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The Ledge – Summer/Fall 2011

The latest issue of The Ledge is dense. Not hard to get through, not incomprehensible; I mean actually dense. At just over 300 pages, it’s their longest issue to date. And while it’s certainly understandable (and often enjoyable) that most literary journals break up their included works with artwork, book reviews, etc., sometimes it’s nice to just read pages and pages and pages of fiction and poetry. Especially when the pieces are as stylistically varied and well-written as those in The Ledge.

The latest issue of The Ledge is dense. Not hard to get through, not incomprehensible; I mean actually dense. At just over 300 pages, it’s their longest issue to date. And while it’s certainly understandable (and often enjoyable) that most literary journals break up their included works with artwork, book reviews, etc., sometimes it’s nice to just read pages and pages and pages of fiction and poetry. Especially when the pieces are as stylistically varied and well-written as those in The Ledge.

It may seem that such a full collection would lack cohesion, but that’s not the case. Many of the pieces revolve around corporeal elements, bodily details that shape each story. In “Shared Water” by Clare Beams, the tense female relationships are explored through the tie that binds each of the women together: synchronized swimming. Their individual personalities are reflected in what they physically can or can’t do together in the water, seen when the narrator, Kate, says of her partner, “I held myself still so Marla could try to match me, which was a familiar feeling […] Marla was good—quick and strong—but too impatient to be anything but a little sloppy. I was careful and precise, and my mother had been teaching me these moves before Marla knew what synchronized swimming was, and all of that mattered.” Harry Humes’s “A Deep Place” finds meaning in a dolphin skull that the narrator brings home from the beach, impressed by “the way / wind sounded through the large brain cavity, / not a moaning or wailing as you might have expected, / but the clear sweet song of a deep place.”

Meanwhile, in the poem “Bone Loss,” Kate Hovey explores the deterioration of the human body and pleads:

Flesh sags,
organs fail, but bones—O let them endure,
let them hold us together to the end and beyond
that they may be licked clean and weathered
to white crystal, their messages scribed
in the fossil record: dependable,
immutable, oracular.

While violence, death, and decay are prevalent throughout the magazine, several poems serve as breaks from the heavier themes that might otherwise become a bit overwhelming if strung together. “Landscape with Bats” by Claire Keyes is a beautifully detailed description of Castle Valley, Utah and the narrator’s place within it. Christina Olson’s “Wordplay” is enjoyable and funny while still a little sad, relating a couple’s quiet bond made of words—specifically, crossword puzzles: “There’s / no way I love you / fits in that small / white house.” The narrator says: “Look at it: eight letters. / Look at all the room / it takes up / on the goddamn page.”

“Love Song for the Nutria,” which won author Jennifer Perrine Second Prize in The Ledge’s 2009 Poetry Awards, admits compassionate acceptance for an animal commonly considered annoying:

I’ve watched your children, buoyant
    on the boat of your back, infants

plucking the nipples that ridge your spine,
    and imagined armies of you in lines

rising from the water like mammatus
    clouds in reverse,

Other notable pieces include Kate Reuther’s “History Alive” (which won Second Prize in the magazine’s 2009 Fiction Awards), Leslie Anne Mcilroy’s “Red Racket,” Philip Dacey’s “The Spiel” (First Prize in the 2009 Poetry category), and Debra Marquart’s “Cell.” Overall, the pieces in this issue keep you enthralled, thanks in part to those darker themes that have always captivated the human mind. As Rebecca Foust says—and says best—in her poem, “Some Other Mother”: “There’s meaning / in meat enough / to feed a family of four / for two weeks.”
[www.theledgemagazine.com]

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