For Inkwell’s Fall 2011 issue, the editors chose a super-charged theme: “Ripped from the Headlines.” Its poetry and prose takes subjects that range from crooked high school wrestling teams to private acts of heroism in the WWII Philippines. Because this material is “newsworthy” already, all of the writing has a pleasing urgency—none is here to play.
The best work in the magazine, though, features an ironic self-consciousness about this urgency. The most successful pieces ask fun questions about the idea of notoriety as a whole. What happens when we make the front page for the wrong reasons? What if everything we hold dear, everything we believe sacred and important, wouldn’t even rank as a buried lead?
Regina Murray Brault’s poem “The Pompeii Statues,” for example, ends with this image:
These are the men who once walked stone streets
built for wheels of chariots, entered the building
of the chiseled phallus symbol and played
on the athletic field in the shadow of Vesuvius,
never dreaming they would one day be remembered
for lingering too long
The protagonist of Ron Darian’s “On the List of Historic Places” is a stand-up comic who has the misfortune of sharing the Ed Sullivan stage with the Beatles. “Like most things that don’t make sense,” he reflects, “there’s usually a way to turn it into a joke.”
While choking on a potato chip, the narrator of “Instant Gratification” by Angela Rydell imagines the obituary her artsy, pompous ex-fiancée would write. She’s certain it would contain his merciless observation that she hadn’t washed the chip down with enough Diet Coke: “And Diet? What a pity she didn’t indulge in Coke itself, the real thing, on, of all days, that of her untimely death.” During moments like these, the theme “Ripped from the Headlines” soars.
A few poems and stories do sink under the weight of their own seriousness, and a handful seem more interested in creating atmosphere than making tangible, fresh meaning. Still, this issue of Inkwell offers a lot to adventurous, sophisticated readers of contemporary lit. All unafraid to laugh at themselves and this earnest, ultra-hyped world will enjoy it.