Quarter After Eight publishes prose-poems, short-short fictions, essays in-brief, etc., all of which must be contained within 500 words or less. The highlighted criterion encourages an “innovative address to the prose form…dedicated to blurring the traditional lines of prose and verse.” This issue features 28 short pieces including the 2008 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest winners, with First Place going to Cynthia Reeves for “Naming the Dead.” As stated in a preface by contest judge Sean Thomas Dougherty, Reeves manages “In barely a page…[to] offer us [an] elegy for the loss of a friend, the gaining of sexual knowledge, and the subsequent hurt that follows years later through the ghost of memory.” “Naming the Dead” is so beautifully rendered it’s difficult to decide if its lines should be quoted in prose or verse, such as in the following:
Girls of ten, we touched on your bed, felt the opening and closing of desire like a door passed through only once. The song – warm fingers in ancient places – was new to us, yet we began to know our capacity for endings.
While the voice and imagery in “Naming the Dead” fully blurs the lines between prose and verse, Second Place winner Elizabeth Bloom Albert’s piece “Pick” leans more toward the traditional voice of prose. Written in approximately 250 words, “Pick” startles with its sudden fictional turn, with its incredibly compact poignancy.
But the contest winners are not the only highlights in this issue of Quarter After Eight.
In fact, reading this issue I found myself marking piece after piece: “Eight Endings to the Same Story” by Mark Brazaitis; “On the Fabric of the Human Body" by Alison Christy;“Whale Songs” by Erika Eckart; “More or Less” by Elizabeth Ellen; “The Way I Fell” by Joseph Gastiger; “simple faith” by Sean Hill; “Past and Future Dwellings” by Stefani Nellen; and “How Thunder Stepped into the Sky” by Ann Walters. That’s one third of the prose pieces contained in this volume that completely knocked me off my feet. Re-reading this issue, I found myself ready to throw in the proverbial writing towel, ready to admit my inability to ever write quite so beautifully.