While The Meadow, an annual journal published by Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, is not exclusive to any region in its scope, it appears to reflect a cohesive sensibility, a conversational approach to creative writing. It begs the question as to whether or not someday we’ll look back to the poets of the West as a distinct school, like the New York School with O’Hara and Ashbury, except that instead of the MOMA we’ll see the glittering of the Vegas slot machines, the boiling petri dishes of Los Alamos.
In “Blue Apron,” a short story by Catherine Austin Alexander, we find a young woman whose promiscuous mother creates a kind of bittersweet tension and exacts a toll on their vulnerable family. And while the story is delivered in a child’s voice, we find a natural wisdom in both what she observes and what she leaves out. The voice is well-suited to the plot and wry, not a refuge for a writer afraid to tackle an adult perspective.
I know Mom can charm the pants off of any man. Take the Lakeview garbage guys, for instance. Everyone on our street carries out their trash to the curb the night before. Not us. When we first moved into the house, Mom saw the garbage men coming down the street, threw her fur coat over her lingerie and went running out to meet them. ‘Oh, gentlemen, I wonder if you can do a lady a big favor . . . I don’t think I can lift those heavy cans from the backyard.’ Then she opened her coat just enough . . .
I deliberately cut the anecdote because the way the story rolls out you will be surprised—not by a dramatic plot turn, but by the way the protagonist reveals the plot.
In the poem that opens the journal, Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s “Morning, Las Vegas,” the speaker is no child, and yet there is exposition: “Look at me: I’m on narcotics, / quoting Chekhov about guns.” As you read on, the poet reveals expectations, piercing explanations—the Las Vegas sunrise is “depressed,” but not without assigning and naming its parts to flesh out the assignment.
About 20% of the journal is written by students of the college. One of the poems by a student, Angelo Perez’s “For Nathan, After My Third Manhattan,” is rich and complex, mapping out an A-B-A narrative structure that emerges especially strong with such lines as: “How much longer must I wait until I have your ‘soul’s full intention,’” and the arresting opening, “Amber skies, as if a fire ignited on some distant planet,’” which pulls the reader into the work like a stretch of taffy—we are introduced not just to an expression of nature but to the longing created by distance. We read on, only to have a major break in the form of the poem—centered after the first stanza—“even now (and always)” that is again a method of separation of text that reflects the separation that we feel in the speaker’s gossamer den of isolation.
Tanisha Shannon’s poem “Rain,” is classical in four tight stanzas. While the writing is disciplined and austere, the poem coveys a story where the action is neatly, almost visually, complemented by the setting. The rain from the title functions not just to invoke ablation and purification, but also to mirror the flow of the biological elements that are referenced. For additional emphasis, the poem itself flows—in the simplest language it crosses the page, flows to its gentle blue resolution.
If you enjoy the writing style of William Carlos Williams, Linda Pastan and Tom Perrotta, this journal could prove indispensable. It certainly delivers an opportunity for newly published writers to have voice in a competitive field.