Prole is proudly launching its inaugural voyage, and what a voyage. The message on page two states that this is “a journal of accessible poetry and prose to challenge and engage.” This journal is nothing if not challenging and engaging. Prole’s fiction and prose uses only artful story-telling, skillful-weaving, compact wording; no literary tricks, twists, surprise endings or jolts to deliver one deep into their vast little worlds. There are short stories with suspense and horror, such as “Book Covers” by Rebecca Hotchen and “Flower as Big as the Sky” by Matt Dennison. There are minute character studies such as “Shoes” by Dave Barrett and Bruce J. Berger’s “He had to Go.” And completing this tasty assortment are the odd and sad like “Stone and Wind” by Carl T. Abt, “Scarred” by Kevin Brown, and Stephen Ross’s “Clocks without Hands.”
“Book Covers” begins in an ominous fashion, “The muted colour of his skin seemed to suggest that Mister Evans was as coated in dust as the books he kept.” Never mind that this opening forecasts doom, and one might have a good idea this story is going in a gloomy direction. Finding out how the tale gets there, if it gets there, is the thing – the way the story takes one there is not common or ordinary, but a very intimate journey.
One of the easiest statements to make about “Flower as Big as the Sky” is that it is not an average “coming of age” story. It does take a serious subject and illuminate it against the backdrop of childhood innocence with startling clarity. Another memorable story, with more than a touch of humor, “Shoes” is just as colorful as one would expect from its opening line: “Gus. Crazy Gus Meyerson and his now famous foot fetish.” Whether one sees it as a serious story with humor or a humorous story that is serious, it holds one with every word.
There are excellent pieces of creative nonfiction; the mind-blowing, tragic and awful “Fanfare for a Soldier” by Randy Lowen, somber “Baghdad, Tuesday morning” by Stephen R. Williams, and the side-splitting “Double-Standard” and “Rage Against the Machines” by Mary Whitsall.
The poetry is grouped together after the fiction and nonfiction, and there is much to be admired. One gem is by Blythe Woolston, who wrote in “Three Fallings in Love”: “When I was sixteen, it was my physics teacher. / I loved watching him do math in his head / and on his fingers.” She writes for everyone who fell in love in childhood, youth and adulthood in every which way one can.
Readers should discover the poems for themselves by reading this literary journal, it is both online and can be acquired in paperback through its website. It is a neat, short book, about one hundred pages, with a black and white photo of a bridge over water leading to a misty hill on the other side – what adventures might be there? Read and find out.