My biggest complaint with university literary journals is that they too often stress style over content. A boring, tedious story is still a boring, tedious story no matter how much it may be slathered in mellifluous, Updikian prose. I ask, how often can one be spellbound by another sensitive account of visiting an Alzheimer-afflicted grandmother in the nursing home? It was with considerable glee, therefore, that I enfolded myself within the online pages of this literary journal’s latest issue and read some real stories.
Example one: “Pickle Man” by Nathan Leslie. The title is worth a look, the story is even better. Example two: “Ballad of the Boxcutters” by Rick Levin. Male chauvinist whiner commiserates with devious friend endowed with warped sense of humor. Example three: “Court Marshal” by John R. Guthrie, a grim portrait of terrorism, torture, and imprisonment during a time when similar revelations in the real world are emanating from Washington.
Poetry. More good stuff! “Letter to Iphigenia” by Doug Ramspeck begins with “The moon is brooding again in the late night sky,” and then interweaves ancient Achaea, Sparta, and Agamemnon the king with dark, evocative images. Also impressive is “The Monk’s Body” by George Moore, a poem presented like a drum beat, concerning the death of a monk and the solemn presentation of his body to the birds and animals to be devoured “as if he were a sacred meal prepared by the monks / the righteous ones / for their other selves / the ones they will come someday to be / or the ones they were before.”
Also in this issue are six book and chapbook reviews, some minimalist art of telephones, and a discussion by novelists Tania James and Sandra Novack of their five favorite beautiful things. Last, but by no means least, is a quick biography of the new United States Poet Laureate. The interesting thing is that this person is an outsider, not in the academic, accepted mainstream, and as a student at UCLA was actually turned away from the Poetry Club because her poetry was too different. Therefore, congratulations to Kay Ryan for becoming our new Poet Laureate, Gary Lehmann for writing a very informative article, and JMWW for publishing it. You all get “A's.”