The Greensboro Review, part of The University of North Carolina Greensboro’s creative writing program, is simply clad in thick paper which has a natural-pressed feel, with the title and names of the contributors on the front. The magazine opts for a simple cover, choosing instead to spend its efforts on the contents within. It is no surprise that the collection of pieces provided by MFA students is superb. The review features fiction and poetry, all of which feels effortless in its precise crafting. It’s handmade literature at its best.
“To Have Been on Fire” by Jill Osier is a prize-winning poem. It is cerebral; it reads as a cohesive stream-of-consciousness, effortlessly intermingled with solid imagery that provides a unique experience. Osier introduces this with the opening line: “The mind goes, eventually, / where it needs to go.” The reader then witnesses this journey. The poem is itself the manifestation of the idea asserted in the opening lines, a stream of thoughts travelling to and landing exactly where they needed to be.
“The House the Thompsons Bought” by Isadora J. Wager is a short story with a startling and obviously fictitious premise: the Thompsons have bought a new house with “a hole to hell in the kitchen.” This situation is treated casually by the characters, and so the reader is also able to accept the detail. As the story progresses and people begin to climb out of the hole fairly regularly, an intelligent situation arises; there couldn’t be a more literal metaphor. What’s beautiful about the story is how simply the author crafted it. There is a tangible, physical action here that is recognized and participated in by the characters, even recognized for its oddity. And so the characters are actively interacting with and being affected by the device the author is using—it’s a tangible manifestation of literary device within the story! What it means is left up to the reader, and the story begs to be read.
Poems work for different reasons. Perhaps my favorite type of poem is the one that exists to bring the reader back to a moment. “Small Boy Blowing Bubbles” by Chelsea Wagner is a beautifully simple interaction between the reader and the boy, and the reader and his own memories. The measured carefulness of a child performing a task is just as carefully crafted by the writer: “He exhales slowly, / as delicately as he’s been taught.” Though the poem is short, it has no lack of generosity in descriptive language, distilling as a written photograph a cherished and nostalgic image of childhood. The poem doesn’t end, however, with the image. It is followed by a powerful notion, one that sheds a new and mature light on thoughts we have returned to since childhood. In the final lines, the simple fascination of a child with the task of blowing bubbles is explained in a way that’s startlingly beautiful, and startlingly true. Poems like this present you with something familiar and then suddenly deepen one’s own memory with a clear realization of the truth about the moment. They bring a beautiful kind of contemplation that is new and wonderful to something so familiar it is second nature.
Literary magazines are as varied as people in what they present. It is refreshing to come across a publication like The Greensboro Review: a distilled collection, true to its purpose and honest in its simplicity. It’s a morsel, a staple amongst more elaborate diversions that will always be the anchor and is inevitably returned to.