“A poet’s love of poetry is everything,” says Rodney Jones, interviewed in this issue by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum. The Missouri Review editors love what they do, too – they have created something that is clearly a labor of love. The journal is thoughtfully constructed and handsomely produced, with a rhythm all its own: some selections are accompanied by lengthy contributors’ notes containing the writers’ perspectives on their entries and their photos, others are followed by briefer, less personal bios; prose selections begin with their titles on pages with full-bleed photographs or illustrations on the left-hand side, large type with a wall-paper effect in the background on the right-hand side, and most stories are framed by large-sized pull-quotes; three poets contribute from three to eight poems each (rather than 20 poets each contributing one poem, as in most journals); writers’ headshots appear in the Table of Contents; and in the middle of the journal appears a colorful and playful set of prints of fashion designs from the 1930’s by Gordon Conway with an accompanying essay, “Poet of Chic,” by TMR marketing director Kris Somerville. The reproductions are gorgeous.
This is a thoroughly readable journal, a kind of fluid, satisfying reading that serves, all at once, as an escape from the everyday and as a reminder of how escaping the everyday is impossible. And, of course, of how the everyday is different every day. I was moved to tears by Margaret Malone’s excellent personal essay, “The First Week After,” about the diagnosis of her husband’s brain tumor. Of the many, many pieces I have read lately about dealing with illness or disease, this is the most original and impressive. Malone writes with great skill and a unique urgency, immediacy, and efficacy. Less unusual in tone or style, but no less affecting is Dave Kim’s short fiction, “Final Round,” about the troubles of a Korean-American family. This is Kim’s first published story, and it is moving and memorable.
Poets this issue are Alex Grant, Alexandra Teague, and Charlie Clark. Grant presents several prose poems from a recently completed chapbook, “The Circus Poems.” His subjects are archetypal circus figures, including – surprise – the audience. Clark says his poems attempt to “explore the limits of what art can do.” His tercets and quatrains straddle the boundaries between objects and ideas. Teague’s poems are from a manuscript titled “Mortal Geography,” and she thinks of the poems as “acts of reckoning.” Her writing is both lucid and, at times as she describes in the following lines from “Bay Window, with Divorce and Pigeon,” luminous in a way that is, paradoxically, almost austere: “flaws in the world’s construction: in love’s shelter / we forget the most luminous rooms have thin glass.” It would be hard to follow that line with anything that won’t damage its perfect grief, so I’ll end here.