The art features open the magazine. Alex Nodopaka’s work is made up of mirrored images of women combined with shapes, lines, and colors, creating something dark but appealing. The urban and architectural art of Andre Kan draws viewers in with dripping colors and stark lines. Paintings by Amoxes, a series of four portraits, showcase rich colors and women smoking cigars. They range from sultry (“The Breath of Life”) to hard (“The Santeria Woman”) but the colors remain lush in each one. Amoxes addresses the inspiration behind the portraits:
Smoking Cigars for me goes beyond just smoking a pack of leaves; it's a ritual. Music is also an important part of life as I never paint without it; I like to make the fusion between the two as it brings me into another level of inspiration.Editor April Michelle Bratten does a great job of selecting art that not just opens the issue well, but also chooses aptly when it comes to the images paired with each poem.
The poetry section starts off strong. Rhiannon Thorne’s “The Departure” kicks it off. Beginning: “Mama, your daughter is dripping down the side of the world, dissipating slowly,” readers are immersed in the speaker’s dissipation, “caught somewhere between, slipping through myself. I dreamt [. . .]” Louis Staeble’s “Radiate” is the accompanying photograph; its muted tones and texture pair nicely with the atmosphere of Thorne’s poem.
With a completely different mood than Thorne’s piece, Al Ortolani in “Fox on Greenway Lane” recounts the release of a trapped fox back into the wild. The scene is familiar even if the street names maybe aren’t: “Will he / lope back to 87th Street to hunt the parking lot / behind the Baptist Church?” Wondering if the fox will leave the safety of the woods to return to the city, the speaker admits having a narrow view of wilderness. Despite learning the skills to survive in nature, he argues there’s a different kind of wilderness found away from the forest:
[. . .] The foxAn enjoyable aspect of this issue of Up the Staircase Quarterly is the variety of writing. Toward the end, literary historian Kim Roberts helps prove this with her poem “E Pluribus Unum,” an ode to George Washington. I didn’t know I had an interest in historical poetry until reading Roberts’s ode, but it helps that the poem effortlessly rolls off the tongue, making it a fun one to read through a few times.
trots east toward Greenway, worrying passage
along the creek bed, toward the cul-de-sacs
and drainage pipes—where he steals dog food,
skulks trash trucks, leaps a wilderness of chain link.
Also included in this issue is poetry by Rob Cook, Pui Ying Wong, Alisa Golden, Eden Shulman, Annemarie O’Connell, Benjamin DeVos, Noah Kucij, Tim Peeler and erin wilson, paired with art by Maureen Alsop, Dave Petraglia, Jim and Alex Ross, and Ira Joel Haber. Between the distinct voices and styles each writer brings to the table and the flashes of color the artists provide, this issue is hardly a dull read.
Bratten interviews Erin Elizabeth Smith, president and managing editor of Sundress Publications. Smith speaks of the beginning and growth of Sundress Publications, and The Sundress Academy for the Arts, which offers residencies at Firefly Farms in Knoxville, Tennessee. Book reviews of The Blood of a Tourist; Snow White, When No One Was Looking; Clatter; Northbound; and Queen of the Platform end this well-rounded issue.
I know I’ll be checking in next month for the new issue. In the meantime, readers should also browse the Best of 2014 highlight. Editors and writers provide lists of their favorite literary moments of 2014, a collection I’m still enjoying making my way through.