Mark Halliday, judge for the journal’s annual poetry contest, describes the winning poems as “ready to…confront contradictions,” “avoid dumb enthusiasm,” and provide “neatly managed endings,” which serves equally well to describe Fugue’s editorial approach, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked the magazine. I appreciate Halliday's winning choices, poems by Lisa Bellamy, David J. Corbett, and Carol Louise Munn, three distinctly different examples of what it takes to make a poem, but all “strikingly alive,” as Halliday says, and all more emotionally charged and more satisfying than they appear on a first reading. These poems tell stories more moving and more complex than their language, at first, seems to imply. Bellamy, in particular, is both clever and tender, a combination of tones that can be difficult to pull off.
The fiction winners, stories by Roger Sheffer, Margaret Zamos-Monteith, and Sage Marsters, are laudable choices, too, which judge Ann Pancake describes as stories unlike any she has read, ambitious, and unflinching. “For Lack of Wood” by Zamos-Monteith is most intriguing for its unusual fragmented structure and what Pancake calls “desperate understatement.” All three stories have in common the compulsion to tell a tale that is both by measures wild and ordinary, in prose that manages to be exceptional without drawing attention to itself.
These award-winning selections are well accompanied by a number of marvelous and unusual contributions. Jenni Blackmore’s experimental piece, “My Titfer,” was inspired by stories told to her by her Welsh uncle of the life of out-of-work miners in Argentina in the 1920’s working on industrial ships. It’s hard not to think about the stories our distant relatives will tell of the labor in which we are engaging now during this new era when whole towns of laborers are out of work, and the piece seems especially important, in part for that reason. Paul Watsky and Alex To contribute a decidedly modern translation of a poem by Yuan Dynasty poet Guan Hanqin. (“You say I am old / No so fast! / Nobody throws a hipper party.”) Karen Babine’s personal essay, “Water and What it Holds,” is a lovely consideration of the life of her family in the context of the life of the geography which formed it – and her.
The issue concludes with an interview with essayist Jo Ann Beard, who explains how a writer may know when an essay is done: “The best endings create resonance. As in: reverberation, intensification or amplification. Everything in an essay (and a story) must be made to mean something.” I’d say this review is done if I’ve managed to convince you that Fugue is worth seeking out, savoring, and even re-reading.