The Fall 2003 issue of Grain is their Short Grain Contest Winners issue, so along with a good selection of poetry and three stories, the table of contents lists winners of competitions in Postcard Stories, Prose Poems, Dramatic Monologues and Long Grain of Truth - the last category a well-named competition of creative nonfiction.
The contest winners—three in each category—are all fine, decent works, but more engaging is to read them as a whole: a panoramic view of four relatively obscure categories offering novel forms for the same wonderful old insights and top-of-the-head blowoffs. It speaks volumes for Grain that they’ve offered the most valuable commodity in the literary journal market—page space!—to such disparate endeavors, and that they pull it off with a coherent vision is tremendously encouraging.
The rest of the magazine, though, is heavily tilted toward poetry, and rightly so. Sue Sinclair, a poet living in Toledo with a book forthcoming this fall, has two poems that are as devastating as any I have read, with one of them simply too good not to quote entirely here with which to end this review:
Insomnia: fear of the empty boat
moored in the heart. Of the space
inside the world. Of the black
lining behind mirrors.
The moon is the stump of a tree,
no growth rings. Fear of disappearance,
your own. Fear of looking over your shoulder
at no past.
The vanity that sends us
into the world to speak our names
is the one
that keeps us up at night
listening for echoes.
If you close your eyes
the world will cease. The stars don’t
reassure you. Fear them too.