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Ruminate – Summer 2011

Get past any queasiness at this journal’s title right away and plunge into its rich substance. This five-year anniversary issue has a theme—feasting—and the poetry, nonfiction, book review and artwork appearing in the large-format fifty-six pages are well-chosen by the editors to cohere around this theme. Production values, including full-page four-color reproductions of artwork, are opulent. Only a classicist would object to the background grayscreen flourishes which adorn some of the pages, apparently chosen at random to be thus graced. The enormous pull-quotes, though, in the nonfiction pieces, are so huge that at a glance one might think they signal the beginning of a new story. Although the subtitle of the magazine is “chewing on life, faith and art,” the messages of faith in the various works, including the editor’s column, are generally subtle, causing nary a wince for this reader.

Get past any queasiness at this journal’s title right away and plunge into its rich substance. This five-year anniversary issue has a theme—feasting—and the poetry, nonfiction, book review and artwork appearing in the large-format fifty-six pages are well-chosen by the editors to cohere around this theme. Production values, including full-page four-color reproductions of artwork, are opulent. Only a classicist would object to the background grayscreen flourishes which adorn some of the pages, apparently chosen at random to be thus graced. The enormous pull-quotes, though, in the nonfiction pieces, are so huge that at a glance one might think they signal the beginning of a new story. Although the subtitle of the magazine is “chewing on life, faith and art,” the messages of faith in the various works, including the editor’s column, are generally subtle, causing nary a wince for this reader.

The editors selected this issue to launch the awarding of an annual prize for nonfiction, with the charter winners chosen by Al Haley of Abilene Christian University in Texas. The nonfiction prizewinner is Josh MacIvor-Andersen, for “Flexing, Texting, Flying,” and second place was awarded to A. J. Kandathil for “Van Gogh’s Parable.” Both winning works deal with the theme of depression; both could, were their authors to describe them differently, hold their own as short fiction. The third nonfiction piece in this issue is “Saving Waters,” by Patty Kirk of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Her short work, printed dramatically in reverse, with white type on black pages, and as heavy with images as any poem in the magazine, creates the indelible impression of a specific family’s domestic life centered on what happens in the kitchen. I’d like to taste the soup prepared by Kirk with the “pastel waters” she saves and freezes after simmering vegetables.

There is a leisurely, appealing quality to this issue that conjures the experience of feasting. The poetry, chosen for its apposite images, offers much more than thematic significance. There is a maturity of voice among the poets represented, an expansive, compassionately inclusive consciousness that accommodates all the images and experiences memorialized here. In “The Truth,” Jenn Blair writes:

I peeled potatoes
and if a bit of rough skin stuck
on mine, I did not flick it off
‘til I was done, and to me,
that was tenderness.

Joseph Heithaus’s sonnet to wine, “House Red,” opens with an homage to Homer: “How does the wind lift the goblet / of the wine dark sea?” The poet employs enjambment to good effect, concluding:

                     We drink a scarlet sea
with all its winds and tides, good blood
of a fallen god, the crazy,
stomping, crushing muck of a load

of grapes, a hurricane of bliss
come to the mouth, a cherry kiss.

The artwork in this issue is a feast for the eyes. Nicora Gangi contributes to the back cover a gorgeous pastel study of a copper cup, a spotted egg, and three egg-like rocks, reflected on a shiny surface; Laura Breukelman’s two paintings in equally soft tones, of people at table, adorn the front covers and set the scene for feasting. Candace Keller’s acrylic work provides contrast: her bright colors and the slightly disconcerting image of pallid chicken feet on a platter that holds a fish with what might be radicchio, expand the reader’s impression of what it means to feast.

The featured artist, Stefani Rossi, was the magazine’s visual art editor at the time this issue was published; but unless she begins to telecommute to Colorado, she no longer holds the post, since she has now joined the art faculty at Wabash College in Indiana. Her four pieces are conceptual and at the same time satisfyingly representational. She states that she has been fascinated by “the lingering evidence of habitual consumption,” which she construes as “an act of petition […] and an expression of devotion.” She offers pleasantly haunting images—oil paintings of scraps of crumpled paper on a dinner plate, empty wrappers in a valentine-shaped candy box, and crushed paper take-out coffee cups and lids; and a witty mixed media altar constructed from used coffee filters, gold leaf, and oil on velum. The soft tones of her pieces—even the red of the candy box is muted—harmonize with the Gangi and Breukelman works and form a counterpoint to the Keller.

This magazine acknowledges a substantial number of benefactors and friends. The editors and financial supporters of Ruminate can be pardonably proud of what they have wrought. I’ll grant them their title and wish them well as they ruminate through the next five years.
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