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The Massachusetts Review – 2008

I like the juxtapositions in this issue of MR. On the left hand side of the page is Karen Kevorkian’s poem, “Crowded Rooms,” with lines as lyrically wrought as “the white coned / datura whose tissue cup / I lifted and there / it would be rankly sweet / in a starving time,” and on the facing page Fancine Witte’s sudden fiction, “The Way the Vase Got Broken”: “Was the cat. First, he did his little purr thing, followed by his sinewy arch thing. This was all topped off by his jump thing and then that, was just that.”

I like the juxtapositions in this issue of MR. On the left hand side of the page is Karen Kevorkian’s poem, “Crowded Rooms,” with lines as lyrically wrought as “the white coned / datura whose tissue cup / I lifted and there / it would be rankly sweet / in a starving time,” and on the facing page Fancine Witte’s sudden fiction, “The Way the Vase Got Broken”: “Was the cat. First, he did his little purr thing, followed by his sinewy arch thing. This was all topped off by his jump thing and then that, was just that.”

Midway through the journal are reproductions of Barry Moser’s ultra-serious, quite formal, and sophisticated wood and relief engravings of poets and authors, and a mere twenty pages later Mike Antosia’s quirky story “The Last King of China” begins, “I never believed you only loved lettuce. You should go with a guy that can offer you more than produce.” The issue begins, improbably enough, with J. Weintraub’s fabulous first line from the story “Mr. Vesey Comes to Work”: “Although he had died the previous morning, Mr. Vesey decided to go to work anyway.” And the issue closes with the words “far, far away” from the story “Africa under Her Skin” by Jeffrey Drayer: “But she didn’t answer. Her mind seemed to be somewhere else far, far away.”

These juxtapositions and contradictions are accompanied by other equally appealing and surprising contributions. There’s a brief one-man play by Julian Olf, “(People Almost Always Smell Good in the Art Museum)” – the parenthesis are, happily, part of the title – and a short story by Sean Casey, “The Contents of this Shoe Box are Greater than the Worth of Your Life,” which is one of the most explicitly political pieces in the journal. Michael Carolan’s beautifully crafted essay, “Breaking Point: The Search for a Postwar Grandfather,” moves back and forth in time exploring the relationship between the trauma of earlier generations and his own. It’s hard to imagine that pieces which vary this widely in tone and intention (or what I imagine to be their intention) could work together inside of one perfect binding, but they do – perfectly.
[http://www.massreview.org/]

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