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The Fiddlehead – Autumn 2010

This issue opens with a moving tribute to and a series of poems by widely published poet and former Fiddlehead editor Bill Bauer (1932-2010). Bauer was a Maine native and long-time resident of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, where the journal is published. It’s hard not to tear up on reading his first title here, “If I Don’t Tell You, No One Else Will; or, How Lucky You Are To Have Your Whole Lives Before You.” Lucky, too, to have a journal as pleasurable—and as enduring, the journal is in its sixty-fifth year—as Fiddlehead. Bauer is joined by 25 accomplished poets and fiction writers and a half-dozen smart book reviewers. This issue’s cover, too, deserves mention, a beautiful muted watercolor of seashells in a silver bowl by Fredericton native Andrew Henderson.

This issue opens with a moving tribute to and a series of poems by widely published poet and former Fiddlehead editor Bill Bauer (1932-2010). Bauer was a Maine native and long-time resident of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, where the journal is published. It’s hard not to tear up on reading his first title here, “If I Don’t Tell You, No One Else Will; or, How Lucky You Are To Have Your Whole Lives Before You.” Lucky, too, to have a journal as pleasurable—and as enduring, the journal is in its sixty-fifth year—as Fiddlehead. Bauer is joined by 25 accomplished poets and fiction writers and a half-dozen smart book reviewers. This issue’s cover, too, deserves mention, a beautiful muted watercolor of seashells in a silver bowl by Fredericton native Andrew Henderson.

There isn’t a piece in the issue I wouldn’t recommend, so I’ll concentrate here on a few favorites, which include Jane Silcott’s fine story, “Fallen Apples,” about the surprise encounter between a woman and the young man she recognizes as the son she gave up as a baby: “She wanted to tell him to tone it down. He shouldn’t flirt with people old enough to be his mother. She was his mother, for God’s sake.” The prose is compelling, managing to evoke strong emotion, while exhibiting just enough control to keep the emotion from getting in the way of smart timing. Stories by Erika Van Winden (“A Feature about My Face”) about grappling with cancer and Kevin A. Couture (“Lemonade Free”) about grappling with alcoholism are also deftly composed and satisfying reading.

I was impressed with poems by Aislinn Hunter, in particular, “To Begin Properly We Must First Admit the Mantle of History,” which begins:

And so, one day, the world begins.
A vastness so eternal, there are not enough letters or words or days to
name it.
When we speak, it becomes small: the speck of our concentration.

Little fish brains, hearts slick as minnows.
How some animals express more with the flick of a tail.

I appreciated also Jan Conn’s “Years in a Leaky Boat” (“Now the field of the dark poem ripples”) and excerpts from “Chase Sequence” by Stewart Cole (“Born to learn not to navigate, / but to be drawn, pulled toward the ever-magnetic north / of forward, the vanishing slit in the morrow.”) And I was moved as much by Bauer’s poems as by the news of his death. In “Landscape as Time” (from his 1978 book The Terrible Words), the poet, describing a stone, concludes:

It has neither grown nor diminished much in all of its
plausible history nor has it a mind to tell the truth simply
it is grey it is lonesome it is mindless it is unlovely smoke
comes and goes on the mountain

The chance is minute but it is yet a chance that it could
be picked up and carried in a small boy’s pocket all the way to
the sea but even if that were to happen it would be of little
consequence

How compelling, how beautifully composed, how sharp and smart—and much, indeed, of consequence—you’ll find between the covers of Fiddlehead.
[www.thefiddlehead.ca]

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