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Isthmus - Fall/Winter 2014

  • Image: Image
  • Issue Number: Number 2
  • Published Date: Fall/Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual
Isthmus is a biannual publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry out of Seattle, Washington. All of the contributors to the 2014 Fall/Winter issue are well-published established writers who have created a commendable body of work, both individually and, here, collectively. At 100 pages, the journal makes for a compact and easy experience, readily providing many moments of enjoyment.

Particularly entertaining are the four fiction pieces. I don’t know when I last read so many interesting pieces all in one journal. Heather Slomski’s “A Fulfilling Life” and Andrew Ladd’s “Pia” remind me of the traditional styles of authors we’ve enjoyed for years, and of particular note are “The Beekeeper” and “For You.” Helen Phillips’s short piece “The Beekeeper” is science fiction, a nice surprise (though as a fan of science fiction, perhaps I’m biased). The phrasing and flow have a poetic ring, another good aspect of the piece. The pace and imagery carry readers forward, prompting wonder as to the next scene. The narrator provides a first person understanding, so both the narrator and reader are appropriately confused as to what comes next.
“I do not know,” I say. [. . .] Unlike her, I have not been to The Zoological. I do not know what a spider is, not really, nor a rat, nor a snake, nor a frog, nor a bee. In the city we do not have such exotic creatures.
Similarly, Ray Morrison’s “For You” is delightful in its light humor and realistic insight. A series of fan letters to Bruce Springsteen echo reality and all of those late night crime series to provide both a laugh and a shake of the head:
Hi Bruce,
You probably thought I’d forgotten about you, it’s been so long since I wrote. Things here have been a little hectic. Since my last letter, Ronnie has passed away. It’s eerie (sort of), considering what I wrote in my last letter, but Ronnie actually did die in a car crash. Seems there was a small leak in the brake line and all the fluid drained out. . .

The nonfiction pieces of Sarah Robinson, Anna Redsand, and M Dressler provide an alternative set of readings that are particularly impressive; the nonfiction is the portion I’m most likely to return to again. Robinson’s “The House is the Mother’s Body” is an architect’s view of who we are by how we live. Well, an architect, yes, but a philosopher as well. This piece is for the well-read and the thoughtful:

The ritual collapses the public and the domestic, blurs the distinction between inside and outside. This co-mingling of the ordinary and the human with the public and the perfect affirms the continuity between our individual and our collective selves. Securing our protection involves exposing our own, most vulnerable (and unconsciously) venerated private world. It is as if we are extending the nurturing capacity of our interior world beyond its borders. Domestication is an act of reverence.

Some of the poetry at times seems localized, but all of the pieces capture readily identifiable moment, such as F. Daniel Rzicznek’s “Bluegrass Island”:

Oaks on one side of the river,
Oaks on the other.
Wind through the brick factory,
grass soldiering on.
Little gray dog nesting
where a deer endured dreaming.

Or if it’s Daryl Muranaka’s “Night Shift”:

At the Center and sometimes a few stops down,
we pick up men, loud and boisterous,
a collection of languages blending together
yelling into cell phones or across the aisle.
Their laughter filled with the glee you get
when you’re just off work and heading home.
And I simmer in the morose meditation of one leaving,
moving away from the warmth of you and bed.
The scent of you still on my hands.
It’s unusual to find so many well published artists in one collection, and I’m glad the editors of Isthmus can do it. This edition can easily move readers to find and read more works by each of the featured authors.
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Review Posted on March 16, 2015

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