This issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review is themed “The Grotesque.” It lives up to the name, especially the photographs which include strange human bodies, a bird turned inside-out, and a dog with recent knee surgery.
The writing as well as the photographs grabs the readers’ attention, the poetry being experimental in both content and form. My favorite prose poem – of which there are many – is Elizabeth Buckalew’s subtle and skillful “Appropriation” in which she puzzles why someone would steal a child’s kidney from an anatomy exhibit and why no one but her asks the thief why. I also enjoyed Christopher Watkins’ haikus, which are able to captivate the reader in only a few words.
HFR introduces current international poets to Americans in their international section, which was especially strong in this issue, featuring work by Russian, Polina Barskova; Bolivian,Vicky Allyon; Czech, Sylva Fischerova; and Bengali, Shamim Azad. Barskova’s poem, “Evening in Tsaskoe Selo,” masterfully captures the concerns of a critic verses the concerns of a poet (in this case, Anna Akhmatova):
of gossip, news from the front,
and his new article, while she
is worried by the horizon’s bent line,
the park bench growing into the ill oak,
and an unfinished line in a poem.
In fitting with the issue’s theme, some of the short stories have startling content, but the piece I like best is Urban White’s “Don’t Look Away” for the reflective narrator, who, by watching dog fights, is able to look at his life clearly and truly, the good as well as the bad.
Parts of this issue will shock you, but the grotesque – as in Flannery O’Connor’s famous tales – can sometimes open the way for necessary reflection.