I'm happy to report that there are some absolute gems in this issue of Calyx. I particularly enjoyed the fiction; many of the stories here feature strong, distinct voices and new approaches to common themes. Raima Evan's "Gittel and the Golden Carp" is a fish-out-of-water tale which presents us with a Polish-American immigrant who feels uneasy in her new country, but whose strange encounter with a talking carp from the butcher's helps her come to terms with it. Another sharp tale is Annie Weatherwax's “Eating Cake,” which features Missy, a young adult whose homosexual brother has been killed in a hate crime; in Missy's small town full of people intolerant of boys who meet other boys in the woods, sympathy is often laced with judgment. Missy is wry, she's smartmouthed, and she's almost moved to violent retaliation against a closed-minded church lady who insults her brother's memory. This is a perceptive look at lives left behind by murder, as well as an acknowledgment of the potential for rage and violence in all of us.
As for Calyx's poetry, I found myself a bit disappointed. The issue started off with a great bang, Gail Griffin's “War Stories.” This prize-winning poem is about the danger and violence inherent in father/son relationships in the Bible and in pagan myth: Abraham on the verge of sacrificing his adoring son Isaac; Jesus, the son of God, on the cross; Saturn eating his children as: “Their blood slides down his chin, / he crushes their bones to pulp, / sucks down their hearts and livers and / loves them, oh, man, oh, brother, how / he loves them.” This poem is juicy as hell, in both subject matter and wording; no other poem here comes close. Perhaps it's a deliberate contrast; many of this issue's subsequent poems are about mothers. Some of these poems seemed a bit soft, and I'd have liked to see more variety in tone. Surely there are daughters and mothers whose relationships are as fiery and complex as those of our famous men of myth and legend . . . right?