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The Briar Cliff Review - 2009

  • Issue Number: Volume 21
  • Published Date: 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

I always look forward to this large format annual with its glossy pages, beautiful artwork and photography, and well-composed and thoughtful works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This issue also features a section titled “Siouxland,” which includes an interview with poet David Allan Evans, and reviews of books by Ted Kooser and Andrew Porter.

I was awestruck by some of the artwork in this volume, including Steve Joy’s cover, a colorful set of squares mixed media panel titled “Icon (Constantinople).” In a brief note, Joy explains that his work his influenced by traveling and many years spent in the Far East; a vibrant oil on linen by Dan Howard, “Out of this World: VIII (Jupiter’s Moon IO)”; oil on canvas paintings by Valerie Beller; a delicate pattern of cotton and dyes in shades of sage and purples, “The Concept of Qi,” by Michael James; and pigment on lexan, “Sumi Sunrise,” by Larry Roots. Photographs are equally impressive, including the muted “Silos at Dusk,” by Jessica Folkerts; a close up of “Raindrops on Umbrella,” by Beth Guntren; and geese that look like “A Blizzard of Snows,” by Randall D. Williams.

Snow figures, too, in a poem I liked quite a lot by Stacy Kidd, “What She Said,” which concludes:

And later, the Snusters, snow
Mixed with dust. You wrote the sky
Could never show itself for fire
Without first wearing its shawl of smoke.
You wrote you knew stories old as the fire.
Told in any order, always with shame.

Kidd’s poem is characteristic of the work I find consistently in every edition of the journal, work that is carefully, lyrically composed, but not arch or esoteric; poetry that is emotionally powerful in a quiet, almost understated way, relying on strong images and carefully composed language to convey strong sensations and revelations. Poems by Anne Coray, Marcus Johnson, James Doyle, and Dwayne Thorpe are similarly affecting and successful.

Prose selections are effective and memorable for similar reasons, including nonfiction contest winner Ira Sukrungruang’s “Our Next Lives,” a story about travel to the author’s mother’s homeland of Thailand; and Marylee MacDonald’s short story, “The Ambassador of Foreign Affairs,” the story of a father-daughter reunion. One of the most intriguing pieces this issue is an essay in the Siouxland section by Sue Erickson Nieland, “Portrait of the Artist as an Artist: Expressions of Identity in the Small Career of Beatrice Goslin,” a summary of the life and work of Iowa painter Beatrice Goslin who gained prominence in her local community in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, complete with reproductions of her work and photographs, an excellent work of Americana.

This volume is engaging and satisfying, but that doesn’t stop me – in fact it makes me all the more eager – from looking forward with much anticipation to Volume 22.
[www.briarcliff.edu/bcreview]

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Review Posted on June 14, 2010
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