Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 49th Parallel Poetry Award judge, is not exaggerating when she calls the prize-winning poem “gorgeous” and “breathtaking.” Kaveh Bassiri’s “Invention of God” is divine. From Bassiri’s clever, lyrical tercets to Mardi Link’s experience of Tractor Supply as “a spiritual moment” in the essay “Chicken Trilogy,” this issue of Bellingham Review is about pure pleasure: that particular and spectacular pleasure of purely good reading.
The Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction appears in this issue, too (Lauren Smith Traore’s “Widow’s Tale,” chosen by Stephen Kuusisto). He summarizes the essay’s achievement as “writing [that] simultaneously delivers the twin Platonic rewards of instruction and artful language. This is an important essay.” And you know he’s right from the very first lines: “I do not want to hear this story, though I have asked the girl to tell it.” It’s the story of a trip to the writer’s husband’s homeland, Burkina Faso in Western Africa. And it is one of those must-read essays you never forget.
Ann Pancake, judge for the Tobias Wolff Award for fiction, describes Edward O’Connell’s “The Hunting Horn” as “ambitious and fully realized” and praises the author’s “sidestepping the expected move in favor of the illuminating one.” It’s a family story that avoids cliché’s and easy emotion.
Every poem, story, essay, and photograph in the issue could easily have been a prize winner. Ona Gritz’s short work of creative nonfiction, “On the Whole," short paragraphs (some as few as one sentence, others four or five sentences) divided by significant space that reflects the divided sense of self she experiences as someone with cerebral palsy. Erinn Batykefer’s ekphrastic poem “In O’Keefe’s From the Lake, No. 3” which creates its own painting. “Foreveritron,” an utterly original essay by Anisee-Marie Gross who ponders the meaning of eternity from a hardware store in Barbaroo, Wisconsin. Jesse L. Young’s solemn and splendid black and white photographs, “Rail & Leaves” (exactly that, a lonely curve of track rambling through bare trees) and “After Hours at the Market,” a study of light and shape as they convert empty space into an atmosphere of abundant feeling.
Brenda Miller concludes this issue’s Letter from the Editor by expressing the hope that this issue of the journal will help readers find inspiration for their own work. It would be impossible, I think, to close the cover on Bellingham Review, without feeling not only inspired, but grateful.