Potomac Review is a publication of the Paul Peck Humanities Institute at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. It’s not suburban Washington D.C., where the college is located, however, that graces this issue’s cover, but an exquisite black and white photograph of “Scotland’s Royal Mile,” by Roger Fritts. The street scene is viewed through a window behind a desk. The window’s divided light imposes its grid on a table of objects (drawing and scientific tools), the geometry of the buildings in the distance reflected in the instruments on the table.
Stupendous black and white photos of far-flung places by Jon Donnell, Inna Stair, and another by Roger Fritts are also featured in this issue. Jessica Snow’s “Chess Pieces” on the back cover, a perfect close-up of what appears to be a heavy crystal chess piece, provides a viewing experience of a different kind entirely. There isn’t a photo here I wouldn’t wish to see framed in my own living room, and in much the same way, I am happy to place this issue of Potomac Review on my bookshelves.
I was charmed by Sarah Domet’s story, “The McDoogle Family Home,” which begins:
Reenie McDoogle grows sick of the tour in week three. She’s done it thirteen times that weekend already, and now with the new group crookedly single-filing up her front lawn, this will be the fourteenth. It has started as a good idea, she thinks; she thought – opening her home so the public could see the inner-workings of a true American family.
Of course, thinking that one’s life and domicile could represent a true anything, let alone American family, is a recipe for mayhem at best, and disaster at worst. I won’t tell you which is closer to Domet’s version of “true American family life,” but it’s a true American story.
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives and family histories and futures are played out, too, in Jane Hoogestraat’s poem “For Daniel, Leaving Yale.” The distinction between Daniel’s present life at Yale, now ending, and his home, a place where “the combine grinds grain like brass” is cleverly drawn only through the relationship of the poem’s title to its body. There are no descriptions of Daniel, of Yale, or of Daniel at Yale. Yale is mentioned only in the title. Instead, the poem tells versions of his father’s homecomings and of the parts of these stories Daniel once liked, moving back and forth in time so that the homecomings merge into one. This was a successful and engaging strategy that turned the poem from merely an expression of sentimental personal longing into a well-shaped poem.
Two short essays about islands (one by Sue Eisenfeld, the other by Anne Wilson Gregory), which appear in the Table of Contents in a section titled “River Journeys,” managed to capture, at once, both the large and more focused view of this issue’s photographs, and the personal element of the Review’s short fiction, as well.