Whether or not it’s deliberate or simply a happy accident, the Table of Contents is, in and of itself, simply fabulous. Listen to these titles: “The poem I’m obsessed with,” “Have you ever noticed how many bugs,” “The Simple Life Reveals its Complications,” “Marriage, it turned out, was a disappointment,” “Swee’ Dadday’s Big Sanyo,” Going to Jail Free,” “Triptych of My Aunt Linda, Poet in Her Own Right, Frightened of Bicycles,” “The Wrong Thing, the Bad Thing the Untrue Thing.” A welcome and true sign of the originality to come.
Here is Susan Thomas in her poem “Mud Season” fooling me into thinking this is a poem I’ve read a hundred times, when it isn’t: “Redbud, willow, cherry blossoms – / someone else’s spring.” Of course, I must know whose spring it isn’t. Here is B.J. Best turning what could be ordinary into something special in his “weather in paris”: “when it rains, it somehow does so / in French, smelling of boulangeries / and fancy cigarettes.” Here are Christine Rhein’s unpredictable philosophies in her poem “Orange Days”: “Truth comes down to attitude.” and “my alphabet . . . leads from one meaning to another.”
John Baum’s story, “How to Explain the World,” the story of a boy with “special needs” is poignant, realistic, and memorable. No sloppy sentiment here, though such a tale could easily lend itself to messy, uncontrolled emotion. Keith Buie’s story “Kickback” is beautifully written: “Good-bye to Mom was a freshly made bed. Good-bye to Dad was the sound of the front door shutting behind me.” Julie Marie Wade’s essay, the triptych whose title is cited above, is written as if it were what it announces, a series of paintings, and it’s a successful tactic that turned a piece that might be ordinary into one that is exceptional.
I loved, too, the cover art, a lovely watercolor by Amy Bernays, “Kennedy Meadows Half in Winter,” and striking black and white photographs by Colleen Collins, especially a marvelous photo, “River in County Kilkenny, Ireland,” which will make you long to visit the place, to have tea, perhaps, in one of the houses along the canal that dominates the photo.