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"Mixed Drinks" by Brenda Miller & Julie Marie Wade

“Mixed Drinks” in Zone 3 Spring 2019 is one of many collaborative works by Brenda Miller and Julie Marie Wade, erasing their cross country divide to create a memoir which blends (no pun intended) a list of drinks with associated memories from childhood (Shirley Temple) through adolescence (Bloody Mary), college years (Old Fashioned) to adulthood (Cosmopolitan). Recipes included.

Told in the second person, each vignette contains vivid pop culture details of the time, relatable to many, as well as a conflicting set of feelings the speaker must overcome – between what is expected by others, what is expected of ourselves, and what we are able to finally experience and deliver. “You know that the beer and the hamburger will provide you at least five minutes of purpose in this bar where you don’t belong, and that you’ll walk home afterward in the dwindling light of autumn, along the river, to your sparsely furnished studio apartment, where you’ll feel both lonely and relieved.”

The end of the piece didn't feel finished, but rather the start of something larger, yet unattached. This might seem a fault if it didn’t at the same time feel so polished. An interview with the two writers cleared this up. Wade comments on their collaborative style, “We don’t really know what’s going to happen or emerge, in terms of the content or the final form, until we reach an ending – and even these endings feel more like stopping points or plateaus in our momentum rather than definitive conclusions.”

For more on collaborative writing, including another by Miller and Wade, Jet Fuel Review #17 (Spring 2019) features a Collaborative Works Special Section: “These selections embody the magic that arises out of collaboration and the bringing together of separate voices and identities to craft a singular, resonant body of work.”

Review by Denise Hill

'Something Like the End' by Ashley Morrow Hermsmeier

Ashley Morrow Hermsmeier dedicates Something Like the End—winner of the Fall 2017 Black River Chapbook Competition—to “the strange and lonely,” appropriate when the characters of her six-story chapbook are living lives that are just that: a bit strange and a bit lonely.

A woman prepares for an oncoming plague-like wave of bees, and, alone, faces that there are other things to be cautious of in the end of days; a city experiences an unending earthquake; a woman drawn to a mysterious stray cat can’t help thinking about her ex; a woman buries and reburies zombified past versions of herself that keep showing up at her door, versions that died so she could keep living; a futuristic assisted suicide is advertised, its five simple steps outlined for interested parties; and a beauty and beast couple can’t stop dancing as the world ends around them.

While short, each piece manages to push the boundaries of what’s expected. Love stories are surrounded by ruin, break-up stories are haunted by feral animals and zombies, and in each piece, we see the complex ways in which we interact with other humans, or how we interact with the earth that is rapidly changing around us.

Morrow Hermsmeier’s work in this chapbook is imaginative and arresting as it offers solidarity to the strange, lonely reader.

Review by Katy Haas


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