Though lamentably thin for an annual journal, Oyez Review still provides the reader with tremendous value and represents a pleasant afternoon of reading. Considered as a whole, the editors selected fiction, poetry, nonfiction and art with a European feel. The work traffics in easily accessible themes, but refuses to offer easy, unfulfilling answers to important questions.
The issue begins auspiciously with a selection from “The Gospel of Darwin.” John F. Buckley’s poem reconciles Genesis with evolutionary biology in a manner that doesn’t disrespect the latter, as is often the case with such efforts. Indeed, one must wonder what it must have been like for our distant ancestors, having just made the transition from water to land to have “dreamed in two dimensions for the first time, / fantasies / of planar movement and the fresh tyranny of gravity.”
Don Peteroy’s short story, “One Day, God Will Kill Everyone,” crackles with imagination, using linguistics as the backdrop for a sociologically significant tale cast over a wide canvas. Even better, Peteroy manages the difficult work of maintaining character while working with the conceit he has chosen. Years after a quick bit of improvisation on the part of a college instructor hired after a call from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the world is speaking Chulahellan, a non-existent language with only ten words: I, am, is, be, this, yes, no, not, here and do. The story’s greatest joys are found in the ways Peteroy plays with the world he has created.
Imbued with a satisfying sense of existential ennui, Okla Elliott’s two poems bravely confront the banalities of life that are so captivating when they belong to us. Elliott gets surprising mileage out of a meditation on how Adam relieved himself while still in the Garden of Eden and the intellectual play-by-play of a man’s overseas telephone call with a woman. Elliott’s poems are also distinguished by the confident, honest voice he employs.
The sharp black-and-white photographs contributed by Prin X. Amorapanth are indeed imbued with the inspirations cited in the artist’s statement. The ironic loneliness of modern living in the street scenes is evoked through a “focus on geometry” and a “low-key tonality.” Amorapanth chooses offbeat subjects: the result of a discerning eye.
Ace Boggess, currently “serving time in the West Virginia correctional system,” does unexpected work with his poem, “The Prisoner’s Gospel.” This poem is not the first time the beatitudes have been rewritten, but Boggess chooses interesting phrases and ably turns the tone from one of calm hopefulness to immense sadness. For a prisoner with religious faith, he or she may indeed “rebuild themselves: a monument / with scars, a book of the Word / with shattered spine, / duct tape keeping its guts / from the cold stone floor.”