Appalachian State University’s Department of English publishes Cold Mountain Review. The western North Carolina institution is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the town of Boone, and, yes, the town was named after Daniel Boone. His pioneering and exploratory spirit persists in the editorial stance of Cold Mountain Review, which is “interested in the way contemporary literature is testing the boundaries of genre” and “features work intended to transport the reader to unexpected landscapes—emotional terrains that are sometimes joyful, occasionally disconcerting, always interesting.”
The magazine’s focus is on storytelling, whether in narrative poetry or “lyrical prose.” This issue leads with two examples of creative nonfiction, by Sonya Lea and by Erin Pushman. Lea, in brief descriptions of the “Ten Best Meals of My Life (Thus Far),” writes an autobiography, through images of a happy childhood, love, marriage, family life, health scares, and spiritual journeying. Pushman, in “Sugar Creek,” reminds us of the unsavory elements and the struggles that underlie our achievements and rewards, recounting her search for creek glass (think beach glass) in the polluted stream that represents the only waterway in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Elizabeth Genovise and Julian Hoffman contribute fiction to this issue, both focusing on family life and bittersweet homecomings. Genovise tells of the two-day visit of a soldier on active duty to his Illinois home, and Hoffman describes the diverse notes of anticipation in a Greek village prior to the return of a man who has resided in America for twenty years. Hoffman’s story ends as the bus bearing the sojourner arrives; Genovise strikes disturbing notes in her asides that glance at, without glossing, moments that occur before and after the central narrative.
Cover art for Cold Mountain Review has been in full color since 2006. In keeping with the Greek theme of Hoffman’s work, Jason Waite contributes to this issue “Boy with Accordion in Santorini, Greece,” a compelling close-up image of an unsmiling child with furrowed brow holding an unfurled accordion twice the width of his body. Inside, a black-and-white photo essay about Hestur in Denmark’s Faroe Islands includes descriptive captions and an introduction by the artist Randi Ward, which illuminate her literary as well as artistic talents. Ward resided on Hestur for six months during her time of study for an MA in Cultural Studies with the University of the Faroe Islands. Her photographs communicate a moving depth of relationship with the people and landscapes she has captured here.
The narrative poems in this issue include “Red Boulder” by William Palmer, the heart of which describes a solitary ritual:
I sit under a spreading branch
of a juniper
and write my father a letter
saying I forgive him.
I fold the paper tight,
dig a small hole, bury it
and pat the ground
like the dome of a head.
I write another letter
asking my son to forgive me.
I write a third to forgive myself.
All the poems, like the prose (and like the contributors’ biographical sketches too), have a lucidity, a hard-won effortlessness that speaks to the artists’ ease with their craft as well as with their material. The blessed absence of archness in this collection descends on the sensibility as a deep silence, obliterating the cacophony of self-promotion, self-consciousness, and self-centeredness that characterizes much of contemporary culture.
Daniel Boone is remembered for saying (some version of), “I have never been lost but I was bewildered once for three days.” The quiet confidence, honesty, and humor of this statement have found their way, directly or otherwise, into the DNA of Cold Mountain Review. It’s funny how humility can become the escort of distinction.