The bright, colorful, fun, full bleed cover with its octopus, crab, and turtle swimming from margin to margin says it all. It announces Number 57’s theme (“The Sea Issue”); the journal’s tone (delightful, playful, forward moving); and its voice (a little over the top, “Featuring the riveting poetry of Jeffrey McDaniel; the unputdownable fiction of Amelia Grey, and the dazzling nonfiction of Steven Church” the cover copy shouts). The journal is produced by graduate students in the Department of English at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Ah, but the faculty advisor is Ander Monson. Well, now I get it! Monson is the inventive and clever editor of the online journal diagram (and a lot of great stuff in print) and the publisher of hybrid and graphically oriented work at his New Michigan Press. His students are learning their lessons well. The journal is really inventive. Really fun. And, despite some excesses, really successful at what it does, beginning with the illustrated instructions on how to read the journal.
The cover copy isn’t far from the truth. Steven Church’s personal essay, “Confessions of a Parasite,” is fairly dazzling, and begins: “If you spend enough time with me these days, I will probably tell you about my neighbor, Myrtle. She’s 83 years old, has lived in her house for 76 years, and she has a boyfriend, Larry, who is 89.” Church has a thoroughly loveable voice, a great sense of timing, and a good ear for natural sounding dialogue. As the cover predicts, I did like Amelia Grey’s short (and it is) story, “The Suitcase.” It’s a little surreal and a lot entertaining.
Poetry is dazzling, too. Poetry contest winner Michael Tod Edgerton’s excerpts from “The Dreams of Pure Immanence and Pure Transcendence Are as One” interested me, in particular, in its reworking of classical material in a merging of verse in various configurations and prose poetry. And I was totally taken with Peter Jay Shippy’s “White for Diluting Dreams,” an incredibly ambitious poem combining themes of historical and social importance presented in a three-column table of several dozen pages. While I did appreciate the grey pages with reverse type aesthetically, it does make the work a little hard to read, especially for such a long piece already containing an unusual graphic element.
I liked, too, “Peyton’s Jukebox Time Machine,” a poem by Catherine Theis, which opens: “Like must-must / Or ordinary-ordinary.” There is, I say with admiration and pleasure, nothing ordinary-ordinary about the Sonora Review.