wells, in particular, is stunning. Sharply observed and impeccably reproduced images that evoke stark landscapes and even starker emotions, the best of which is “Transamerican Picnic.” The interplay of snow, light, shadow, an electrical grid/tower, and a Transamerica truck parked under a warehouse evokes the loneliness of a deep winter night in a single glance.
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