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Michigan Quarterly Review – Summer 2011

The dignified beauty of the vast Great Lakes region is often outshone by the bright lights of Broadway and the high-wattage glow of Hollywood. This issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, subtitled “Love Song and Lament,” contains poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction that will immerse the reader in the quiet dignity of the area and the people who call it home.

The dignified beauty of the vast Great Lakes region is often outshone by the bright lights of Broadway and the high-wattage glow of Hollywood. This issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, subtitled “Love Song and Lament,” contains poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction that will immerse the reader in the quiet dignity of the area and the people who call it home.

Nature writer Jerry Dennis contributed two essays that provide the reader with historical context and interesting cultural analysis. In “Winter Comes to the Keweenaw,” Dennis describes a trip to the Upper Peninsula that he shared with several friends. A “land of boreal forest and tamarack bogs bounded by the rocky shores of three of the five Great Lakes,” the Upper Peninsula is one of the most sparsely populated places in the eastern third of the United States. Dennis and his friends visit a gift shop named “The Last Place on Earth” and reflect upon the special qualities of the “Yukon of Michigan.”

The Great Lakes and their massive reserve of fresh water facilitate the region’s diverse ecosystem. In “Big Water, Little Water,” Anna Vodicka reminds the reader that natives understand that geology is a double-edged sword. Winter brings in the tourist dollars, but also brings the snow that blankets the pristine landscapes, concealing their dangers. Vodicka’s piece is a requiem for her friend Sam, whose death in an iced-over lake added him to regional mythology. After all, as Vodicka points out, Jenny Webber Lake got its name for a reason.

Fans of poetry in translation will enjoy a pair of poems in the original Anishinaabemowin (or Ojibwe). The language was (and still is) spoken by groups of Native Americans from New York to Montana. Margaret Noori’s poems remind the reader of the real importance of these places. Preserving the memory of the pre-colonial Great Lakes isn’t merely a feel-good environmental necessity. As Noori points out in “A Poem for the Children of the Great Lakes,” people, their language and their home are inextricably linked: “we will forget ourselves / when we no longer hear the big waters.”
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