ZYZZYVA, besides having name difficult to pronounce, is a triannual publication out of San Francisco and features only West Coast writers. The name itself refers to tropical American weevils and is the last word in most dictionaries.
Founder and long-time editor Howard Junker opens this issue with a letter describing all the financial support ZYZZYVA has received since its start in 1984 as well as an introduction for Laura Cogan, who will take over for Junker at the end of the year. Junker has been looking for a successor for a while now, and it seems he has found one.
As a publication for West Coast writers, ZYZZYVA pays attention to the local scene. Photos of “the San Francisco Culturati” are sprinkled throughout the journal, with many artists photographed in black and white with an 8x10 inch wooden view camera. These images almost haunt the pages in between the poems and stories.
One of the most appealing aspects of the journal is the space they reserve for authors who have never been published. All of the first timers in this issue produced strong work, but two of the memoirs stick out. “Hair of the Dog,” recounts author Tupelo Hassman’s attachment to her Great Dane, Julio, as she tries to come to terms with his eventual death. Great Danes don’t live as long as other breeds, as “their hearts aren’t big enough for their bodies.”
“Prison Chronicles,” by J. Tony Serra, another strong memoir, is exactly what it sounds like. Serra, a San Franciscan criminal defense lawyer, was imprisoned for being a tax resister, not evader, which he is quick to distinguish between. Serra describes with a fluid, matter of fact style what being incarcerated is like and how it wears on a person. He writes “I have picked up so much debris and garbage cans that my hands are no longer art, they are function.”
All the poetry in this issue is in response to Arizona’s anti-immigration law SB 1070. Many of the poets express how integral the Mexican culture is to the southwest. In “Chook Son, Arizona,” Abel Salas writes,
We do not seek
an overthrow or coup, cuz
we know how to share. We’ve
been doing it for 15,000 years.
Every piece in this issue is worth reading. Go out and buy it. Subscribe to it. Stop reading this. Go do it.