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Mid-American Review – Fall 2010

Arguably, there is a line between humanity and the supernatural. There is the world as we know it and there is that which is otherworldly. The latter may be interpreted as: God (in all his/her/its forms); Death; the Spirit; Magic. Regardless of what we choose to call it, our fascination with it is and always will be present. In the latest issue of the Mid-American Review, we see the line crossed and re-crossed. We see it buried in dust, painted over with vibrant colors, twisted, stretched, formed into something more like a circle, or a knot. Almost every piece acknowledges, to some degree or another, forces beyond character control.

Arguably, there is a line between humanity and the supernatural. There is the world as we know it and there is that which is otherworldly. The latter may be interpreted as: God (in all his/her/its forms); Death; the Spirit; Magic. Regardless of what we choose to call it, our fascination with it is and always will be present. In the latest issue of the Mid-American Review, we see the line crossed and re-crossed. We see it buried in dust, painted over with vibrant colors, twisted, stretched, formed into something more like a circle, or a knot. Almost every piece acknowledges, to some degree or another, forces beyond character control.

Gabe Durham’s “Another Village,” appearing early in the publication, beautifully illustrates the intersection of two powerful worlds. It’s a (sort of) re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood’s story in that it features the same main characters, but it focuses on the abstract mysticism hidden in the original. The girl—her name unimportant, “something with an ‘H,’”—is tricked and led away from her village of humans with questionable morals to one of wolves, who also unfortunately have questionable morals. Both groups are intensely ritualistic (sending eight-year-olds into the woods to “learn a little something,” dancing around fires, etc.), further amplifying the closeness of the body and spirit. The narrator, after explaining that the “personal quest” business petered out, offers a bit of wisdom regarding the human tendency to be drawn to, well, the other:

In the early days, when there was still negotiation to do, our ancestors dealt with the devil directly and, with his cooperation, drew up the necessary boundaries. We promised to visit his forest and he promised not to visit our village. This was how peace was made. But did our ancestors know of our delight, of how much we would look forward to those forest visitations? Did the devil?

Durham’s isn’t the only piece to make mention of Judeo-Christian religious ideas. Biblical references are scattered throughout the issue. We see them in Traci Brimhall’s poems, especially “Pilgrimage,” where the speaker muses,

We are faithful pilgrims
seeking your unfaithful hand, trying
to journey farther than our doubt,

to return to you the way all light
wants to return to fire rather than
travel from it.

Yael Schonfeld mentions Solomon’s famous baby-sharing suggestion in “Eggs into Olives.” Eliot Khalil Wilson’s “At Rainer Hunting Camp” depicts some friends rather gruesomely taking down angels. And Amy Newman discusses Saint Philomena in her untitled letter to the editor. The letter, regarding Newman’s work, actually serves as the work itself and uses the patron saint of lost causes to explore the acts of believing and forgetting: “Belief requires my sending my postage stamp crest and white vanes, agitations of my heart’s velocity, forcefully into the unseen, and there it all levitates, and nothing coming back.” It is a beautiful and charming plea for publication. (That particular piece, along with Wilson’s, Schonfeld’s, and several others, received Editors’ Choice status in the 2010 Fineline Competition. They’re all quite enjoyable.)

Cynthia Marie Hoffman’s feature “Now Whatever You Imagine Shall Be Conceived” offers a number of poems from her manuscript, Paper Doll Fetus. Hoffman internalizes magic with each of these poems, focusing on the “unknowableness” of pregnancy that fascinates her, the way that “a human body materializes another human being.” It leads to mesmerizing poetry, notably “One Child” and “The Stone in the Field Falls for the Goat’s Placenta.”

Also featured are translations of Spanish works by Olvido García Valdés and Robert Fernández Retamar, two works by the winners of the AWP Intro Journals Awards (“Why Burning Man Won’t Fix Your Shattered Self-Esteem” by Nicole Sheets is wonderful), and a “What We’re Reading” section at the end of the issue filled with reviews of contemporary works. On the cover is Nikkita Cohoon’s “The Smallest Things I Could Say,” an intriguing abstract mix of reds and yellows. But let’s be clear—nothing about this issue of Mid-American Review is small. These works expand beyond their pages.
[www.bgsu.edu/midamericanreview]

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