The best way to describe this issue is rich – there is a simply a lot here to take in: a short play, a graphic short story/essay, a portfolio of poems by international poets (Writers in Residence in the writing program at Iowa), short fiction, poems, reviews, and several short prose pieces that might straddle the literary space between fiction and nonfiction (they are not labeled and might easily be construed as one or the other). Lyn Lifshin’s “April, Paris,” is representative, at least in terms of tone, of much of the work in this issue: “Nothing would be less shall we call it what it is, a cliché / than April in Paris. But this poem got started with some / thing I don’t think I could do but it reminded me of / Aprils and then three magazines came with Paris / on the cover.” The “message,” here too, is not a bad summary of the issue’s overall impact: things probably look more like April in Paris than they actually are, just keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
The international writing is exceptionally strong (poems and short prose by Julia Hartwig, Kei Miller, James Norcliffe, Elena Bossi, Ra Heeduk, Hana Andronikova, Alex Epstein, Penelope Todd, Lindsay Simpson, and Tomaz Salumun). I also liked an essay about an international literary experience (an international short story festival) by John Taylor, a piece that is part travel essay and part lit crit. I am seeing more and more of these hybrid types of essays, which straddle genres, intellectual approaches, and tones. Other highlights include Maggie McKnight’s graphic essay/short story about the advantages and disadvantages of “gay marriage,” which is cleverly conceived and deceptively simply, and a wonderful story by Kirston Alio, “Clothed, Female Figure.” Alio was recently named one of the National Book Foundations’ “5 Under 35,” so I’m hoping we can look forward to many years of great stories from her.