Time Magazine once labeled The Southern Review as “superior to any other journal in the English language.” The latest edition published on the campus of the Louisiana State University lives up to the high standards that their readers love and have come to expect since the magazine’s inception in 1935. You will not regret reading this cover to cover.
The Summer 2015 issue pays homage to the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and features three writers who use the lens of the storm’s impact on their own work to make sense of the devastation that wrecked the Gulf Region and whose aftermath still lingers. Playwright John Biguenet’s essay: “From Rage to Page to Stage to Rage” captures the process he went through while writing his award-winning play, Rising Water, and the inspiration behind the moments used to showcase the turmoil and damage that people endured. From sitting in an attic with rising water below to researching literature’s archives for works that speak to mass destructions of cities, Biguenet aims to share his inner thoughts about navigating that time period. This section of work offers unique perspectives of a storm that wrecked so many lives and landmarks.
Of poetry, Ralph Black’s “Garland of Bears” stuck out to me. It is a playful piece, and its design allows us to visualize the images created within the nine separate sections. Black takes the late poet, Hayden Curruth’s quote on writing about nothing except bears to a new level and has some fun with it. The old, poet bear is memorable and these scenes will surely live with you and come to mind when you think or see the big beasts in the future.
This installment also contains two poems from Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Stephen Dunn. “The Revolt of the Turtles” is a somewhat comical and lighthearted poem on the surface, but contains undertones of political and societal commentary as the turtles conspire to overthrow the current power dynamics holding them down. His poems invite readers to look beyond the page and participate in absorbing the words on a deeper level.
My favorite piece is a story titled: “Swimming Lessons” by Lara Prescott. The Southern Review prides themselves on discovering emerging writers and new voices, and they have done just that here. Prescott’s tale is about a father and daughter waiting for the call to be smuggled across the border. By the end you feel like you know these characters in and out and that’s a testament to the way the author made them complex and created investment where we root for things to go well. The impending trip north constantly hangs over their heads and becomes a factor in the characters’ motivation and the way things unfold. This is Prescott’s first publication and she will surely be a name we see in journals for time to come.
The summer issue provides an enjoyable reading experience and I strongly recommend you pick it up. The material The Southern Review publishes is full of substance, and the reflections of Katrina only increase its reach.