Is Bob Hicok stalking me? His name appears in the TOC of nearly every journal I’ve reviewed for so long now that I no longer remember what is was like to read a magazine without encountering a Hicok poem. Not that I’m complaining. Who would dare complain about an opening like this one to “Perhaps an entry somewhere in a book”:
There is a night under every one
of these stones. It could be a hundred
years old, a thousand. I used to toss them
into the future, making refugees
of shapes while thinking of words
as river crossings.
The TOC features a number of other well-known names, including Laura Kasischke, Michael Burkard (also the journal’s advisory editor), B.H. Fairchild, Eleni Sikelianos, and David Shields (interviewed by Anthony Antoniadis), among others.
This issue also includes Michael Agresta’s beautifully composed story “DREAMHOMES,” winner of the 2009 Calvino Prize; a number of marvelous full-page illustrations designed to accompany the literary texts, highly appealing artwork about which I would like to have seen fuller contributors’ information; two interviews; a special section featuring the reproduction of the handwritten versions of the originals of several pieces in the issue; a series of striking digital images by Carlo Van De Roer, “Blinded by the Light”; Burkard’s “Drawings,” a collage-like set of color drawings interspersed with text; and “Authoritative Discoveries,” what the editors call an anonymous survey of the issue’s contributors, which reveals the following: 17 percent of respondents earn less than $10K annually and the same percentage checks email 11-15 times daily.
Kalya Blatchley lets us know in an interview with Christine Schutt, author of two novels and two collections of short stories, why Schutt’s work has received such recognition as nominations for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize – she is a talented storyteller. I have not read her work, but I certainly will now. Julian Zadorozny’s story “Upper Volta” is a deftly composed and disturbing story about that African region. Patrick Lawler’s flash fiction, “At One of My Father’s Funerals, I Was Humphrey Bogart,” is as moving and original as the title suggests (“At one of my father’s funerals, my mother inconsolably danced”). And Kasischke’s poem “Mary, in May,” is finely etched:
The birds full of delicate bones
so easily crushed.
The violets, like bruises spilled
at the shady edge of the lawn.
these surprising scurrying things when we
roll away the log
like sacrifices in our names
we had no idea were being made.
The editors describe this issue as much like Syracuse, NY, where the journal is published: “a book of both darkness and celebration. We find harmony in these contradictions, and beauty in both.” And I am inclined to agree.