Hanging Loose, the press which gave Sherman Alexie his start as a poet, opens this volume with two of Alexie’s poems. Alexie, as usual, is simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. Quoting a section won’t give him justice. Read these poems, cry (from sadness and laughter), and know that Alexie still recognizes, despite his fame, that good poetry demands attention and vulnerability to the world.
This issue contains mainly poetry, with a couple pieces of fiction and flash fiction. I thought Helen Elaine Lee’s prose poem, “Life Without,” extremely compelling, for she makes the reader pity prisoners without relying on false sentimentality. Through Lee’s descriptions, “the prison population” becomes individuals with quirks and faults, people who’ve loved and lost just like the reader. “Trying to anneal their hearts for battle and for waiting, stuck in their mistakes, their crimes, their numb regret, they try to be more than their worst things. They cry for the world that has forgotten them. They cry for their sons and daughters, for their kinfolk, all. They cry for themselves.”
Steven Schrader’s five flash fiction pieces demonstrate stories can, sometimes, effectively convey young love, generational conflicts, or unfilled dreams in a page or two. And on its fortieth anniversary, Hilton Obenzinger tells the story of the “Columbia Revolt” in detail, from the perspective of a student.
Unique to Hanging Loose is a section by high-school-age writers. Of particular note in this issue is Mariah Coley’s poems, “Pond” and “Letters to Abe from Home.” The former expresses yearning for the natural: “In September I’d lie in the shade by the water, / pond-wet hair spread over the ground / like the dark soft roots of old trees.” This section, along with the entire magazine, demonstrates Hanging Loose’s sincere interest in new and emerging writers.