Home » Newpages Blog » THE CLIFFS “soundings” – Spring 2006

THE CLIFFS “soundings” – Spring 2006

I love unassuming journals: those thinner, saddle-stitched endeavors with so few people working behind the scenes, I can count them on one hand. Some border on zine rather than lit mag, and it can be a hard call. With this publication, there is no question that this publication is right up there with much larger-staffed literary endeavors. With full-color throughout – photos, artwork, page design – this “little” publication is a huge feast for the eyes. As plagues fine art reproductions, however, there are some issues with resolution that I wish could be resolved, rather than holding the image at an arm’s length to limit the blur. The written works, poetry and fiction, are not to be held at arm’s length, but brought into close range. Not one piece in here I didn’t like for at least a line or stanza or image or feeling it dragged into me and out of me.

I love unassuming journals: those thinner, saddle-stitched endeavors with so few people working behind the scenes, I can count them on one hand. Some border on zine rather than lit mag, and it can be a hard call. With this publication, there is no question that this publication is right up there with much larger-staffed literary endeavors. With full-color throughout – photos, artwork, page design – this “little” publication is a huge feast for the eyes. As plagues fine art reproductions, however, there are some issues with resolution that I wish could be resolved, rather than holding the image at an arm’s length to limit the blur. The written works, poetry and fiction, are not to be held at arm’s length, but brought into close range. Not one piece in here I didn’t like for at least a line or stanza or image or feeling it dragged into me and out of me.

Based out of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there is some sense of place in a few of the works, but the rest branch out into wide vistas, relating to war, politics, personal memory, sense of place within the self. Ralph Murre’s “In a Name” was one of my favorites: “The ones who don’t know / which weeds you can eat; / who think fish should be caught and released” speaking to the kind of differences rural poverty creates among children/families – a poverty so little understood in urban mindsets of poverty. “Poem for a Friend in Prison” is hard-hitting in its accusations and concessions: “The old man down on / Market Street / the one with no legs / and a skateboard / has more balls than the President / this is a bitch of a poem / not a bitching one,” just as is A.D. Winans’ “Fourth of July Poem” with its three-page litany of those to tell that “bullshit crap” of the “American scam” that “anyone / can be anything they want to be / if they put their minds to it” and ends on “rewrite the ten commandments / and start all over again.”

Gentler, kinder works? Certainly not in Robert Cooperman’s “The Sky at Dusk,” which seems a “sunset” poem, but of a different caliber, evident in its first stanza: “If the dusk weren’t / so alive with crimson / mares’ tails, I’d be tempted / to say the blood of all the dead in this idiot war / is smeared across the sky.” There is variety; Marie Kazalia’s “First paint a cage with an open door,” a strong Midwest winter place poem, Gerry Nicosia’s “Chicago Barroom Melody,” dances with lines like: “She wondered how much living he’d done; / He figured she’d done too
much
—-” Stories – only two, and only two pages each, Alan Catlin’s memoir excerpt, gritty and real enough to make you choke on the smell of a stale room reopened after the death of a parent, and Gary Beck’s condensed dialogue scene, “Social Agitation,” of a young boy’s interaction with union strikers and his own strike against his parent. More stories if space allowed would be nice. Definitely a runs-with-the-big-dogs journal. [www.vertinpress.com] –Denise Hill

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