After only seconds on the site, what immediately drew me in was the scrolling images of art by Trent Manning—who works with mixed media and recycled materials—and Jon Rodriguez. In an interview with Rodriguez, the Tampa Review Online asks about the inspiration behind his “seemingly tragic” characters, to which he replies “Each character has their own distinct traits that reflect different aspects that mirror where I’m currently at in life. Some are hopeful and some are tragic. These characters act as a way to share a deep truth about myself, in hopes of helping people see a truth in them.” And this is certainly true for writers as well as we pick up on our own lives and emotions to inspire our work.
In the fiction piece “Lake Beulah,” Anthony Roesch plays on the reader’s visual senses, creating scenes and characters that feel very real. His writing comes to life through small details that are distributed throughout the story. For example, the grandmother of one of the characters is seen as “Her hands on her hips, a broken smile, her upper dentures ran above her chin like a fence rail. . . . A portion of her white bra had shown from a gap in her dress caused by a skipped button.”
In the story, the boys find a silver box in the lake and are eager to discover what could be inside; could it perhaps change their daily life? But upon discovering that it is filled with only wet sand, “thick and gooey as brown turds,” the narrator wishes he were the one to pull it out of the lake: “On one hand I’d felt relief, on the other, anger—and if I’d jumped in, at least I could’ve felt its weight, experiencing the excitement of pulling the box out of the water. A boy’s dream can race through his mind in seconds flat, like a rapid current of electricity or burst of wind, and yet, be taken away in a single breath.”
Elisabeth Lanser-Rose contributes a nonfiction piece titled “Shark Night,” in which she goes on a humorously written first date, understanding that “The art of dating is the search for the one native prince in a nation of cane toads.” Throughout the date, she tries to convince herself that the attraction will come, but after an encounter with a cottonmouth snake—in which she is the brave one, and her date tells her to get away from it—she discovers that she doesn’t need someone else to take care of her after all.
Shortly after the incident with the snake, her date tells her about how he was born with two adult sets of teeth. Sitting there, she thinks, “That was the life I wanted, hikes in the Rockies with politicians and pretty goats and a grateful man who made it all happen, a man who relished this life as much as I did, the same way I did. Yet all I could think was the last time I saw a mouth like that, Sigourney Weaver shot it with a grappling gun.”
I was encouraged to read through the different sections, read previously published work. In poetry, “News People” by Joanne M. Clarkson imagines the life of a newspaper and the stories and people described in it as newspapers travel from hand to hand or are left in the garage “where they are swept / and crumpled”:
Skin made of newspaper: black on
white with patches of war, murder,
weather and empty crossword
boxes. They stand
face forward with legs spread, verbs
for eyes, seeing the
doing, and curved dark
tears. The Daily.
And there is plenty more to enjoy including Kelly Magee’s “Pedestal,” Jill Stukenberg’s “Train,” and Joey Poole’s “Instinct in the Absence of Thought.” Definitely take some time to sit down and read Tampa Review Online as the writing is solid, truthful, and entertaining.