I’ve eyed Grasslimb for a couple issues now, drawn by its simple, clean tabloid-style design. Each issue has had only two sheets, center folded, for eight, 11x14 pages of reading. I like this ‘local newspaper’ style, and the heavyweight paper adds to the reading pleasure. Easy enough to hide behind on a bus ride, solid enough to stand up through bumps and turns.
The front page features prose by Jennifer A. Powers, “Indian River,” and I have to admit, I’m of the camp that knowing genre would help. While it reads as memoir, a recounting of the narrator’s interactions with friends on a camping trip, namely Marley, the narrator’s partner, not identifying genre can cause analysis, understanding, reviewing, etc. to suffer. The writing itself consists of nicely woven moments of interaction between characters—the narrator attempting to understand those and other relationship moments—and the ending leaves the reader slightly chilled, wondering if all those connections had really only been disconnect.
Jody Azzouni’s “Plasma Television” is undoubtedly fiction—unless, of course, plasma TVs can really talk. I loved this piece for the realism of the relationships between city neighbors who know of each other, but don’t know one another, and how that distance becomes a tense weirdness when issues need to be addressed—such as, ‘whose garbage is it?’ The slight surreal shift adds tension to the story but also some comic relief (in case the way people behave in these situations isn’t comical enough). As this work proves, experimental, avant-garde or surreal fiction “is often more interesting” to Grasslimb than traditional stories.
And there is so much poetry in here with so much variety. Clearly, Editor Valerie E. Polichar’s range of what resonates is broad because some hit me hard, made me smile, made me stop and look out the window, didn’t connect except upon re-reading, didn’t connect at all. Not every style suits every sensibility (even upon trying and re-reading), but this is what makes a publication worth telling others about.
“Some Fur” by Anna Elise Anderson is one poem I’m still puzzled by but was drawn to repeatedly for its narrative imagery interspersed with a kind of slipstream memory recall: “You’re spilling my name in hot soup. You’re carrying me like a baby through the / pool. We sit on opposite sides of the house laughing in puddles of our own puke,” and later, “I am stacking pancakes on your ribcage while you sleep.”
Other works tend to the more concrete, such as Tim Hunt’s “’Yes, Ma’am’” which begins,
Working class—some of us are, you
know, each with a particular shame
we didn’t realize was shame, the marking
we don’t quite see but somehow know
There’s no mistaking the identification us working class folk feel in reading this. Hard hitting but a comfort at the same time, and nicely followed on the next page with “Shears,” short prose by Lisa J. Cihlar: “She has never cut auburn. She wishes for a grandchild with auburn hair. She tells her friends at the cheese factory to look out for a red-haired man.” And on the theme of work, Janet McCann’s “Firsts” needs to be read and shared with every writing teacher from coast to coast: “What I wanted was verbs, not facts. / Movement jolting, crackling across the page, / Awareness exploding into understanding.”
Grasslimb introduced me to Dorothy Gambrell’s comic Cat and Girl with “Predators + Prey,” a conversation between a glasses-wearing cat and a young girl. Gambrell’s work is poetry in cartoon, lines become dialogue bubbles in a panel, panels with no words a stanza break. Her website features many more such creations as well as the ability to ‘create your own’ cartoon from her artwork.
A few more poems that resonated with me: Noel Sloboda’s “How We Were Caught,” yes, because I’ve stolen silverware from restaurants, but because he created deeper meaning of that; “Flood” by Jason Primm, because we’ve seen so many floods lately that his depiction helps us understand it all more humanly (“Lights of the sheriff driving by, he’s told you / No one can stay. Not that he would drag you off. / You’d like to sit on the roof with your shotgun, / Shoot the news copters out of the sky”); the slice of moment “Watching Peter at the Galileo Museum” by Janet McCann because of her clarity of detail and that she leaves it up to the reader to make it stick:
The security guard
is playing solitaire with
real cards, thick old ones,
while the dot that
represents my son moves
around the museum
as though he were a slow
pinball . . .
Grasslimb also includes artwork; the two drawings by NotKeith replicate well in this format, and I have to think were solicited in some way since they fit so well with the writing they accompany. There are also two photos by Eleanor Leonne Bennett, again well-matched to the writing and adding depth and visual interest to the publication.
It’s worth mentioning that Grasslimb re-publishes works. Finding publications that reprint is rare but appreciated by both writers who want more readership and readers who get the chance to experience work worthy of selection by multiple editors.
For its simplicity of format which only enhances the depth and complexity of content, Grasslimb is a top-shelf publication.