Before receiving my copy of Gargoyle 57, I had heard a lot about the magazine. I’d even ventured to their website a few times. When I actually received my copy, I had mixed feelings. Gargoyle 57 is gargantuan. It reaches nearly six-hundred pages. Unfortunately, due to its girth, I found it hard to invest myself into reading it cover-to-cover. The level of work inside also seems a bit unbalanced. Some pieces are great, while others don’t stand out. But putting aside my reservations about this issue, I did find some lovely work inside: “Dear Jimmy Connoll” by Patricia Smith, “Ye Ol’Fashioned Olfactory” by Alexander V. Bach, “Perfect, for You” by Susann Cokal, and “Jasper Owen Interview, 1957, Excerpt No. 6” by Benjamin C. Krause to name a few.
I especially enjoyed “Ye Ol’Fashioned Olfactory”:
I have teeth, and yes they are sharp. And yes there are prosthetics too; they help me to smile and light my way through the dark. I show these prosthetics to women on the street who blush. They think of my teeth on their insides. They think of my teeth inside them, chomping, gnawing upwards to their bellies.
As with most of the pieces in this issue, “Ye Ol’ Fashioned Olfactory” is fairly short. Despite its length, it is a particularly violent but richly detailed story. The narrator alternately discusses, in short sections, his body, his killings, his family, and a sexual encounter with the girlfriend of one of his victims. From this, the image of the narrator, both physically and mentally, is impressively complete considering the story’s length.
“Jasper Owen Interview, 1957, Excerpt No. 6” also struck me as inventive, using succinct language and mimicking a transcript of a damaged audio recording.
What inspired you to [tape damaged]
a dog that’s just been neutered. Pa knew this so [tape damaged] local guy by the name of Bulldog Brown, with a crocodile’s snarl and a grape-sized hole where he lost his eye [tape damaged]
The poem continues with such gaps, allowing the reader to fill in the damaged areas. I find that poems are often asking readers to fill in missing pieces in some way or another. This poem uses this innate feature to build the lines and narrative.
On the whole, there is worthwhile work in Gargoyle 57. Don’t let the length throw you. Take it as an invitation to skip around and find the pieces that really satisfy your reading hungers.