In its sixteenth issue, Natural Bridge features a special section “in response to women’s writing.” The “general” pages feature poems such as Paul Hostovsky’s “People in Pediatric Oncology,” Rachel Hadas’s “The Middle Way,” and Andrew Sage’s “Paradise.” Each introduce their subject while illuminating it, tasks that seem just as vital in works explicitly responding to a text or writer. Natural Bridge’s most effective responses do this double duty.
In “Tilt-A-Whirl,” Tamara L. Pavich transplants Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” to Nebraska, casting an adulterous graduate student as her anti-heroine. NewPages Contributing Writer Lisa K. Buchanan’s “May Day” adapts the provincial fascism of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to a repressive gathering of charter school parents. Pavich and Buchanan respond by transposing plots and updating times, while other contributors draw inspiration from the biographies of Emily Dickinson, Sonia Sanchez, Ruth Stone, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. There’s range here, too; responses to Millay included A.E. Stallings’s playful rhymes and Liz Robbins’ erotic “Love of Mine,” which ends: “your desire’s really mine on loan, / as in your eyes I see myself grow wet, / thus ready to lure myself into the sack / (your want of me’s the aphrodisiac.)”
Then there’s the composed chaos of “Disorder,” Jesse Dwyer’s quirky, provocative memoir about living with ADHD. His essay clearly proves his claim that “a wandering brain is still a thinking one.” Interestingly, the most inviting and elucidating works share Dwyer’s formal playfulness. Barbara Crooker’s coy “Knitting” mimics unraveling yarn, Rebecca Ellis’s “Grasshopper,” follows (perhaps) the insect’s final flight. Helen Eisen’s “untitled continuation” punctuates the special section with a hopeful ellipse: “the flaw in this dream / rose from the memory / of an older dream,” as if suggesting that response itself is necessarily a work in progress. [www.umsl.edu/~natural/]