Grain: The Journal of Eclectic Writing is based out of Canada and prides itself on publishing challenging writing and art each quarter. This issue includes the winners of the 2011 Short Grain contest.
Zoey Peterson’s “Two Monsters,” which won third prize in fiction, was actually my favorite in the fiction category. The premise is a night when two monsters go to speak at a local university. Reading the piece, I begin to replace the “monsters” with politicians, leaders, and icons. But this isn’t just a work of fiction that centers on observation; the ending is a clear moment self-reflection and introspection:
In ten years, maybe twenty, we will wake up sick and sweaty and realize who we are. We will crouch naked on bathroom counters, twisting and craning to inspect unseen parts of our bodies. We will buy security systems and avoid friends we don’t like and be avoided by those we do. And when we dream, we will see scales that glisten, not glow. And we will fear that death is not enough.
It makes me think: Who am I? What am I doing, and what do I want? I truly believe that the best pieces of writing make you change focus and look inside at what’s going on in there.
Another piece of perspective is written by Changming Yuan, cleverly titled “Private Perspective.” The poem is told from the point of view of an older husband who has been with his wife for many years. At the beginning of their relationship, he mentions that they treated each other as equals. The second stanza carries the punch:
Now we are getting newly old
She begins to look down on me
Because I have been shrinking
In every conceivable way
She can perceive
The physical lines also shrink toward the end, which I thought was very clever. They start out as equals, but the husband begins shrinking in his wife’s eyes. It gives the reader the feeling that the love in their relationship is ebbing out.
Yuan also writes a poem titled: “30 Monolines.” The lines/stanzas are numbered making the reference to the title easy to follow, and each line serves as a nugget of advice or wisdom. For example: “4. However pitch-dark the entire night is, it can never turn a single snowflake black.” And “6. A house for sale is never a home, while a heart unoccupied is a hotel for rent.” Each line serves as its own complete stanza in the poem that the reader mulls over before pressing onward. The last line sums up the longstanding question of meaning and purpose: “Like a silkworm, I have contributed all my silk to the human world. If it does not care, why should I?” Yuan is very talented at invoking thought and making the reader ponder.
The reward for reading the magazine can be found in “Haiku Horoscopes” by Jonathan Ball. My favorite is the horoscope for Leo:
Your decision to
Donate your brain to science
Has set science back
The haiku form for horoscopes is a natural fit considering the length of horoscopes we read in the paper. It amazes me that all twelve horoscope haikus maintain a high quality of form while being packed with humor and sarcasm. This ended up being my favorite part of the magazine, and I want to give Ball a high five for his moment of genius. It proves that good writing does not have to be only one story or poem at a time.