Cream City Review’s glossy cover design first caught my eye. Alerting readers to this issue’s focus on local events, the cover features an outline of the state of Wisconsin and contains a photograph taken during the 2011 protests against the Budget Repair Bill. Complementing the cover’s theme, an entire section, called “Voices from the Front,” is dedicated to nine creative works that speak to the state’s protests.
Perhaps one of my favorite pieces comes from Brenda Cárdenas. She conveys a brutally honest, yet artful portrayal of working with community members against the Budget Repair Bill. Cárdenas invites readers into the middle of a crowd of over 100,000 protesters. She writes, “In a surreal moment, thousands of ‘Shhhhh’s’ flew across the rotunda like a flock of swallows.” Cárdenas’s writing exemplifies the “cream” or, if the pun muddles the meaning, the best of what the Cream City Review has to offer. She offers readers a final analogy, “it is so dark there / here—a cavernous dark to which the eyes never adjust—that I can only manage to write today about the lights I remember.”
This issue includes seven works of fiction, seven works of nonfiction, thirty-seven poems, and, as an annual special, the winners of the review’s annual literary prize. These award-winning pieces showcase the best of what Cream City Review seeks to publish.
Award winner, Wayne Lee Gay’s, “Bird of Prey” is one of my favorites. Writing about growing up in a small town on the Oklahoma countryside, Gay says, “In our town, there was a strong sense of the way things should be. . . . Everyone knew the pledge to the flag and stood up for the national anthem.” Moving from scene to scene, using edgy metaphors and vivid descriptions, the story examines the cruelty of humanity and the inner strength necessary to choose one’s own path. For example, Gay bluntly describes one his main characters, Lila Begley: “Her reddish-orange hair, the color of the bird-of-paradise pod, had been carefully curled in a style that had gone out of fashion several decades earlier, when Shirley Temple reached puberty.” Gay proves himself worthy of the David B. Saunders Prize for Creative nonfiction in nearly every sentence. His lyrical style flows with rhythm and imagery. He writes, “Her smile sagged as she realized she was being physically shunned and avoided. . . . No one said anything—no teacher or churchgoing child offered comfort or friendship.”
Cream City Review is one of the better journals on the market for those readers who want writing that is poetic, honest, and edgy. The journal cast its line, and after one issue, I’m hooked.