Dogwood has returned to print after a year’s hiatus with Sonya Huber as the new editor. Huber aims to take this university magazine in a new direction with an online presence and the inclusion of creative nonfiction alongside their usual offerings of fiction and poetry. Readers won’t be disappointed with this restart. This issue features solid writing and the winners of the 2012 Dogwood Awards, with special guest judges Katherine Riegel and Ira Sukrungruang.
Terry Godbey’s prose poem “Platitudes” is both funny and tragic as it examines the mind of a cancer survivor. There are two speakers in this work, the survivor and possibly a friend who is trying to make the other feel better but is not doing a very good job: “Try not to think about it so much. I’ll try not to slap you for saying that . . . There’s an angel sitting on your shoulder. So that’s why it aches. I thought it was from my chemo port.” Godbey writes from experience as she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and her work illustrates how humor can be the best defense against such a devastating illness.
Reading “A Canzone Basking in the Pre-Apocalypse” by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell is a dream-like experience. The speaker drifts in and out of sleep as she listens to a late night talk show host speak of the coming apocalypse. I particularly enjoyed the use of color and imagery in this piece:
Skiing the empty trails with the dog whose feet are quick
to leave me behind, I notice the sky billowing red, ending
the winter day early, peeling off seconds of light. Daylight is quick
to abandon us. Iced in red light, I stare.
Desperation bleeds from the poem as the speaker contemplates her own mortality and the fleetingness of our lives: “At times / I imagine the gray empty of after, but then I find we are all up late, timing the minutes crawling by. Every compass pointing south toward the desert / in the early dawn, we all wait for destruction.” A great poem to read with the lights dimmed and on the verge of sleep.
The first prize award for nonfiction goes to David Patrick’s powerful “Elegy for the Guns.” It is an essay about his father told through his obsession with handguns. But there’s more going on here than a love for the second amendment. Patrick’s father treated his guns like precious works of art:
Changing grips was like Dad’s version of playing with dolls. He’d get it ready for business with hard black rubber grips. He’d dress it up with grandiose fawn-colored wood grips: grips with so much extra wood that they looked like fancy Old English letters with scrolling serifs, the two halves held to the frame with a handsome brass nut and bolt that looked like an elegant brooch.
Guns were not his only hobby. He also painted landscapes and made casts of his hands and face, but the guns continue to be the heart of the essay. Patrick uses this juxtaposition of beauty and violence to unravel his father as both the man who raised him and as an artist who inspired him. The essay reminded me of a foreign exchange student who once asked me why Americans are so obsessed with guns. At the time I told her it was just a part of our tradition, but Patrick’s essay showed me that there is also a dark beauty within guns that can bring people together. Next time someone outside of this country asks about our love for guns, I’ll direct them to Patrick’s essay.
Nick Scorza’s “Love Stories” took first place in Dogwood’s fiction category. It is a story “about Martin and Alice falling in love, or falling into something that resembles love.” Martin and Alice work together in a large chain book store but only see each other as they change shifts. Martin then gets the idea to use books to communicate with Alice, which so happens to include famous love stories in Western literature. Scorza avoids melodrama to tell a love story (or something that resembles love) in a way that is both believable and moving: “Love lingers and evolves. It persists when it is not wanted, metamorphoses just as it becomes familiar.”
Sonya Huber and the Dogwood staff should be pleased with their restart. There are great stories and poems here that deserve a lot of attention. I highly recommend this journal and encourage you to watch out for their next issue.