Amber Albrecht’s intricately composed, enticing drawings, more than two-dozen of which appear in the magazine as well as on the front and back covers, are representative of the work in this issue. You want to look more closely, find out more, figure out why a tree is sprouting from the back of a dress or from the chimney of a house. These images and perspectives are hard to classify. They’re not whimsical or playful so much as intensely of-the-moment, heightened in a familiar, but somewhat mysterious manner. They seduce with a kind of welcoming strangeness, a dress that looks like an egg from which the figure is hatched, a patch of ground that resembles a flying carpet, and titles like “People Who Are Not Like Us,” a short story by Brock Clarke. The opening of the story, too, captures the spirit of magazine as a whole: “Rupert goes first. Rupert’s real name is Shamequa, but we call her Rupert because one of the things we do is give black women the names of white men.” An irresistibly original beginning.
Stories by Adam Prince, Kerry Jones, and Shannon Robinson, and an essay by Lisa Lee (“Dear Mary Wang”) are similarly appealing, narrated in original voices in casual, well- paced prose with seductive beginnings. The work of nearly two-dozen poets is consistent with this editorial predilection, approachable poems, familiar, yet new, mingling popular references with mythological ones, and daily experience with deeper concerns. Here, for example, are the first two stanzas of Dawn Lonsinger’s “Orpheus XXX”:
In this version you don’t look back
and does this mean that I escape into
the light, that we might frolic there?
or that I’m released into the whole-
hearted solitude of being?
You never look back, slip like wet clay,
your arm already around another life,
your Saab in the driveway, your head in the hollow
of her unerring clavicle, your body like any other point along the dim horizon.
Produced at Purdue University, two interviews transcribed from live events at the university appear, as well, in this issue. Poet Eleanor Wilner, who I’m happy to learn has a new book coming out, reminds us that it’s poetry’s “sudden insights” that have the power to change the way we think or look at the world (“The mind is amazing, and largest when discovering our smallness.”) Fiction writer Benjamin Percy explains how he revises to change voices and context until he finds the story he wants to tell. (“The whale becomes a bear.”)
Michelle Chan Brown’s poem “Hypnosis” concludes: “When we wake up, we’ll remember everything.” You may not remember everything in this issue of Sycamore Review, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find much of it memorable.