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The Fiddlehead – Spring 2011

The spring issue of The Fiddlehead delivers stunning work, fiction and poetry thick with new approaches to classic forms. This issue also features the winners of The Fiddlehead’s 20th annual Literary Contest. The honorable mention in poetry caught my eye early in the issue, “At the Edge of Lake Simcoe” by Catherine Owen:

The spring issue of The Fiddlehead delivers stunning work, fiction and poetry thick with new approaches to classic forms. This issue also features the winners of The Fiddlehead’s 20th annual Literary Contest. The honorable mention in poetry caught my eye early in the issue, “At the Edge of Lake Simcoe” by Catherine Owen:

Shadflies skitter up from the grasses, those blades

that consume the sand, a fist of wings widening
above your head. Against the mulch, this meagre

neglect of beach, the dove’s fuchsia legs are such
glitz around its grieving that you feel relieved,

an instant, of the weight in all your cells.

If you happen to read Ms. Owen’s bio in the back of the issue, you’ll find that this piece is from a work in progress, Cineris, a manuscript about the death of her partner, to whom this poem is attributed. With this context in mind, “At the Edge of Lake Simcoe” becomes a grievous and gorgeous observation poem, ripe with small moments in nature: “a mourning dove lands with its low / triadic kel.” This poem is a great example of the caliber of poetry found in The Fiddlehead.

In fiction, “All the Body Can Tell” by Diana Swennes Smith stands out near the end of the issue. It’s a story of a girl, married too young to an older man, with a stepson closer to her age. It’s a story of isolation. It’s a story of small lives pulled out into greater importance. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read this year. The sexual tension between the young wife and her stepson carries the conflict:

He grilled the splayed fish on willow sticks over hot coals, and she took the charred body he offered, pulling the backbone and delicate ladder of ribs neatly away from the pink flesh and pulling the flesh in strips from its skin with her fingers. Kale sat across the fire from her, silent and eating. He looked at her, and she could smell the juices of the fish on her fingers and on him. She could smell the diesel on his coat. And under it, his skin. He threw the skeleton of his fish in the fire, random and careless, to lie atop the skeleton she had thrown, the bones of the two fish making a pattern of hatched crosses and canting squares.

Passages of description such as this one explore the mundane rural lives of the story’s three characters. The loneliness felt throughout the piece reminds me of Annie Proulx in the very best way. And the simple, classic tensions between the characters feel familiar but fresh. An achingly beautiful story in a steel-strong issue. The Fiddlhead continues its long tradition of excellence.
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