Photographer Carolee J. Friday’s “El Santuario de Chimayo,” at the center of the issue, a beautiful rustic stone church set against shadows that seem almost surreal they are so “hyper-real,” captures beautifully a true New Mexican sensibility. I find the issue’s artwork (photographs, paintings, a graphic story, illustrations), much of which has a decidedly Southwestern feel, especially appealing. Inspired by the region, too, are a short story from Bibi Deitz (“3rd Person, March”), a poem by Kathryne Lim (“Over the Taos Gorge”), and a poem by Michael G. Smith, who is also interviewed in this issue, “Late Autumn Poem, Winter Coming.”
My thanksgiving, an apple, a handful
of salted almonds, grey tuff mesa, sky.
Age-old ruts led me to this ledge to sit.
Below, abandoned corn and squash fields,
rock art on the walls above –
man, spiral, deer, tree, snake, little bird –
Place is of consequence in a number of other works in the issue, as well, including a poem by Dallas Huth, “North is at the Top of the Map,” another by Amorak Huey, “San Antonio,” and another by Joan Mitchell, “At the Ruins of St. Non’s Chapel.” These poems, like most of the work in the issue, reflect a preference for writing that is uncluttered, easily comprehended (though not glib), and fluid. There is a kind of easiness to the writing in this issue, by which I mean natural, not unformed.
The prose of SFLR tends to be edgier than its poetry, with more profanity, more sex, and more rough-and-tumble imagery. While Kenneth Weene’s “Memoirs From the Asylum,” his personal essay about a kind of young adult malaise in the ‘60s, was off putting on some levels (a certain grotesqueness in the language and imagery which may have been necessary, but which I found unsavory nonetheless), I was impressed with the essay’s pace and its conclusion: “Some of us land in the morgue, some of us land in the asylum, and some of us build our own asylums. It’s all the same. It is, in the end, all the same.” I wish he were wrong, frankly, though I know – which is why I am so moved by the essay – that he’s not.