With a splendid cornucopia of colors and textures on the large, glossy front cover, and many gorgeous full pages of voluptuous art and photography within, The Briar Cliff Review could be a splendid coffee-table book. However, with the quality literature inside, it proves it is something more. The art is spectacular – twenty-two works from oil or acrylic to graphite, sculpture, even archival inkjet. Thirteen photographs are equally spectacular and eclectic – the issue is a feast for the eyes.
The writing is a delicatessen for the mind. War is the theme, since the U.SA. is involved in one. Linda Johnson’s incisive, biting “Sitting in the Rain: A Memoir” is about a marriage at war, war, and the scars it leaves: “The most disturbing photo is that of mother, smiling – a child wearing a Nazi arm band stitched onto her little coat, standing at the train station in Vienna.”
This review traditionally includes some focus on the Sioux, since Briar Cliff University resides in Sioux City, Iowa. From Sioux land comes “Trauma” by David Paulsrud, memoirs of a retired orthopedic surgeon whose career at Walter Reed Hospital spanned the Vietnam War through many vivid battle scenes in the ER. Flashbacks that haunt him give the reader a rich look one is rarely privileged to see. “Burning” by Siobhan Fallon, delves gloomily into the enigma of a soldier’s homecoming as he finds things have changed – the ambiguous consequences of being either a war hero, or an absentee husband.
The poetry is modern and very in synch with nature. “The Bath Tub of the Wife” by Tana Jean Welch is warm and percolating with color: “My bones crack as I squat my body into the V / of the water between her legs. It’s lukewarm / but her skin is pleasure” – an ode to aging, unconditional love. This is not just a coffee-table book. This is an experience.