Great short fiction exists! This issue of Colorado Review confirms it. Volume 36, Number 3 features three extremely good short stories, including the magazine’s annual Nelligan Prize winner, Angela Mitchell, whose first-ever published story, “Animal Lovers,” is both unpredictable and reasonable, by which I mean credible, realistic, and emotionally compelling. Mitchell has an ear for natural and believable dialogue, a great sense of timing, and casual, but carefully composed prose that is readable, but not incidental.
All three short stories in this issue “touch on the decision to have – or not have – children,” as the editors explain in their notes, claiming this similarity to be a coincidence. All are beautifully crafted and thoroughly satisfying. Mitchell is well accompanied by Colette Sartor (“Bandit”) and Yelizaveta P. Renfro (“A Catalogue of Everything in the World”), whose work is equally natural and well-paced. Renfro’s story, with its juxtaposition of narrative, dialogue, and lists, is especially appealing because the lists are not a gimmick, but instead a clever and meaningful device that serves the story’s narrative intentions well. These stories are so good I would read anything their authors had written, a rare inclination on my part.
Poetry stars include Michael Burkard, Gillian Conoley, Alan Parker, and Rosemarie Waldrop, whose translations of work by Hans Carl Artmann and Barbara Hundegger also appear in this issue. Artmann’s work is whimsical and odd and I can’t imagine how Waldrop manages to translate these quirky rhymed verses with such fluidity, but somehow she does. These are polished and exciting translations from one of our most trusted and important translators. Much of the poetry in this issue is talky and edgy, and tends toward a popular style that is prose-like and conversational. Exceptions are Rosemarie Waldrop’s (original, not translated) prose poem, excerpts from her “Velocity But No Location,” work that is often dense and lyrical and generally more metaphysical than narrative (“How ghostly the past, daring us to break its barrier.”).
Two nonfiction entries are noteworthy, including Sarah Fang’s AWP Intro Journals Project winning selection “The Missing Pictures,” a memoir about her family’s experience of the Japanese internment camp Manzanar, and creative nonfiction guru Lee Gutkind’s short, emotionally charged personal essay, “Revenge,” a very brief down and out Pittsburgh tale. Nine intelligent and thoughtful book reviews round out the issue.