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Whiskey Island – 2010

Issue 58



C.J. Opperthauser

This issue of Whiskey Island is a good one. In fact, it inspired me to buy a subscription to the magazine. And I’m stingy, so that should tell you a lot.

This issue of Whiskey Island is a good one. In fact, it inspired me to buy a subscription to the magazine. And I’m stingy, so that should tell you a lot.

Having never read an issue of Whiskey Island before this one, I can’t say that this is any different from the normal aesthetic or tendencies of the magazine, but this issue shows a heavy bias toward poetry. And I’m very okay with that. Beautifully packed inside these pages of just over one-hundred, are great pieces of art, nonfiction, and reviews. The art is stunning and, I’ll admit, a bit perplexing, but a welcome break in the middle of one’s read. There’s a section of reviews in the back so the reader can keep him or herself busy after the magazine has run its course, though I’ll admit I went back and reread my favorite poems instead of hopping online to buy some more books.

And the poems. Oh, the poems. They are good here. Like the one titled “You don’t taste like anyone I know” by Simone Muench:

Try blessing the windows
of tilted houses. Try Chinese medicine.
Try Mickey Spillane, a pitcher
of sidecars or Alfred Hitchcock hour.

Try feeding the children.
There is too much fish in Norway,
your aunt says, drunk on
juniper’s jive-voiced fever.

The sounds and the beauty of the language here are enough to make me stop and repeat a line until I feel full of it. This is how many of the poems in this issue are. Another of my favorites, “Lake Erie Cars” by Daniel Bourne, is absolutely full of great imagery. And, being a product of the Rust Belt, it strikes home with me:

After a decade under water,
the pint job goes, the metal

opens up like skin.
The license plate rusted through.

Muddied numbers
like the markings on fish

must identify the species,
trace the name
of the drowned man inside.

There are poems in this issue that focus as much on jarring some emotion from the reader as they do making these beautiful sounds. One of them is called “A Clear Night in February” by David Starkey:

I crunch through the snow crust,
fleeing the warmth of our farmhouse.

Let him stew there inside on his rum
and life’s worth of disappointments.

I’m seventeen: four months to freedom.
Someone else can bury this corpse-to-be.

Through the window I see him glaring
at the TV, heavy-lidded and murderous.

I’m a sucker for poems about fathers, and man, does this pack a punch. What a powerful beginning. The reader can feel the crunching of the snow, and the verb choices are superb: a man stewing inside on rum and disappointments. The poem is a window into a sad life, if not two, and it’s strong.

The fiction in this issue is equally strong. The first line of a story by Susan Overcash Walker, titled “The Harvest Queen,” is perhaps one of the most interesting I’ve ever encountered: “We called her Prego, not because she was with child, but because when she showed up the first day of school her hair smelled of tomato and garlic.” Immediately, the reader has (or at least should have) a boatload of questions. And, in my humble opinion, anybody whose hair smells of tomato and garlic must have an interesting story to tell. And yes, the story is indeed interesting and enjoyable, as this first line might tell you.

Spread the word!