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Meat for Tea - June 2012

  • Subtitle: The Valley Review
  • Issue Number: Volume 6 Issue 2
  • Published Date: June 2012
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

Meat for Tea is a quirky little journal from western Massachusetts that showcases fiction, poetry, and art of eclectic taste. Themes jump around from absurd, realistic, and even to a small taste of science fiction in a blend that is peculiar yet satisfying, like bacon in earl gray or pork in green tea. You get the idea.

Three poems by John Yamrus appear in this issue, which fit well with the journal’s nonconformist quality. These poems are ridiculous, but in a good way as if Yamrus is laughing at his own work. Lawn furniture, writing poetry in hot tubs, and a lady “known / for stripping down // and / throwing / her boobs / over her shoulders // for / drinks” appear in this trio of laughable absurd poems. It is not surprising then that Yamrus’s poetry is inspired by Groucho Marx and “that nameless guy who writes on toilet walls.”

Jessica Tyner’s “For My Father” steps away from the absurd and honors her father through the memories of road trips and garage sales. Tyner magnifies the smallest details to paint a great image:

Thirty years later, what I remember
is the “do you want this?” dipped
slow in a thick Oklahoma drawl
as you raised a one dollar stickered
ceramic horse with your callused
brown hands. The tough pancakes
from McDonald’s suffocating
in syrup. . . .

The speaker has no memory of her father being there for her piano recitals or her birthdays, but she will always have these memories: “the country song you sang / to make me roll my eyes, / and how good the endless coke and peanuts tasted.” Sometimes the smallest memories are all that remains of the ones we love.

Michael Alves offers two of his own poems in this issue that take us back to the realm of the absurd. I appreciate Alves’s ability to string together a complex system of words and images without sounding forced: “Daydreams tasting of norepinephrine / behavioral pushes of mesolimbic dopamine // the sensation of serotonin- / like a warm hand on my chest.” I also enjoyed his second poem which revolves around mathematical principles: “It’s in the statistics-”

to divide by one doesn’t make a difference,
to add the negative only takes away,
to replace the variable doesn’t alter the function-
            the result is predictable
            the outcome is in the nature of it.

These are strong poems from a talented wordsmith. I look forward to what he has in store next.

Rachel Hoogstraten’s short fiction “This String Walks into a Bar” reads like a modern day fable. The story is about Alan Thornton, a successful businessman who has never smiled in his life. One can’t blame him for his lack of mirth as both of his parents died when he was young. He enters a bar one night after work to enjoy a beer, but he is approached by an older man who wants to cheer him up. The older man then tells him a bad joke. This joke is so bad that it works, and Alan leaves the bar with a smile on his face. I felt like Alan by the end of this little story. Sure, it was short and the joke was exceedingly dumb, but I left with a smile on my face as well.

This issue of Meat for Tea also comes with a CD that features music by Something Else and Azuza Inkh and an Interview with David Yow. The music has a good beat with just a touch of blues and was like a chaser for the fiction and poetry in this journal. So go ahead and pour yourself a cup and have a drink because the meat in this tea is fresh.

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Review Posted on October 15, 2012

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