With a title like Gigantic Sequins, you may suspect to open a journal full of brilliant and flashy work, but, inside, what you’ll actually find is a whole collection of poetry, fiction, and art that is brilliant without being flashy. Dispersed in between the writings is art from Gillian Lambert and Sarah Schneider that at first seem odd or grotesque, but, with a closer look, you see that there is beauty in the strangeness, and you feel compelled to stare, to think, and to mull over the meaning of the images—proof that the art is doing its job.
The poem that I can’t help but go back to again and again to read is Kimberly Grey’s “saudade.” An intro to the poem indicates that “saudade” is an “untranslatable [Portuguese] word referring to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost”—a word whose definition in itself is poetic. Even though this word is “untranslatable” to English, I think that it is a feeling most, if not all, of us have felt:
We loved each other like brutes.
What I wouldn’t give for one last you, my broked
half, to be again
what fractures you, what wholes you back.
Another poem that I spent a lot of time on is Candice Wuehle’s “Invitation to a 40th Birthday.” Each line of the poem is numbered (1-40), and the words are spaced throughout the lines causing breaks in reading. I like how the form makes you slow down, to take in each word, and to really ponder on the significance of each phrase.
Kelli Trapnell’s “Ceramic” is a piece of fiction that transports the reader into a dream world, a place where bizarre things can happen. Written in second person, “you” are the main character. However, the most interesting character is a nameless boy with a very large head:
The balloon-head sits up, and unzips his gaping, jagged mouth to speak. Cold darts ripple through you, and you don’t hear the words he says. You are too busy keeping your bones from melting. Your heart is a rock, your stomach a monsoon. You look away and remember to breathe.
The reaction “you” gets from it is compelling and eerie—made even stranger as later in the story he is covered in ceramic and singing “It’s a Small World After All.”
In “Woman with Parasol” by Meg Cameron, the subject matter is more everyday but no less powerful. In it, a husband sits and circles names in the obituaries section of the newspaper while his wife gets ready for work. The main speaker ponders about the lack of communication in their marriage, and, for an instant, his wife is “illuminated” just as the woman in Claude Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol”:
She stands and walks to the sink. I watch. She stops there, her back to me, looking down at the mug in her limp left hand; her wedding ring sparkles from the ray of mid-afternoon sunlight streaming in through the bay window. The green and blue stained glass reflects on her pinned hair. She is illuminated.
Although the story is short, it relies on the images and symbols to bring about a message that is as truthful as it is sad.
In “The Chicken Man Walks the Quarter,” by Amanda Auchter, we are given yet another angle for which to view this magazine. The poem masters rhythm and cadence as we follow Fred Staten (“also known as The Chicken Man . . . a New Orleans nightclub performer and considered by locals as the unofficial King of Voodoo”) walk the French Quarter in New Orleans:
my gris-gris, chicken claw,
snaketooth. I walk the streets:
Burgundy, Dauphine, Bourbon,
offer bags of ju ju to the junkies
with their needle-drawn prayers,
each turn a beautiful, bad road.
I love the words that Auchter uses in this poem to create the atmosphere of sound such as “the city’s blue music of bottles” and “listen to its desperate magic—gunshot, backfire / a bottle tapped with a stick, keeping time.”
And, of course, there is more in this magazine that makes it shine without hitting the reader over the head with its glamour. I enjoyed reading this publication from start to finish and found that, once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down until I read it all.