The 2009 edition of Limestone is titled “Legacy Obscura,” which I assume is a reference to the “camera obscura,” a device used to project images onto a screen, which led to the invention of photography. It’s a relevant title. This issue is ripe with photography and other visual arts, as well as poems and stories that create verbal images of legacy. What is a legacy? Is it something we’re born with? Do we carry it with us? Editor Rebecca Beach says “what we are and what we will be hinges on our past.” This journal examines that past. The past is where we come from and informs the future. The speakers of these poems and stories share their personal memories, yet they are universal and timeless.
In the poem, “Decembers,” by Sarah Landenwich, the speaker tells us twice, once in the first stanza and once in the last, that “there are no new days.” The poem shows us the harsh, never-ending reality of life in the country, of working the land day in and day out. Seasons come and go, come and go. She says:
Then, snowlight and shallow evenings
push reflection on the year, the past, the mistakes,
and we force ourselves tomorrow,
that we can begin work in the morning,
that we can begin.
Haven’t we all lived in this moment of regret? We tell ourselves that something will be different tomorrow, something will change. But life, as we all know, is cyclical. For better or worse, we get up when the sun rises and go to bed in the darkness. Tomorrow never comes. We continue to live as we always have, these 200,000 years. This is our legacy.
If the poetry hasn’t blown you away, the fiction will. A hearty dose of fiction pieces live in this journal. I rarely say this: they are all good. My favorite, I think, is a story titled “Two Weeks Notice” by John Lackey. It’s a short piece about a man who finds himself in a depressing situation – no woman, no job, no place to live. There’s a modern flare to this story, with the mention of Facebook and Craigslist, and the financial crises many of us now struggle with. But this story is timeless, too. 500 years ago, people were trying to make a living, looking for love, and seeking a place to call home. Again, I say, this is our legacy. Survival. And if we survive, love.
In William Fowkes’s “The Church,” a second noteworthy story, a man reluctantly enters a church, remembering the hypocrisy of the church of his youth. Inside, the congregation sings and exults over a young man’s speech. Again and again, the young man claims that we know nothing. True knowledge is admitting that “‘NO ONE KNOWS!’” The church doesn’t claim to have the answers to life’s big questions, doesn’t claim to know who or what god is and what our purpose is here on earth. This story was extremely interesting and refreshing.
Lastly, there are several black and white photographs and other media represented in Limestone. The artwork is interesting, and the magazine seeks to complement each piece of art with a written work. Sometimes, the artwork meshes perfectly with the written work. Sometimes you have to search for the connection. My favorite piece, called “Street Musicians of Argentina” from Jessica Bennett Kincaid, is a photograph taken from behind a group of seated musicians. The angle is so interesting because you can see the sides of two of the musicians’ faces, as well as three of the faces in the crowd. Each face wears a different expression – humor, interest, boredom. It’s really beautiful, this compilation of emotion. At the risk of being redundant, how timeless are musicians entertaining in the town square? How timeless is art? We pass these mediums from generation to generation.
I’m enraptured with Limestone. The poetry, fiction, and artwork, edited by University of Kentucky undergraduates, are some of the finest work being published in literary magazines today. With a catchy title and work that speaks to the masses of history and legacy, Limestone will be hanging out on my coffee table for days and nights to come.