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Colorado Review - Summer 2009

  • Published Date: Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Triannual

This issue of Colorado Review includes many writers whose names are, deservedly, quite familiar, among them: Hadara Bar-Nadav, Peter Gizzi, Donald Morrill, Cole Swensen, There are many who have published widely and may soon be as well known as the others I’ve mentioned, among them: Andrew Joron, Stacy Kidd, Wayne Miller, Jacqueline Lyons, Ange Mlinko. And there are others with new books or books about to be published that I am eager to read, based on their contributions to this issue, among them: Robin Black,Ellen Wehle, Jennifer Moxley, Andrew Zawacki. What these writers share is an original eye and an original ear, which is to say, that in many ways, they are as different from each other as they could be.

I was stunned (not unhappily so) by the juxtaposition of two of the most captivating pieces in the issue, Andrew Zawacki’s series of poems from Videotape, which stutter (in a wonderfully lyrical way) across the page:

To accord the places
their flinty names:
Cassadaga, Cheekto-
waga, exit
54 to East
Aurora toward West
the Lackawan-
na coal mine shafts, closed
as Cayuga
is cobalt & Stihl, & all

and Brendan Wolfe’s fluid and beautiful personal essay, “Stories from the Lost Nation,” which begins: “My father grew up fatherless in nearby Delmar.” Both the poem and the essay create a kind of intimacy with places and people that make them instantly familiar in a way that feels natural and close, yet without obliterating our ability to view them critically, to reflect on some larger meaning beyond the page. I appreciated Robin Black’s story, “The History of the World,” for the same reason.

Benjamin Arda Doty’s story, “Minute of Angle,” joins the growing body of twenty-first century war literature, a phrase that is both loathsome and necessary these days. This is a beautiful and convincing story that juxtaposes the concentrated moments and experience of aiming and firing a gun with the moments of non-combat life in Iraq. The prose is lovingly and expertly crafted and the story’s pace seems just right:

My heartbeat knocks on the door of the last chakra. A gate opens at which no judgment will pass. I become the red dot, which is because it isn’t the space around it, existing because of what it isn’t – this war, a dream to be home and in love, dead kittens and children, the confidence of a friend, the sweating. I find the minute of angle, or, rather, it finds me. Precision makes everything of nothing. There’s the silence, a calm as vast as an ocean without waves. I squeeze the trigger.

The journal’s generous editorial vision and eclectic approach include poems as wildly different as Chris Pusateri’s “From ‘Common Time’” (“There would be a pistol loaded with our dreams. We would enact a massacre by shooting people with those dreams, and like heroes in the movies, our revolver would never run out of bullets.”) and Pam Rehm’s “Winter Psalm” (“You have stood / winter evenings // You would think / I could pray // and I seem to/have a yearning feeling // and uncertain intervals / Here, // geese flying over).

Wayne Miller’s poem, “The Dead Moor Speaks,” may best sum up the journal at its most appealing and satisfying: “The throngs slowed down to look at me. / The boys stood still, filling with world.”

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Review Posted on October 18, 2009

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