Always handsome and beautifully printed, this year’s edition features, for the first time, visual art from the nineteenth century reproduced from the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library, and it’s glorious. Oil paintings, illustrations, drawings, a color letterpress print, the cover of a blank writing book, and engravings in a broad range of styles. The Tampa Review’s large format provides an appropriate platform for these works, and they are carefully selected to be appropriate in their placement alongside the literary works.
This issue features prose and poetry by a dozen and a half accomplished writers and an interview conducted by editor Richard Mathews with stage and film actor Mil Nicholson, who is currently engaged in a project called LibriVox to “make all public domain books available as free audio books” (she has recorded a number of nineteenth century novels, hence the 19th century emphasis in the journals visual elements).
I liked very much a genial story by the prolific and talented Jacob M. Appel, “Dower,” a love story told in the wry and appealing voice of a first wife; and essay by Julie Marie Wade, “A Life Under Water,” a family story about our bodily connection to the world which begins: “The seas has always come naturally to me. I am a native speaker of wave,” and whose refrain is “So grief is also a wave.”
Poetry tends to be rich in concrete, physical imagery; grounded in place and space but with larger metaphysical intentions and implications, for example, in Jason Mitchell’s “Bone Orchard”:
Late morning breaking just outside
some place called Goldfield, driving through
past-played vestiges from an old Western set,
but they aren’t…
…Stone, dirt, and glass,
always simple fragments quarried
from a debris-life before us. Names
have left us long ago There are no more
rites; they have outlasted themselves.
News will not find this place.
Other examples of this satisfying union of concrete physical reality and larger philosophy come from Robin Davidson in “Window":
It is my first afternoon in Kraków. At the back of the Franciscan Church,
I see the Wyspianski window where God creates the world
With a single stroke…
This is when I first know our world is a window.
Porous realm of what is or was or could be.
And from Nola Garrett’s “Why Break the Line?” (cited here in its entirety):
A cracked cup,
a gnarled tree,
of bruised apples,
5 a.m. –
speaks to me.
And from Charles Tisdale’s “The Movement and Habits of Climbing Plants”:
In the middle of the block in my neighborhood, twining
Up fences and trees, I have found four types of climbing
Plants. They serve as examples of the ones he identifies,
Darwin does, in his study of their habits, motives,
…The only motive
Is the tendril’s involution, in the end, the selfsame self.
And in poems by Andrew De Haahn, Julie Hanson, and James Doyle, whose poem “The Beach at Night” concludes: “the oldest stories on the verge of starting.”
With its museum quality reproductions, and work that reminds us of our physical and metaphysical connections to the world around us and a world always just beyond our grasp as past or possibility, this is an issue of the Tampa Review you’ll want to hold onto.