CALYX was established by four women in 1976 to explore the creative genius that women contribute to literature and art. The publication prints three issues per volume in the winter and summer. It presents a wide range of poetry, short stories, artwork, and book reviews. Its mission is to “nurture women’s creativity by publishing fine literature and art by women.” CALYX is known for discovering and publishing new writers and artists or those early in their careers; among them Julia Alvarez, Molly Gloss, and Eleanor Wilner. The publication delivers high quality work to all audiences. By 2005, CALYX had published over 3,800 writers and artists.
The cover art of the latest issue was what drew me to pick it up. A group of young girls stands amidst a busy line of outdoor shops. The girls have different looks and attire, and wear expressions that suggest their curiosity for one another. The photograph works well with the mission of the magazine because it suggests that these little women could one day be writers or artists.
A main theme in the fiction and poetry pieces in this volume is women’s roles in familial situations. “Daughters, Bathe Your Mothers” by Lilace Mellin Guignard was one poem that I particularly enjoyed. The scene is of a daughter bathing her elderly mother. The narrator reflects on her childhood memories of her mother and understands why her mother raised her the way she did. A few of the most powerful lines read: “And if it’s difficult to make your hands / move over her body like they do your own, / remind yourself this was your body before you had one, / and soon yours will be all that’s left of them both.” How true those words are, that before a child has a body, they share their mother’s body. The detail indicates the debt children have to their mothers for giving them life, and Guignard reminds readers that someday they will have to repay that debt.
“Maria Makes Out” by Kathryn Kirkpatrick is also an incredibly powerful poem. It is about a woman undergoing reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy. The narrator expresses extreme elation just to wake up and feel her breasts again. She becomes even happier in expectation of the next surgery when she will be given nipples. She wants to do all the things that she felt that she could not do without them. She excitedly remembers: “But I woke up, put my hands / on my chest, and oh my, I felt like // a woman again.” It is sad to think that a double mastectomy can make someone feel as if they are not a woman anymore. The narrator thinks of Ramon leaving her and tears herself down for not having breasts by saying, “Who would want // me like that?” I could have argued with the narrator’s point of view all day, but Kirkpatrick portrays a reality that many women believe in.
“Moment” by Carol L. Gloor explores the swiftness of death and its ability to strike with no warning. The narrator in this piece was at an office Christmas party when receiving the call about hers/his mother’s passing. The final line caught my eye as the narrator thinks, “And in one swift moment all my past acts / become irrevocable.” There is a strong sense of guilt that makes this piece stand out. Instead of making up for misdeeds, the narrator was at an office party drinking scotch. When we imagine others as being healthier than they are, we think that we have more time to make up for past wrongdoings, but sometimes it does not turn out that way. Gloor does an amazing job highlighting this fact.
These three pieces convey compelling messages that are emotionally engaging and provide readers a cause for reflection on their personal lives. Stirring the spectrum of emotion is one of the traits that make a piece memorable and this edition of the magazine does a thorough job of it. These pieces are impressive examples of the fine literature and art by women that the magazine’s mission speaks of.