Midwest African American Literature may seem to set a narrow focus for this publication, but in Reverie, writing to or of the socio-cultural African American experience runs like an undercurrent throughout the broad expanse of the literature. That its authors need only be somehow related to the Midwest does not limit the content, but rather helps to further create a sense of unity and connection.
This issue is slim, but packs some powerful writing. The poetry of Alan King plays observer to the relationships between people and their communications with one another: “she’s a Venus-flytrap ready / to snap him for flying too close” (“Template”). Dike Okoro poem “night” plays with language to create sensory images: “feeble groves pulsate / with labor // as the crickets quicken in chorus turning / into directions for the grassless air.” Qiana Towns’s poem “The Behest of a Fading Diva (for Uncle Vincent)” is both humorous and sad: “Don’t let them hurt over me, lingering and snotting like school girls recollecting old love,” while “Extrapolation: Winter 1998” recounts what should have been a simple stalled-car experience, and what could have been something so much worse: “The officer’s smile chills at the sight of my hue.”
Felecia Studstill’s story “March Madness” is a gently explored reunion between ex-lovers – that somewhat awkward, still painful, but necessary getting together. I read this with heavy sighs and nods of, “Yep, that’s how it goes.” The (I’m guessing) creative nonfiction piece by Brian Gilmore, “The Last Stand of Adolphus ‘Doc’ Cheatham” was a finely woven tribute of biography of the music legend and Gilmore’s experience seeing his final performance.
Debraha Watson’s essay “Writing through the Pain” is a condensed piece which relates her own coming to writing during an abusive past, and how she, like writers Alice Walker and Maya Angelou, are able to write through their trauma and share with others – regardless of some thinking it should not be written. She ends her essay: “We must use our pain and anxiety as an energy source and have courage to keep on writing…” Watson’s essay presented the greatest flaw in the publication in editing – a few errors I can handle – but this particular piece was so riddled with them, it became distracting to read. For Reverie to continue to build a name for itself, its behind-the-scenes work is going to have to come up to the standard of its own content.
The journal ends on the strongest piece in the collection, and on a positive for editing work, the order of the works was well arranged. Clarence Young’s story “Expletive Deleted” is one of the most powerful pieces of war experience I have read. It has absolutely gotten inside the head of young soldiers in a way that should cause no one to ask “How could they do that?” A prime example of how literature is political, with this a top-of-the-lungs cry to end and never begin another war.