A very Yale-Review-like issue of the Yale Review, which is to say that this is a journal for the serious-minded reader who appreciates scholarly essays of thoughtful analysis alongside her poetry, fiction, and personal essays. And if you’re looking for writers with an established track record and name recognition, Yale Review is always a good choice (Louis Auchincloss on Henry James; Arthur Kirsch on Auden; poems by Charles Wright, Carl Phillips, Daryl Hine, David Wagoner, Cynthia Zarin; fiction by Alice Hoffman…Alice Hoffman! [that was actually something of a surprise]), this is the journal for you.
Less predictable, equally worthwhile, are essays by Kenneth Gross on shadow puppet theater in Bali; another by Georgina Kleege on personal experiences of blindness; a provocative short story by Peter LaSalle, its subject boldly announced in the title “The Dealer’s Girlfriend”; and another by Anne Korkeakivi, “Ilunga,” perhaps because I had not seen her work before (she has published quite a bit, but less than most of the contributors).
I liked Korkeakivi’s story of a woman journalist in France very much. It is a refreshing departure from the family dramas that seem to occupy so much of the fiction territory these days. The prose is intelligent, and the story looks beyond narrow relationships and solipsistic musing to the larger world (the narrator’s encounter with immigrants from Africa). Kleege’s essay, too, is a highlight for me, a thoughtful presentation of her own experience in the context of the routines, objects, and technologies used by the non-blind and/or created for the blind. Kleege’s premise is that she can rely on her blindness (“it never lets me down”) while fixating on using the little sight she has inevitably turns out to cause difficulties. Her prose is unfussy and straightforward, beautifully paced.
Three poems by James Richardson are especially satisfying. Richardson composes lines that sound effortlessly casual and intensely poetic at the same time, verse with both a philosophical and emotional charge that is transparent on some levels, but not without lyrical reverberations. Here are excerpts from “Postmortem Georgic”:
If I die in June, the true end of our year,
exchange the storms for screens and summon the technician
to check the coolant pressure in the central air
before the dog days when the black drive wavers
and no bright metal can be touched, and then swap out the filters,
and now that our little grove of maple, oak and hickory
has shed into the gutters (O deeper than you imagine)
petals and dust and unfelt leaves, flush them out
lest thunderheads that build in the searing afternoon,
toppling, leave them weeping around you.
I will die in spring, this season I love least
of beginning all over, I of no patience,
when hope is a door left unlatched in a high wind
banging and banging itself to pieces.