As a student of both Russian culture and language, I was pleased to read the explanations of icons by both John Kinsella and Alexander Deriev in this issue of The Notre Dame Review themed “Icons & Incomings.” Even Russian natives debate endlessly the definition and purpose of icons, so it was helpful that this issue contains some of Deriev’s icons and Russian poems to illustrate and enhance Deriev’s observations about icons.
The abundance of great work in this issue makes it difficult to choose its exemplary pieces, though in fiction, the characters in Mark Brazaitis’s “This Man, This Woman, This Child, This Town” were vivid and down-to-earth: “…he sees Katerina walking the opposite way. He slams his breaks so hard his truck skids. Katerina skitters to the side of the road like a bird. Martin hoped she would come at the same time she had yesterday. He planned to meet her at the door with a glass of water.” In poetry, the works of Charles Simic, John Estes, Sofia M. Starnes, and Clive Wilmer stood out. Wilmer also has an energetic and straightforward interview with Peter Campion.
Simic’s listless images in “The End of a Parade” capture the desolate tone at the end of any celebration: “The quickly dispersing few / Who’d seen it pass down the avenue, / Were not able to tell me / What was being commemorated.” In his “Sufficient Wildness,” Estes concludes a dispute with his wife: “like trees / our virtues, if any, / were in ebbing / unable to do otherwise: but a thief, too, must be sheltered.” And Starnes creates a detailed and perspicuous image in “Adolescent”: “…a boy, bunched up in the porch, biting / off his nails. He’s shaved his head… / …his column lean imperiled, / in between tank top and tunic.” All these poems draw the reader into the mind’s eye of the poet.These highlights have just touched the surface of the good writing in this volume. “Icons & Incomings” is an issue you can come back to for weeks or months, depending on your desire to read its depths.