If The Paris Review is your worldly college roommate who unselfconsciously regales you with travel stories from “the continent,” Eleven Eleven is the cool kid in your creative writing class who refused to follow rules or obey the professor. The journal is produced by the California College of the Arts, possibly the reason that the editors strike an interesting balance between poetry, prose and visual art.
The center of the issue features an eight-page color insert that reproduces some interesting pieces. Charles Browning’s two oil paintings are particularly provocative, confronting the viewer’s understanding of some of the dark facets of American history. Vanessa Hernández Gracia’s three black-and-white photographs of three very different places manage to tell one narrative if the viewer thinks about them as a whole.
The poetry and prose tend toward the abstract and surreal, but Kaya Oakes manages to do even more work with a slightly more conventional palette of ideas. Her poem, “Intervention,” is an imaginative meditation on the permanence of relationships we think are temporary: “Between the conversations, / the conversations never cease.”
Richie Smith’s short story, “A Uterine Transfer (For America),” is shorter than the subject matter demands; the male pregnancy in the piece is experienced in fast-forward. While the story has some flaws, Smith writes with enough verve to keep the reader interested.
In “Snow Angels,” Jotham Burrello creates a compelling setting for a compelling character. One can almost hear the snow falling on the New England streets and smell the misplaced-hope smell of the tavern in which we meet the protagonist. This establishment of the milieu propels the reader as the plot unfurls.