Crazyhorse, its pages wide, heavy, and flexible, curls over the hand. The paired-down design seems to say, “let the work speak for itself.” And the work does just that. A well-handled mix of genres, styles, and subjects makes this issue of Crazyhorse exciting to read and disappointing to finish.
“There Were No Mirrors in That Farmhouse” by Molly Bashaw is the winner of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize and sets the magical tone of the issue. The poem’s images pair the speakers with nature unexpectedly:
Peacocks screamed us into ourselves.
In the wood, in the wool, we welled up, about to appear.
We could not decide if our faces were most ours
in the yellow hawthorn, the cornhusk, or milk.
The details build as the speakers take on new roles in relationships to the nature around them: “we tied ourselves to the dun mare, we held on / to wooden handles, we covered ourselves / with wool and buttons.” Each line pulls the reader into this uncomfortable grating of common and absurd. If you read only one piece in this issue, make it this one.
Magical realism grabs the issue with Tessa Mellas’s story “Beanstalk.” Lucy is middle-aged, and her baby is green, born that way:
face splotched with yellow like variegated leaves, hairy wispy white, corncob silk. All across his body, tiny buds are sleeping. On his arms, a dusting of moss. Veins spider from his to his temples and ears. Only his feet are the color of flesh, but not in that pink baby-soft way, more sallow like roots. A philodendron baby. A baby verdant and lush with chlorophyll stirring inside his skin.
As the story progresses, the baby, Jack, grows under the water-and-light nourishment his mother provides. He sprouts vines, and his buds bloom into flowers, and the story becomes at once beautiful and dangerous as the vines grow into the floor and over Lucy. Fans of Karen Russell and Kelly Link will especially appreciate the hints of fairy tale and folklore.
The editors also chose pieces that ground the issue. “Revising the Storm, 1991” by Geffrey Davis, a poem in three parts, acts as both memory and apology.
days earlier, the baler—perhaps in a rush, perhaps distracted
by anticipations for the evening flesh—left the bales of hay too close
for the flatbed to pass between. And so the men told us to roll hay
to be muscled away from the storm, from the coming rain that
threatened every mouth on the farm—my arms eight years old, yours seven,
neither strong enough to stay ahead of the truck . . .
While the first section is the flesh of the poem, the second and third sections explore the idea of revising memories. The speaker looks back on this storm and wishes he could change it, and the poem takes on the tone of an apology, a tone of regret. Many poets attempt to infuse their poetry with this emotion, but few manage to do so as sincerely and simply as Davis does.
In short, pick up Crazyhorse if you’re looking to be surprised, humbled, enticed, or inspired.