Practice is a beautifully designed journal, an elegant compilation of literary (prose and verse) and visual work (photography, paintings, and graphics) that successfully mines the past and present. The creators preface their work as well as being prefaced themselves with that ever-present brief bio. Most artists and authors are presented through multiple or multi-part works.
This issue starts out strongly with the seven poems from Danika Myer’s “My Risky Undertaking.” Being a CSI fan, how could I resist this poem sequence inspired by the forensic science of accident reconstruction? Interestingly, several works take on the form of postcards: Christian Peet’s “Big American Trip,” in which an alien “deconstructs the language of road signs, the talk of people in gas stations and rest stop bathrooms, the radioed speeches of the US president and staff,” and Peter Koch’s excerpt from his Nature Morte, a portfolio of digital pigment prints crafted from historical photographs and the journals of Lewis and Clark.
There is a balance of more and/or less experimental poems, and unlike many reviews, Practice editors aren’t afraid to print long poems, like “Green-Wood” (riffs on the atomic history of Los Alamos, NM) by Alison Cobb, “A Letter from Lake M” (a meditation on Missoula, MT) by Brandon Shimoda, and “Record Player” (the poetic experience of the violent energy of mid-20th-century German politics) by Dieter M. Gräf. The latter begins: “in the record / player slum // bers, enter a man / drake, the pistol, // milksop, you / blew your ---.”
I had a great time deciphering the prose poem “Only More So,” by Tony Lopez, who assembled images of politics, language, cars, warfare, memory, humans in nature, and more into a collage. Like all successful collages, this one is unified throughout by its “colors” (tropes). Another work that begs to be deciphered is Emily Ginsburg’s series “Social Studies.” These idiosyncratic portraits of human dynamics recall images of the body, electronic schemata, comics, architecture, and model kits – making for a provocative “read.” And although Colette Calascione’s highly symbolic paintings are intriguing à la Hieronymus Bosch, and Shawn Records’s stark photos disquieting, my favorite visual works in this issue are Mary Daniel Hobson’s selections from the series “Bottle Dreams,” photographs of her past, bottled in mineral oil, as if they were scientific specimens. Overall, Practice is a specimen worth having and taking off the shelf often to study.