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Tulane Review – Spring 2011

Published twice a year, the Tulane Review is a student-run literary and art journal published by the Tulane Literary Society, which claims on its website to be the “hub of all literary activity” on the Tulane University campus in New Orleans. Nestled in the uptown section of the Crescent City, near where the Mississippi River snakes so tightly it nearly doubles back on itself, Tulane University is itself a hub of literary activity. The works of the forty-seven writers and artists published in this edition are like the intermingling effluents of the hundreds of rivers and tributaries that stream together in the Mississippi River.

Published twice a year, the Tulane Review is a student-run literary and art journal published by the Tulane Literary Society, which claims on its website to be the “hub of all literary activity” on the Tulane University campus in New Orleans. Nestled in the uptown section of the Crescent City, near where the Mississippi River snakes so tightly it nearly doubles back on itself, Tulane University is itself a hub of literary activity. The works of the forty-seven writers and artists published in this edition are like the intermingling effluents of the hundreds of rivers and tributaries that stream together in the Mississippi River.

In the first piece, “The Soldier,” Brady Rhoades makes the case that war is the killer of dreams. He presents to the reader a young soldier on Seal Beach whose thoughts wander to his divorce and the tumbling stocks on Wall Street, while “The caterwauls of two wars echo in his ears.” The soldier imagines himself planting a “nut tree some time, some place” and resting beneath it “with a woman from Venezuela.” But the ruminations of the duty-bound young man give way: “For now, let thoughts come and go like the breeze. In the vortex of / the fray, let peace, let anti-war, burrow like a clam.”

Jennifer Blair, in her poem “(for J. Who drove North. Many times.),” pulls readers into the familiarity of small towns where everything, no matter how personal and private, is for sale.

In wake of the shadow, small towns
prostitute themselves—unwillingly
laying out their small privacies (arrow head
soup ladle and cameo broach)
under the painful scrutiny of glass.

For Blair, the landscape of the small towns is one that has been made desolate by “…the perpetual / motion of the claws” that tear away the sides of hills. In the end, small towns such as these are left with an odd sort of mysticism in the form of a pancake on the griddle begins to take the “first shape of a name.”

The editors of Tulane Review deserve credit for including two poems, “Death Notice” and “Letter to My Victim,” by Ace Boggess, an inmate in the West Virginia correctional system at the time of publication. His poetry has been widely published, and he has written at least two books. At first glance, his poem, “Letter to My Victim,” is an apology:

I’m deeply sorry
in you I saw nothing
human, just a door
through which
Hell is exited…

We can only guess at the exact nature of Boggess’s crime, but images such as a dead black snake and a bloody knife give us the clues we need to conclude that it was not petty. A deeper reading of the poem reveals an entirely different and perhaps more honest plea: Boggess wants the reader to understand he regrets his actions, which is more than can be said of his fellow inmates “who’ve never looked up / the Webster’s definition of regret.” His other poem, “Death Notice,” portrays a “copper” finding some measure of comfort in knowing that the obituaries in newspapers include only the “hometowns, survivors, litanies / of acts meaningless from the / context of history,” and say nothing about the misdeeds of the deceased.

With America as the setting in nearly every other piece in this edition of Tulane Review, Jeff Schiff’s poem, “They Beat Rugs Here,” stands out in its depiction of the mundane daily life of Valparaiso, Chile. Schiff creates a still life with an expert eye for the details that matter: domino players grease their hair back with “pomade” and their necks are drenched in sweat; the air is thick with the smell of diesel fuel; chickens, shrikes and pigeons “war for grubs”; and “laundry is sovereign” in the “dusty rouge” of the Valparaiso. However, lest the reader conclude that all is well in paradise, buried amongst the minute concrete details are two abstract references to an emotional current running just beneath the surface: “and lunch is envy / stewed with marrowed bones,“ he writes, “and love is distracted.”

This issue of Tulane Review is a satisfying read. Opening to any page is to be rewarded with a piece that stands on its own; taken as a whole, the reader will be carried away by a swirling current of images and voices. In New Orleans, where the Mississippi River reaches its final destinations, it’s as though the editors of Tulane Review have dipped their nets into the eddies and have collected the multi-colored narratives that drift downriver like leaves from the trees of other places.
[review.tulane.edu/]

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