The Painted Bride Quarterly, published four times a year online and annually in print, has a long and proud history of giving voice to new and established talent. For over thirty years, PBQ has consistently sought and published writers whose very individual work seems to rush us to the edge of the known world, and then signal us to risk the leap; yet, as innovative and personal as these works are, they seem to belong, too, to the communities and cultures that gave rise to them. Perhaps more remarkable is that although PBQ is sponsored by great institutions and organizations (Drexel University is home), the magazine has retained its authenticity.
This issue is hefty. Over twenty exquisite poems seduce your ears first, and shame any pretenses that might be lurking in your body; they require something from you – a conversation between poet and reader, and not always an easy one. Among these were “The Mortician’s Bride Says I’m Yours” by poet and novelist Rigoberto Gonzalez whose work distills language to its most potent and intoxicating effect: “Sound is death because it’s / irretrievable and every time / you speak you die a little more.” Noel Sikorski’s poem “Fuck” has all the appeal and soothing cadence of “dirty word” acquisition in early childhood and then, well, yes, fuck it – mean old Context skulks in and wipes the smile off your face. (If after reading Sikorski’s poem you’re still smiling or, worse, disturbed by the literary employment of that word, check out the October 30th post on the NewPages blog). The voice of Liz Spikol’s powerful “Wedding March” is matter-of-fact and mournfully resigned but not self-pitying, and will call you to stand a long while under a cloudless sky, holding a fistful of rice and praying for rain.
Fiction by Stephen Schutzman (if you haven’t read him, get on it) and Andrea Luttrell are stand-outs. These stories reflect what seems to be PBQ’s aesthetic: solid writing that isn’t there for its own sake; these are stories worth telling, skillfully told. This issue also offers two prose pieces, each worth noting. Lane Anderson’s essay “First Day Back” is cheer-from-the-shore good, drawing from details and navigating waters that might have drowned a weaker writer. Also, Mercer Bufter shows you how it’s really done in a thorough and insightful review of Juliet Patterson’s poetry collection, “The Truant Lover.” Painted Bride Quarterly’s site is well organized and archived, making it reader-writer friendly.