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upstreet – 2009

Upstreet’s fifth annual issue contains over two-hundred pages of stories, poems, creative nonfiction essays, and a very entertaining and insightful interview with Robin Hemley by Vivian Dorsel.

Upstreet’s fifth annual issue contains over two-hundred pages of stories, poems, creative nonfiction essays, and a very entertaining and insightful interview with Robin Hemley by Vivian Dorsel.

It’s a good thing when my two favorite stories in this journal are 1) the first published story by an author and 2) metafiction, because 1) good emerging writers deserve to be recognized, and 2) I need to learn to like some metafiction. I liked 1) Sarah Dozor’s “So Logically, in Aluminum Foil” because it portrays, without sentimentality, someone who is depressed. “No one wants to be alone for its own sake,” the narrator observes. “We want to be alone the way people in movies are alone, an observed and self-aware kind of alone. Truly alone says nothing about ourselves, when there is no one there to tell.” This is a good quote, but the character who elucidates the quote is even better.

I liked 2) Kevin Grauke’s “Out Here in the Fields (Again)” for many reasons, but meta-fictionally, because the author draws attention to why readers empathize with a character. Does a character have to be a victim of some kind to deserve our sympathy or can we empathize with a jerk? At the end, the narrator tries to draw the reader back into his story after admitting that he’s possibly less-than-likable: “In other words, no matter how it started, in the end, I was still just this schmo missing baskets in a dead friend’s older brother’s driveway, in the total fucking dark.” I also enjoyed Rebeca Antoine’s “New Haven Line” because I thought, through excellent characterization, it rose above many stories about affairs.

Noteworthy poems include Marilyn Hacker’s “Paragraphs for Hayden,” Alan Feldman’s “On the Water,” and Rachel Hadas’s “Joe’s Pond.” Many of the poems are plainspoken, and they often include a narrative. My favorite nonfiction piece was Chris Gordon’s “You Were Always on My Mind.” In only one page, Gordon tells so much about his estranged relationship with his son, and he tells it very well.

This upstreet issue is long in its page numbers and versatile in its scope. It includes fresh talent (ie. Dozor) and old favorites (ie. Hemley). The journal deserves to be supported, and this issue deserves to be read.
[www.upstreet-mag.org/]

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