A student journal as youthful and energetic and innocently/un-innocent as…well…youth: “You dig your fingers, thick with car grease / into me. I shiver toward you,” writes Caroline Kessler in “I Open My Mouth to the Storm.” Rob Rotell offers another storm of emotion in his story “A Couple of Problems,” which begins: “He woke up to Nikki’s crying. She sounded as if she was hiccupping. Her sobs were soft. They had a quick tempo.” Staci Eckenroth, too, starts off with a moment of heightened sensation in “a dime a dozen”:
she is having trouble speaking,
fluttering scratches her throat, and
makes her nauseous for answers.
she coughs up wings, antennae, legs;
pieces of swallowtails, monarchs, buckeyes,
they are dying to get out.
Nonfiction, too, is emotionally charged. I appreciated Jeanne Troy’s “Burn,” which does an admirable job of creating an atmosphere and some intrigue around events that have motivated the trek described at the opening of the essay: “After driving around the fringes of Nashville, unlicensed, until four in the morning, Jade found a bare lot far enough from any road that no one would take notice. That’s where we slept, in Jade’s Buick LeSabre.” More restrained emotionally in style is Caty Gordon’s essay “I am Not Neda,” about an encounter with an Iranian peer dealing with cultural issues around her sexuality.
“Conversations” with Bernard Cooper and Andrew Porter are worthwhile and mature. Questions are smart and appropriate, given the journal’s editorial bent (“ending a story seems to be a problem for young writers, are there any tricks you have for writing endings?”). Cooper concludes that “trial and error” is, essentially, the process that ends up governing a lot of his writing. His frankness is much appreciated, and isn’t that what the process of maturation is essentially all about?
I must not close this little review without noting how wonderfully inventive I find many of the titles of work in this issue, including the journal’s award-winning fiction by Caitlin Moran, “All Her Numbered Bones”; “The Little Dipper is Now the Rich Aunt,” a poem by Alice Rhee; the journal’s prize-winning poem, “The Paper Called Them Black Fish,” by Skye Shirley; “Up in Union City, Tomahawk Remembers His Bones Can Still Rattle,” a short story by Bryant Davis; and “Seafarer’s Semantics,” a poem by Karissa Morton.