Third Coast, “founded in 1995 by graduate students of the Western Michigan University English department,” invites its readers into personal narratives, imaginative lyricism, and in-depth interviews for its Fall 2011 publication. Editor Emily J. Stinson compiled a collection of creative poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, an interview, and reviews that resulted in an experience that takes us through the fire of creative minds. Its features fiction first-place winner, Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, first-place poetry winner, Jennifer Perrine, and thirty-two other polished writers who leave the reader feeling closer to understanding the depth, cruelty, and beauty of human nature.
The issue begins with a short fiction piece about a teen whose mother has etched the word “wuss” on her neck with the point of a white hot needle. “Wuss,” by Jordan Sullivan, takes us on a journey with Dana, the abused teen, who understands more about a child’s love than many of us may ever want to. The text’s disjointed form aptly reflects the experience of the young woman. She attempts a journey to California to find her father, but instead discovers how the complexities of abuse only serve to underline her unconditional love for her mother, who Dana says, “dragged the red-hot tip across the nape of my neck. . . Her voice was the only sound in the whole world. I hate you, she muttered.” Sullivan draws us into the issue with a hot fire of truth that many readers are often too afraid to touch.
The mother-daughter relationship is further explored in piece from the issue’s fiction winner, Sarah Elizabeth Schantz. Also written in fragmented prose, her piece, “The Sound of Crying Sheep,” uses the art of the lyric essay to illustrate a young woman’s simultaneous desire and fear of developing her mother’s schizophrenia. Ingeniously drawing on the metaphors of Adam’s rib, the hunter in Little Red Riding Hood that cuts open a wolf to release Red’s grandmother, and the desperate crying of lambs as they are weaned, Schantz develops memorable imagery for the relationship at its heart. It is a C-section that ultimately becomes the perfect metaphor for the mother-daughter relationship slowly tearing at the seams. Schantz’s ability to achieve painful and magnetic creative-realism proves she deserves her prize and why she has moved on to win recognition in the New Stories from the Midwest 2012 anthology.
Third Coast’s editors continue to prove their aptness for choosing winners. The other featured piece in the issue, a poem by Jennifer Perrine titled “On Fallibility,” is also worthy of its accolade. Following a common theme of death and rebirth through fire in the issue, we take a glimpse into a pope’s fascination with the mythical phoenix:
at four hundred and ninety-nine, beak blunt,
tail feathers faded to a patina,
crying in her sepulcher, her cradle
Though it comes early in the issue, it seems to tie in several pieces in a short symphonic study. It is beautiful in its hope and its sadness.
This issue is art. Each piece stands strong in its own right while seamlessly weaving together with the other works featured. Natural, complex, and refreshing, Third Coast chooses only the finest works from the middle of the country.