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Nimrod International Journal - Fall/Winter 2011

  • Issue Number: Volume 55 Number 1
  • Published Date: Fall/Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

In "Mothman's Guide to the Here & Hereafter" Mark Wagenaar says, "All language is survival.” "All language is the revelation of our essence." This 33rd prize issue of Nimrod cries out yes! yes! look here! in affirmation of Wagenaar's lines. Every year, Nimrod awards the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry; Amy Bloom and Linda Pastan were the 2011 judges for these respective prizes, and the results are breathtaking. Even the non-prizewinners are winners, offering evidence of our survival beyond time, in language that sings the essence of temporal humanness. A few examples:

Michael Garriga's "Fiesta de Semana Santa" takes place on Easter Sunday, March 29, 1891, the last day of legal bullfighting in San Antonio, Texas as seen through the eyes of three participants—Sue?o de Fuego (translates as Dream of Fire), age 5, weighing 584 kilos, the great death-dealing bull of the day; Ignacio Lopez y Avaloz, age 31, weighing 64 kilos, the famed matador from Spain who confronts the bull; and Jose "Pepe" Hernandez, age 33, weighing 61 kilos, the matador's sword-bearer. The bull's section is sound-heavy, the way a bull's thoughts might reverberate, dignified but furiously alliterative and consonant. The matador echoes the bull's rhythms and repetitions, stamping and stroking the toreador's dance of striving; and the final section is a brilliant synthesis of triumph and victory, as only the "witness" lives past this day, the ultimate vengeance his. What a time that must have been!

Shashi Bhat's short story "Another Dinner Party" is a soft lament for a dead husband, a grief-filled attempt to move forward in time although Shilpa, the protagonist, can hardly bear what time has done to her.

Similarly, Barbara A. Fischer's "Prodigals" captures a family returning to a homeland they rejected long ago, only to find, inevitably, that some of them belong after all. In all of these deliciously perfect prose pieces, the tension between past and present is as palpable as any character, essential as any action to the story's impact.

I must also remark on the elegantly-placed black and white photography. Nimrod's website assures us that “Visual art has always been a valued complement to the written work”; see, notably, “From Shadowed: Unheard Voices.” Joell Hallowell and Meg Withers "distributed a packet of seventy found photographs of women dating from the late 1800s to 1950" to twenty-seven poets. The poets wrote in response. The eight excerpts reveal moments of humanity whispered from and through time. Again, breathtaking.

Now for the prizewinners. It's tempting to quote from Suzanne Cleary's delightful second-place poem, "Italian Made Simple”: "Mario loves / the word eccetera, which he figures / will save him lots of time.” How easy it would be to catalog the titles of the prizewinning poems and stories, write again the words "revelatory" and "wonderful," and finish with eccetera! But I must do a little more.

Sultana Banulescu's story "Beggars and Thieves,” is a re-creation of the Bucharest earthquake of March 4, 1977. It earns its first prize, giving the reader distinctly-drawn, unique characters caught in their own mini-apocalypse when the tremors begin. The second-place winner, Kellie Wells' "In the Hatred of a Minute," is clearly the impetus for the choice of theme, since in it Time and God duke it out.

My favorite, probably because my own parents have gone through the difficult aging process described herein, is Stephen Taylor's Honorable Mention, "Jolly Old England." I love the three characters here—the narrator, none too young himself; his aged father, whose memory is fading; and a spectacular young waitress, who elevates them both with her kindness and respect. Time ravages us. But good will—and good writing—redeem us, every time. Thanks to this issue of Nimrod for reminding us of this so well.

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Review Posted on February 14, 2012

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