CALYX, a literary journal dedicated to celebrating women’s voices, never fails to delight. The expanded summer issue of 2012, with its collection of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, art, and book reviews, is by turns lyrical and raw, whimsical and powerful. We read about mothers, sisters, wives, and best friends in witty and imaginative language, glimpses into other lives that live on in the imagination long after the last page has been turned.
Two of my favorite poems in this issue take untraditional subjects. “To Matrilineal Haplogroup K” by Lisa Bellamy addresses members of the poet’s own genetic grouping, descending from the same prehistoric ancestors:
Greetings, my snappish, results-oriented sisters—
we wander through crowds unknown
to each other, slurping fruit pastries in Salzburg,
shopping for bridal gowns at Kleinfeld’s,
hobbling down Terre Haute hospital halls,
trailing intravenous cocktail cords—
slamming phones, trading oil futures from
Calgary skyscrapers, our DNA still reeling
30,000 years after that trek from the steppes.
The poem goes on as Bellamy explains her desire for a sort of family reunion, underscoring both the longing for connection we all share and the knowledge of how interconnected we already are.
Emari DiGiorgio’s poem “Reasons For and Against Dating Tyrannosaurus Rex” is a frank and original description of male-female relations. I know I’m in trouble when I find the dinosaur irresistible:
T-Rex sips a tiny espresso.
He’s reading Spinoza, sports
an argyle sweater, thick black frames
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What’s it like to be king?
It’s all meat to me, baby.
You know my kind. Hungry.
The three pieces of fiction included in this issue present diverse voices and stories. “Just Like Us” by Vanessa Hua is the complex story of a girl’s search for identity as she and her peripatetic mother move into an RV park in Northern California. Sandra Cisneros’s “The Story You Gave Me” allows us a look into a story of true love, that of a grandmother for her grandson, written with both humor and compassion. “Plots for Sale” by Linda Elin Hamner, by way of a contrast, gives a funny, if surreal, peek into the processes of story-writing, as the author tours a specialty boutique that caters directly to the writer lacking inspiration. After touring the different departments, selling everything from characters to plots, the narrator “pick[s] up a dozen plot twists, a box of bon mots, and a jar of red herrings at the gourmet section for a later snack and head[s] home to begin writing the Great American novel . . . or screenplay . . . or essay . . . or haiku.” And the results are amusingly bizarre.
One of the offerings of creative nonfiction in this issue is the compelling “Ratification” by Allison Green. A combination of personal memories surrounding the long Equal Rights Amendment debate in the United States during the seventies and early eighties and a summary of its history, “Ratification” serves as a reminder of the long process for legislative equality and how the seemingly willful misunderstanding of such legislation slowed that process. As her third grade teacher told her class, “If the ERA passed, girls would have to go into the jungle and handle snakes.”
CALYX’s art section provides a colorful and refreshing pause halfway through the issue. It contains reproductions of several paintings and photographs of art installations, each piece thought-provoking and unique. I confess my favorite in this collection is Victoria Brookland’s ink and watercolor on paper, entitled “Hawk,” depicting a hawk caged within a crimson crinoline. She writes of this piece, “In my painting I attempt to explore our potential for—in Emily Dickinson’s words—‘independent extasy,’ and to celebrate the indomitable spirit of women’s creativity.”
The magazine concludes with several book reviews, a new interview section containing a conversation with poet Rebecca Lindenburg on her new book, Love, An Index (McSweeney, 2012) and two In Memoriams, celebrating the lives of the writers Wis?awa Szymborska and Adrienne Rich.
For sheer breadth of form and voice and for the competence of writers and artists performing at their best, CALYX is well worth a read.