In these painfully unsettled times, or perhaps I should say even more painfully unsettled than usual, I am grateful for the few things I can rely on. Out my west Bronx window, the sun still rises in the east, as far as I can tell. My boss will say “TGIF” with childish glee every Friday afternoon as if he had just invented the expression. The first sip of hot coffee in the morning will cheer me in a way that is unreasonably optimistic. And Prairie Schooner will satisfy and even comfort me with its steadfastness.
Particularly satisfying in this issue: Bradford Tice’s “The First Trial,” a long poem that converts a family narrative into a surprising linguistic exploration, a piece with a decided forward motion that merges the compulsion to retell a painful personal story about one’s essential identity with the impulse to convert a memory into fresh and indelible images. There is no self-pity, no sense of victimization, but instead a kind of emotional honesty that evolves out of the originality and strength of the language. The conclusion is both heartbreaking and hopeful:
The world may think there is no
Category, slot, fit for a boy in love with the lick
of glitz, but hooked to the plain as we are,
there is always a grand gesture, a way to thrive.
I like, too, emotionally charged poems – rich, not sentimental – by Susan Elizabeth Howe, Richard Robbins, Mary Crow, and Keetje Kuipers. Poetry stars (familiar names with exceptional credentials) this issue include Floyd Skloot, Diane Wakowski, and Susan Terris.
Of the issue’s three stories, all quite good, I am most excited by an excerpt from a genre I’ve started to call “the post-9/11 novel” by Janet Burroway, whose writing I have always appreciated for its unique intelligence and language that demands attention, but does not get in the way of the narrative’s natural evolution. The novel is titled Bridge of Sand and the chapter we have here begins: “What next?” Indeed. (“Love surged from the epicenter and rigidified.”)
Finally, I count on Prairie Schooner for smart reviews by thoughtful readers and critics. Seven books are reviewed in this issue, five from independent presses. I appreciate the introduction to books I won’t find easily, unless I seek them out, and for the careful and respectful reading by this magazine’s reviewers. Especially noteworthy in this issue: a review of Hadara Bar-Nadav’s A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight by Rebecca Morgan Frank (2007, www.prairieschooner.unl.edu]