I have a soft spot for university literary journals. Maybe it’s because I have a closer connection to these folks because I was a college student not too long ago and know what it’s like to wade through the slush pile in a tiny room at night with only a Snickers bar to keep me going.
Or maybe it’s because these journals have a knack for spotting damn good writing. Fox Cry Review is one of those journals. It is published annually from the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley, and this current issue features an exceptional array of poetry, short fiction, and artwork.
“The Electric Pulse” by Abigail Welhouse is a story that pinches a vital point in the human heart. It is about a girl hopelessly in love with a boy “who lit his clothing on fire just to see what would happen.” At first glance, their relationship seems to be built on a solid foundation but later proves to be insubstantial. The boy stops coming to her recitals and shuts her out of his life for no reason. She is upset, but she refuses to stop loving him: “She wanted him to love her like Sampson loved Delilah—to tell her all the secrets that would cause his strength to unravel, and to trust that she would never use them.” Welhouse deserves praise for shedding light on such a difficult subject. Some of us attach ourselves so closely to someone that, no matter how abusive or uncaring this person is, we find it impossible to simply forget him or her even if we wanted to.
Mark Vitha’s “Essentia” is a hilarious poem that pokes fun of itself and the craft. The speaker, who prides himself on being “America’s best-selling premium poet,” has crafted a rich-sounding poem that goes well with “pasta and seafood.” However, this poem causes indigestion with the folks at his poetry workshop:
“It’s like tasting on oak tree,” Peter sniped.
Julie noted its overpowering acidity.
“It impaired my ability to drive”
said the mother of three,
“And operate heavy machinery,”
my own father added.
Special praise goes to John Baraniak for his wicked little story “Good Neighbors.” The entire piece is written as a short conversation between two neighbors over the telephone. The conversation starts innocently enough about the coldness of the weather but then turns to the discovery of a dead body in a ravine of their cozy suburban neighborhood. The first speaker tells his neighbor how he used his telescope to watch the suspicious behavior of another neighbor. The setting may be familiar for those who have seen Rear Window, but the final line is a shocking twist that would make Hitchcock proud.
“This Is Not a Test” by John Kristofco is a poem that would appeal to anyone who has ever lived in Tornado Alley. One can almost hear the wail of the sirens and the shrieking of the wind as the twister touches down on the horizon:
slate clouds climb above the valley,
roll into a vortex, and
I love how the words form a tornado directly above the fourth stanza where the family is hiding in the basement. Though one cannot fully comprehend the power of nature until they have witnessed a twister ripping apart a barn or a house, Kristofco does an excellent job translating the “twisting, random rage” of a tornado onto the page.
According to their website, a contributor once questioned the publication’s title: “Does a fox cry?” Perhaps, perhaps not. What we do know for certain is that Fox Cry Review will have a future as long as they continue to publish this kind of solid writing.