The haunting cover art, an oil painting by Clint Carney titled “Humanity,” belies the diversity of content within this annual volume of Inscape. Inside, more full-color artwork and photography break up clean, airy pages of prose and poetry. One of the first observations I made was of the graphic design elements. It may be subtle, but the pages are laid out in a way that makes it easy to flip through the issue to find a particular writer. The writers’ names are underlined and aligned with the left margin, while the page numbers are set halfway up the page, close to the edge. This allows you to quickly find both writers’ names and page numbers. I’m not sure why this jumped out at me, but it did. Multiple-page stories also include a running title in the footer, which I thought was a nice touch.
The poetry ranges from the humorous (David Wiens’s “Love, Awakened” and Tess Wilson’s “Oil and Water”) to the clever (Briony Gylgayton’s “Some Old Boyfriends”), and from the disturbing (Grace Wasserstein’s “What You Saw on October 21, 1989”) to the staccato (Anna Frantz’s “Dream Aubade”).
On the pages between lie intriguing works such as Stephanie Dickinson’s prose poems “Lust Series #92” (“A shiver of 1905 sun and locust as the wedding buggy stops beside the road.”) and “Lust Series #93” (“I learned sea jelly and hair coral, amberjack and mullet, snouts and fins full of messages.”). In Ronald McFarland’s “Euthanasia,” a bee prepares to meet its literary end. Marilyn Page’s narrator outwits a birdseed-raiding squirrel in “An Unplanned Reward” (Note from reviewer: I sympathize and share your joy!). Lin Wang marks winter’s slow passage and its effects in “We Thought We Knew Where Winter Ended”:
At solstice, we trap the sun, but its warmth
does not console us. I wrap it in high hopes
and our new silence, hoping spring will melt
the frost on your lips.
Moving on to prose, Craig Parker’s well-crafted nonfiction narrative piece “The Hand Under the Pillow” speaks of children growing older and losing their preconceived notions about the world and the people around them. Parker entwines his childhood experiences with his present observations of his own daughters. As a boy, a harrowing incident causes him to lose the illusion that his grandfather is always in control. He reflects on his own role as a parent in creating and then inadvertently helping to shatter one of his daughter’s own childhood illusions.
I found the prose piece “All the Lights Are On In the Master Bedroom” by Matthew C. Crawford to be particularly moving. It’s an atmospheric vignette narrated by a child. The piece explores the confusion of childhood fears and anxieties, the things we wonder about when we’re still starting out in life and feeling unsure about so much of what’s around us.
The stars were still flashing from the blue-black sky. I tried to open my mind wide enough to grab hold of the concept of space. Was it never-ending? But how? Just a small boy here on this planet, alone in this dark room; these questions began to seem unbearable. How could everyone go about calmly in life if this was the situation? If the universe went on forever and the earth was less than a speck of dust? With no landmarks in the universe for my mind to hold onto I began to feel frightened.
There are forms and styles to satisfy many tastes in this issue of Inscape. I urge you to seek out a copy and discover your own favorites.