This volume of the Roanoke Review features the work of 8 fiction writers, including the journal’s three fiction prize-winners, 24 poets, and an interview with poet and novelist Lee Upton. Contributors’ notes include the writers’ statements about the genesis of their pieces and/or their writing process. Poetry and fiction are characterized by affable, accessible voices, and moving stories.
Here, for example, is an excerpt from Susan Howard Chase’s “Second Grade, Small Town New England, 1947”:
In February Miss T. hauled
a new child into class,
more snowsuit than boy,
a Chinese face buried
in a hood. I thought
he was an Eskimo.
She yanked at zippers,
herded him as if he were
more than one person
to a seat near the back
where he stayed.
And another from “Bud Vase” by Colleen S. Harris:
There was nothing special about the vase
except that I wanted it. Except that he bought it
for me, my father with the calloused hands given more
to a chuck under the chin than gifts of delicate porcelain.
Understated first lines are a hallmark of this issue’s fiction, including Adrienne K. Franklin’s “In Due Season” (“Cordelia couldn’t believe she had overslept on wash day of all days”); Leslie Haynsworth’s “Two Left Feet” (“The body part washed up behind your sister’s house last Tuesday); Ben E. Campbell’s “Taking One the Distance” (“So this is how it goes down”); and Alice Stern’s “I Hear You Talking” (“The Baerli’s didn’t use napkins”).
I enjoyed the interview with Upton, who is a terrific advocate for poetry’s power and promise:
As for writing poetry, it’s self-reinforcing; it’s exciting to work intensively with patterns of sounds and meaning. I don’t understand why almost everybody isn’t writing poetry as often as they can; poetry is a great rescuer and redeemer, and it can give us almost-immediate experience of imaginative freedom. I think of poetry as a pocket of breath in an avalanche.