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Willow Springs - Fall 2011

  • Issue Number: Issue 68
  • Published Date: Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

Willow Springs Issue 68 is a meal. Maybe a sandwich. But maybe that metaphor is too old. Let’s say lasagna, poetry stuffed between layers of prose, topped with a melted interview. Willow Springs fills you up with poems by Dexter L. Booth, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, and Nance Van Winckel among many others, prose from Clare Beams, Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Jill Christman, and Sarah Hulse, and a conversation with Richard Russo.

Among many fine poems, Dexter L. Booth’s “Moon Building” stands out:

My sister said that every time she cracked an egg
she was splitting a universe. Every dimension existed
in a shell. The yolk, of course, was the sun. I told my father.

The poem exists in three anecdotal parts that are subtly interrelated and held together by a young boy as its character. The first is the blurred memory of a girl holding the young boy over the sink, asking him to “piss on every plate and spoon.” The second, from which the above stanza is taken, discusses time travel and what that could mean to the father. The third presents the image of catching bees and ants in a mason jar. The beauty of this poem is the way it suggests a larger narrative through smaller moments. And, to suit the title, there are several space references, tying together each part with metaphor. “Moon Building” is a well-designed poem, a juggling act of narrative and metaphor held in the periphery.

If you only read one piece in this issue, be sure to read Sarah Hulse’s “Sine Die,” winner of the Willow Springs Fiction Prize. “Sine Die” is the story of a rodeo roper turned politician who is forced to retire because of short-term memory loss. He cannot remember anything for more than two minutes. He is static, and his wife, the narrator, must deal with this. The struggle intensifies when the husband’s horse is injured:

This is an opportunity, I tell myself. The chance to learn to break bad news perfectly. I tell Jeremiah the truth, but I tell it different ways. I try easing into it: ‘Roscoe was hurt in an accident.’ I try vague: ‘Roscoe’s gone.’ I try blunt: ‘Roscoe died.’ Once, after I tell him he was the one to shoot Roscoe—‘You did right by him, Jem’—tears appear in his gray eyes. When they fall onto his cheeks he seems surprised, and he turns to wipe them with the back of his wrist. Later I tell him again exactly the same way, but his time he doesn’t cry.

Hulse captures the reader with her smart, simple prose, with her mastery of storytelling. This is not a story to miss.

Weave bows out with a conversation with Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs. When asked to discuss how “studying literature, as opposed to creative writing, helped [him] as a writer,” Russo answers:

A lot of my colleagues who were in the MFA program in fiction, were reading contemporary stuff. I don’t want to call it a literary dead end, but it certainly wasn’t mainstream. They were reading William Gaddis, Stanley Elkin, Vonnegut, William Glass, John Hawkes…I wasn’t interested in metafictional games, and it didn’t matter to me how great the stuff was…I was the kind of writer who was informed by Dickens, the Brontes, and Twain, all of whom were clearly more important in terms of the writer I ultimately became than if I’d been taking contemporary fiction courses in writers who, despite their brilliance, didn’t have much to say to me.

[willowsprings.ewu.edu/]

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Review Posted on September 14, 2011
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