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Monkeybicycle – 2010

Monkeybicycle’s cover for this issue seduced me with its sleek matte finish of an image of red smoke over a white background. It was a pleasure to just hold the journal, and I couldn’t wait to see under the covers. The interior layout is conventional but easy to read, and I’m very thankful the editors didn’t try to do something fancy with the table of contents; they keep it simple and clean. The real beauty of this issue isn’t the cover or the layout, though. It’s in the stories and poems.

Monkeybicycle’s cover for this issue seduced me with its sleek matte finish of an image of red smoke over a white background. It was a pleasure to just hold the journal, and I couldn’t wait to see under the covers. The interior layout is conventional but easy to read, and I’m very thankful the editors didn’t try to do something fancy with the table of contents; they keep it simple and clean. The real beauty of this issue isn’t the cover or the layout, though. It’s in the stories and poems.

The prose can be a little rough, but perhaps more interesting for it. For example, Elizabeth Alexander’s short story “On Anzio Beach” begins with the central character talking to herself, and although this is a little confusing in spots, I got used to it. In fact, this becomes rather charming after a couple of pages, and really drew me into the story, even when I did have to reread it to clarify some points. It is a surprisingly fun story too, with a dog that speaks French, smokes, and is the reincarnation of a family friend.

Another interesting story is Roxane Gay’s “The Weight of Water.” Gay uses the curious image of a hard-working woman named Bianca who is surrounded by water. The first line is great (and the first of many great lines), “Water and its damages followed Bianca.” Short, complicated, and a bit tragic, “The Weight of Water” does a lot in just a few pages.

I appreciate the poems in this issue, but I have difficulty with poems that play with the space on the page a bit too much, and this issue contained several. I like to read, not assemble puzzles, at least not at the same time. Still, on a purely word level (and if I placed them into more conventional lines in my head), Rita Dahl’s “Letter for a young poet” has some great lines. “Walked with deliberate / steps to the café’s cashier” has some nice alliteration at the beginning and end, and I enjoy the final lines of the poem’s first page:

with a modest cup in her hand steams
nobody remembers the most important thing
walk
well-formed legs of a
woman

even as I dislike that last line break a little.

Still, despite any small quirks, I’ll read the next issue of Monkeybicycle when it comes out. The magazine may have hooked me with that sexy cover, but it was the companionship I found with it, lazing around at home on a Sunday afternoon listening to the rain, that made me want to keep it on my bookshelf.
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