Number six of the Ampersand Review is one packed with loads (and I mean loads; this thing is practically a monster) of juicy fiction and chomp-able poetry. It even has a couple of nonfiction selections that are beyond readable. I have recently been getting into nonfiction perhaps even more than fiction, and the reads in this issue certainly shuffle me along the same path.
The poetry in this issue is often very language-focused, which I love. Here is a portion of Ryan Holden's “Florence 1883 CE”:
puppet carved of wood
only a child is allowed a name
& yet a tragedy in the hardness
of heart—an insect's death
can something so clumsy
be the reflection & open path
The economy of language in Holden's poem and the many other poems in the issue are what draw me to them. Simple, beautiful, and few in number—the poems are enjoyable. Here's another, which I think is both true and full of great imagery—“Starbucks Poets” by Michael Marks:
Starbucks poets sans pens sans paper
regenerate lines to order
pigeons picking finer fare
respite from alley gusts
militant order of nonconformity
a latte away from epiphany
Yes! And, although I have been known to spend some time in the local coffee shop on my laptop sans pen and paper, I totally get this and love the invitation in the poem to join in poking fun at these types of poets. It takes one to know one, right? Right.
The fiction, which takes up the bulk of the issue, is also strong. The pieces are also not too long, which I find to be a common problem in these types of thick 'zines: they try to cram too much into each issue, not taking into account the speed or endurance of the average reader. The pieces of fiction in this issue are just the right length on average: enough to keep the reader going without feeling too bogged down by the length of any one story.
Here's a sampling—the very beginning, actually—of a story by Jon Lasser called (and I love this title) “Every Girl on the Bus I've Ever Looked at the Wrong Way, I'm Sorry”: “The pneumatic hiss of the bus door woke me. I had dreamed of war, plumed bronze helmets, men unscabbarding swords as they clambered over half-built stone walls like angry ants. I blinked; echoes of clashing iron in the squealing brakes, sounding trumpets in the bleating horns.”
Lasser has a phenomenal sense of poetic language and flow throughout his story, much like this wonderful opening paragraph. The sounds all relate and the reader can definitely hear them through this description.
The very first story in the issue exemplifies the entirety of the issue. It's a quirky piece by Kyle Moreno called “Stuck in a Bottle,” in which a man is physically stuck inside an enormous glass bottle in the middle of a field. The story is made up of letters he scribbles before tossing them out the opening of the bottle. Here is an example of one of the goofy letters:
If you found a note from Stacey Miller saying she had been kidnapped and brought to a field near the Union Valley Reservoir, that was actually from me. I thought people might respond faster if they thought a twenty-two-year-old girl was in trouble, instead of a middle-aged divorcé stuck in a bottle. Either way, send help.
This issue of Ampersand Review is much like this story—quirky, enjoyable, and a quick read. The language-focus is there, which is often overlooked, and makes it that much stronger.