Front Range “features work from writers and artists, not only from the Rocky Mountain West but from all around the world.” These writers, many of them award winners, seem to share a focus and connection with nature and their relationship with it. While poetry dominates the journal, the few short fiction and nonfiction stories add diversity and depth to the journal. Front Range looks for artists who have works of “high quality,” which allows the journal to explore many aspects of the human condition. Also, the artwork placed throughout the journal offers another perspective on the human experience that Front Range looks to capture. Almost all the images published are landscape photos, but perhaps the most unique and interesting photo in this issue is one taken by Ira Joel Haber called “Reflections.” This photograph shows the reflection of a mannequin in a shop window, which calls into question self-reflection in a bustling modern world.
Each work included in Front Range explores a different human experience; however, a few works stand out among the others. In his poem, “Orgasm Prison,” John McKernan uses fresh words to create playful and beautiful images. “You collect light through stained glass / a string of black pearls on silver thread [. . .] Your dreams have sounds in them / Owl Whimper Flick of horse hide.” McKernan, now retired, has been published in elite magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker.
Some authors, such as Penelope Scambly Schott, have multiple works published in Front Range. In this edition, she has three powerful poems: “Gold Rush,” “The Layered Rock,” and “Where a Spring Rises to Become Buck Creek.” Her poems explore the voice of a strong and self-reflective woman living among the chaos and spirituality of nature. “The Layered Rock” struck me as her most venerable and touching poem:
Today I hear a birdsong
below my feet.
Am I walking upside down
on the lid of the sky . . .
Before her marriage
my daughter kept phoning
For the first time in years
she called me Mommy.
She also follows the stanza about her daughter with one about her mother, creating a lovely balance between the important women in the narrator’s life who have raised her and those whom she has raised:
When my mother was a kid
she used to chew warm tar.
She spit it into a lilac bush
next to the porch steps.
That’s the most personal thing
my mother ever told me.
These two portraits of her daughter and mother are simple, but incredibly telling.
Scott T. Starbuck’s “The Ledge” offers us a story about divorce and identity from a man’s perspective. The piece, only three short pages, paints a soft and intimate look at a man struggling to let go of his past and accept change that leads to growth. After hiking for hours and feeling defeated, the narrator compares his present journey to his divorce. “Finding a solid foothold, I watched the arc of a red-tailed hawk overhead. Did those wings evolve quickly? Was it work? Was it a choice or merely inevitability finding its form?” Stories such as this create variety in a journal that is predominately focused on poetry. They offer respite and dynamism.
Front Range is a thoughtful journal filled with both new writers and seasoned writers who have been published all over the country. Regardless of their publications, all are talented and have truly demonstrated their high quality in this journal.