Epiphany is “committed to publishing literary work in which form is as valued as content.” This emphasis on craft results in a balanced mix of excellent fiction, memoir, and poetry from both new and familiar authors.
Epiphany's fiction selection ranges from traditional short stories to highly personal flash-fiction pieces that could almost be called prose poems. Matthew McGevna's “Monologues to God” is my favorite example of the former, and M.R. Sheffield's “Children” is a powerful example of the latter. McGevna's coming-of-age story follows two brothers in a world where a stepfather's love is paralleled by his use of physical and psychological violence. M.R. Sheffield's “Children” is a panicked, obsessive meditation on children falling through the sky. Image-driven and guilt-ridden, this experimental piece criticizes voyeuristic news loops that allow us to see “Their baby faces tumbling in high definition.” Wherever they fall on the spectrum of traditional and experimental stories, all ten fiction pieces in this edition of Epiphany are good reads.
Old-fashioned, high-quality storytelling makes an excerpt from Domingo Martinez's first book, The Boy Kings of Texas, completely captivating. Martinez delivers a lyrical and unblinking account of family life in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. The characters in Martinez's memoir are brutal as often as they are lovable. Gramma is a shotgun-wielding matriarch who takes out life insurance on the men in her life in a bid to make her own luck. Martinez's sisters will make you laugh as they daintily pick their way through the muck of their impoverished childhoods. Their father is the kind of man who risks a drug-smuggling run based on the advice of a witch doctor with a crystal ball. While it is hard to describe poverty in a lighthearted manner, Martinez chooses humor and wisdom over tragedy in his storytelling. Like his grandmother before him, Martinez gets through his childhood by “coping with circumstances others would find crushing, terminal.” The Boy Kings of Texas is currently available from Lyon Press (an imprint of Globe Pequot).
I enjoyed all three poems by Owen Andrews. “After Verlaine” ponders the difference between a loved one dying and a loved one leaving a relationship. Andrews’s speaker asks: "What can I scatter, pour / or burn to drive out your / strong spirit, cursed or blessed?"
The poem exorcises no ghosts. It does connect both reader and writer in the inevitable task of moving on, even when haunted by possibilities. Andrews writes of the dead, “Because I have no doubt / they're gone, they slowly fade.” The question of the poem is, how do you kill an expired hope?
An unexpected highlight of the poetry in Epiphany is a selection of five poems by the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. Translator Susanne Petermann writes that Rilke’s French poems “number nearly 400 and remain virtually unknown.” My favorite lines come from “Vois-tu, la-hout, ces alpages des anges.” As the daughter of a vintner, I appreciate the second half of the poem's literal description of the wine-drinking term, terroir:
But your air, what treasure in the bright valley
all the way to the peaks!
Everything hovering and reflecting there
will end up in your wine.
In a journal that showcases many new voices, it’s also exciting to discover lesser-known works by a canonical master like Rilke; I'm happy to discover this journal full of well-written stories and poems.