This issue of Terrain features the winners and finalists for the magazine’s third annual contest—in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Themed “ruin + renewal,” the issue is filled with stories of survival and growth amongst the destroyed, the decayed, and the dirty.
Courtney Amber Kilian’s “Color Has History,” the contest winner in fiction, paints—in both black and green—the story of a young couple who tries to piece life back together after a fire storm burns their land to ashes. Beyond the delicate and melodic language, “Color Has History” shows the beauty in the rubble:
I dig my hands further into the charred soil where our garden had been. A light turns on behind me, its angled beam shining on a single blade of grass that was somehow missed. I’d read that some plant species thrive on growing through burnt soil.
A fiction finalist, Hope Coulter writes a heart-breaking story in which a middle-aged couple—who is having trouble conceiving a child—go on vacation to Florida where they confront both a hurricane and their relationship problems, or perhaps not really.
Another finalist, Joan Kane Nichols writes a story about the bond between grandmother and granddaughter during an unexpected visit—one in which the granddaughter isn’t necessarily wanted. Having run away from her mother, Jody seeks refuge at Grandma Rose’s beach house—but what she finds is a house without electricity, a bathroom, or running water. Rose, dying from cancer, tries to lead a simple life with tasks to keep her busy. She seeks to finish one last project and is unhappy with the interruption; yet, Jody is able to show her love by the way she needs it in return.
Sonya Huber takes the prize in nonfiction with “Love and Industry: A Midwestern Workbook.” This piece, broken into numbered sections, begs us to find the peace and beauty in the run-down and the rusty. Starting with imagery of buildings and landscapes and then using description of people in the end, “Love and Industry” begs us to “Listen—be aware of your judgment and push against it.”
Genevieve Leet’s two poems win her the poetry contest. Though somewhat abstract, the haunting decay and imagery in them is eerily pleasant. These are the type of poems that you can return to again and again to dig out more meaning from the layers. Her first poem starts:
when I died they found a nest of snakes in my intestines, their backs
embossed in pale rosettes: a tangled ball rolling in a damp lair
spilling through the arteries. when the light hit them they’d go wild
swarming and boiling deeper. in my palms they found the thick calluses
of self doubt: the wads of sticky algae gathered in my lungs
There are a lot more pieces in this issue, alongside columns, reviews, art, and an interview. And while I don’t generally think much of images as a background on websites, the purple, lightning-stricken sky that serves as the background here sets the mood as you read. All of these stories and poems speak loudly and allow the reader to be fully immersed and transported into the worlds the authors create.