Spalding University (where the journal is published) guest faculty editors Kathleen Driskell, Kirby Gann, Charlie Schulman, Luke Wallin, and guest editor Betsy Wood, a Spalding University MFA Program alum, have selected the work of 22 poets, four fiction writers, an equal number of nonfiction writers, two playwrights, and five young writers (for the “Children’s Corner") for this issue. There is much solid, competently composed work here from writers who publish widely and consistently in fine journals.
I liked, in particular, Gaylord Brewer’s poems from a series titled “Dead Metaphors,” an appealing concept for a series. Two appear here, #3 and #19. I imagine there are an infinite number of possibilities, and I hope to encounter more from the collection. Here is the clever opening of #3:
How the room centers around a vase
centered around a table, narcotic lossening
of petals. My god, how quickly today passes,
beginning containing unfolded finish,
first beauty the solution to our pain,
whether wild thorn of woodside
or tended garden monarch – still
dangerous in her refinements.
The issue also features several poems that imagine historical personages, some real (“Virginia to Leonard, Who Means Well” by Stacia M. Fleegal) and some fictional (“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” by Suellen Wedmore, and “Memory’s Work” by Adam Day); several poems explore the nuances of natural scenes; and several portraits of children. Perhaps the most unusual poem is Cathleen Cathert’s “The Princess Bride,” what I might categorize as a love poem in reverse: “I’m sorry. / I’m not fighting fair. Lynda, indulge me / As fine as your poems are they lie…the truth is we’ll do anything for love…this is one that I’ve done.”
Nonfiction contributions are four personal essays, two that consider the meaning of marriage (from Dianne Aprile and Susan Finch); one that describes an attraction to the “choreographed violence” of wrestling (by Chrisotpher Lirette); and my favorite, an essay about Kosovo by Timothy Kenny, “Unknown Zone: Recollections of a Year in Kosovo.” Kenny observes his temporary home keenly, works diligently to provide an authentic view of the place, and creates just the right balance between objective reporting and his own personal view of what he observes.
Most unusual are the two short dramatic pieces by Mark St. Germain (“Fitzroy”) and Holly L. Jensen (“Class Act: Version 379"). I commend TLR for publishing dramatic works, which are seldom included in literary journals and, frankly, difficult to find anywhere. Fitzroy is a huge tortoise whose encounter with Charles Darwin brings into question the relationship between survival as a product of biological imperative (reproduction) and survival as a product of emotional imperative (hope). Jensen’s short play centers on two seventeen-year-old characters who ponder, what else (?!) but the meaning of life. The play premiered at the 2009 Boston Theater Marathon.