The Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies is a large, thin, easy-to-read magazine. According to the Guidelines for Contributors, this publication prints academic articles in addition to poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, but the December 2007 edition focuses on literary contributions. This issue features a long, fascinating interview with author Scott Ely, covering his time in Vietnam, his writing and research methods, and his screen writing experiences. This interview is followed by “The Poisoned Arrow,” a short story by Ely, which is full of vivid South Carolina flavor.
The rest of the magazine continues to explore life in the South. Venus Thrash’s “Homage,” a poem about sex and race, declares that “Dark men in self-denial deny me, / then slip away home to anxious arms, / blow oodles of hair from their eyes as they fly off to sleep.” “James Earl Ray” by C.L. Bledsoe continues the theme of race relations, explaining that when he was a kid “We joked in the halls – / It’s James Earl Ray Day, no school Monday! / And smiled when the black kids / stared.” Gregory Powell’s poem, “Osceola,” lightens the mood a little; this poem is difficult to read without hearing a bluesy tune in your head.
My favorite work is a novel excerpt called “Panther Burn” by Anne Dyer Stuart, which explores class conflict in a small southern town. The main character, a girl named Dexter, is both embarrassed and thrilled when her rich father buys her a private gym for her gymnastics practice, while the other girls are stuck at the sub-par YMCA. Also notable is an essay by J. Kates about his experience in Mississippi during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, when white activists traveled to the south to help organize black voters.
Overall, the Arkansas Review is refreshing in its direct, unabashed portraits of Delta life and Delta thoughts.