This magazine hasn’t been reviewed before on NewPages, so remember that you heard it from me: Free State Review is great. It’s a pleasure to look at, hold, and read, and the writing is as fresh and consequential as a sun-drenched, below-zero day. Nobody’s just messing around. Even the contributors’ notes are little works of art.
The issue opens with The Chattahoochee Review Editor Anna Schachner’s short story “Sylvia” about a young woman marking time after college; her poet boyfriend Collins, who “spoke very loudly, as if he had no conscious understanding of others’ presence”; and her distant parents. The title character is a skink (a kind of lizard), a present from Collins. Sylvia is the still, watchful center around whom these human characters gain clarity about the limits of commitment, the necessity of the odd.
Other memorable prose includes Sandra Ramirez’s “Stray,” Kevin Lavey’s “Skylight,” and Jennifer Key’s perfect flash fiction piece, “The Horizon Has a Way of Disappearing”—a meditation on the foreclosure of child-bearing: “For the young woman the destination had been clear: a yellow doorframe of light she walked towards, never asking herself whether she wanted to live inside that house. To choose to be on the outside looking in—who could be that brave?”
There’s a feast of poetry here, all of it with traction in the experience of life. My favorite is Meredith Davies Hadaway’s “Ribbon,” a series of tight strophes on the tease of ribbon “like the satin strap that / slides from collarbone to elbow”—but that is nevertheless
a diversion from the disarray
of each disheveled minute, every
hour’s sloppy kiss, the scent of
wet pavement, the one true gift.
Other poets with outstanding work are Gary Blankenburg, Gary Fincke, Sue Ellen Thompson, Nancy G. Hickman, Heidi Shuler, and Jeff Sural (congratulations on his first publication).
The review features clean, readable type and well-proportioned layout. The bright yellow cover half-frames an oil painting by Bruce Leopold. The magazine hails from Annapolis, Maryland, and is edited by veteran journalist Hal Burdett. Keep an eye out. This magazine is a comer.