From the unknown writer expecting a rejection letter, rather than a publication, to authors well-known to the New York Times—all meet together in Amoskeag. This collection of voices focuses on what Editor Michael J. Brien expresses as, “recollections and reconstructions of hazy, distant memories, and memories so fresh they scream to be captured before they begin to […] lose breath.”
Each story, poem and photograph reflects the power of human recollection, bringing to words not only captivating imagery but thought provoking philosophies. As a reader/writer who gravitates towards texts that explore the morbid topic of the unknown, I find that in this particular collection, even what is known is still a mystery. Only through the exploration of narrative and poetry can a person begin to know what it is they have experienced and can then anticipate how these experiences will shape them for the future to come. It is a comforting collection, in that it brings insight to the anxieties and tragedies which make us all human.
Our skip down memory lane begins with a fitting poem by Jodi L. Hottel entitled, “The Cage.” How trapping, no? Sometime later it is followed by Brad Johnson’s narrative, “Claire Wants Time” where one can discover that, “[w]hen thinking about life, the idea of death seems heavy. When thinking about death, it’s life that weighs you down.”
The tragic becomes the beautiful for Amanda Crowell Stiebel, the author of “Death’s Branches”:
My father, grandfather, aunt
Discussed options at the dinner table
While she excused herself
Loaded grandpa’s gun
Locked the bathroom door
And optioned out.
Poets like Paul Hostovsky lead us into the pains that trouble the living, such as the unorthodox complications of an open relationship, where a woman tells her wanting fiancé that “[t]he heart must remain open.” And narrative writers such as Jessica Day, bring to light the common nonexistent romantic relationship found between fan and musician in, “Sister-in-Law.” This provocative narrative easily became a favorite of mine, for I could identify with this experience and shared the sentiment: “there’s nothing more endearing than a vulnerable, charming, insane person…who can play the piano. You just want to cuddle them.”
Louis Berceli seems to answer the question that many of the writers in Amoskeag concern themselves with. If you want to know the answer read, “Le Petit Mort,” the SNHU Undergrad Prose contest winner. The title of the story itself should reveal how our biological needs are constantly egging us on to die daily in the arms of a lover, spouse, a one-night-stand—or even at the expense of our own hand.
I’d like to applaud the editor for encouraging the youth of our nation to publish their work. It is refreshing to see a journal extend itself to those who have not reached the college level yet. Unfortunately, a 5-year-old’s haiku about dead goldfish wasn’t published. However, pieces from high school students Raychel Rapazza and Emilie Vansant display an amazingly mature hold on language, and supplement the collection and its content. In fact, Amoskeag ends with Vansant’s poem “Simple Fragments.” She writes, “You don’t pose for memories,” a highly insightful line for a girl who has not yet endured the troubles of adult life.
While at first I had my doubts about the journal, after reading through every page, I learned not to judge a journal by its graphically simple cover. The black-and-white simplicity of the journal (both inside and out) takes away the distraction so that readers can immerse themselves into words colored by individualized experiences.