While I’ll admit that the three poems from Anne Barngrover are what initially drew me into this issue, there was so much more to keep me there. The whole issue of Contrary is filled with pieces containing delightfully juicy details, taut images, and unique ideas.
“Lovers, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” by Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a story, written in second person point of view, about one man’s last evening alive. It is written in fragments, each one scattered with interesting details and images to keep the reader moving through the piece. For example:
You arrive at the party in a metallic pea-green painted coffin, with hideous vinyl wood siding. You arrive in the same clothes as this afternoon, with a six-pack of Budweiser. The Californian girl is inside, warming herself by the fondue pot, looking snow-tanned and Scandinavian. Her forest green turtleneck fits her like a second skin. You could get used to this.
And Becca Rose Hall’s “The History of Us” is all about the details: the way the characters drink coffee from salsa jars, the reason they cooked dinner without clothes on (“because things like that could be done”), the lime green and neon yellow rooms, and the avocados. Yet amongst all these different details, the main character still feels lost, and, as readers, we wander with her throughout this story:
There were mornings she woke, knowing what she needed to do. There were long aching afternoons, where there was not even the clear sense of breathing. Youth was meant to change things. Youth was a weight: it must be flung wisely. But she was always so full of that oceanic blue.
On the bed, in the room full of houseplants, people curled like a mass of puppies. Slowly, they stroked each other’s arms, shoulders, legs. Their clothes were worn and sloppy. She entered the mass. She went in willingly. Still she was lonely. She had not, like them, breathed the nitrous. Their minds were foreign to her. She suspended herself into them, as if to understand.
Of Anne Barngrover’s poetry, my favorite was “Porch-Drinking Under the Light of the Supermoon.” While seemingly innocent at the start, the poem warps into one filled with tough ideas and emotions:
do we track the pulse of strength or fear?
What lights are an illusion? What lights can
gutter or flare? More than anything, I don’t
want to be afraid to say I love you. . . .
In addition to the great writing, Contrary is a great magazine to read online because of its simple style and design, pairing images alongside easy-to-read text with a navigable side bar. This issue makes me want to dig through the archives and keep a tab on it for future endeavors.