Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Literature broke into the literary world just this year. The first guest editor, Gayle Brandeis, is an author of both young adult and adult fiction and has also been honored for her work as an activist. A little blurb on the back of the collection promises that Magnolia is “a diverse collection that will open your eyes, challenge your thinking, and break your heart.” And Magnolia certainly delivers.
Two poems in this collection exploded in my mind, and when the dust had settled, created instant love. It is rare to find a literary magazine where you fall in love while reading and have to read a piece over and over again, yet I was fortunate enough to have this experience twice during my reading.
Sami Schalk presents us with a poem titled “Naming.” She reintroduces us to several famed women who have changed the world. Schalk literally names these women in accordance with the specific greatness they have achieved and the echo of these names in the reader’s head is enough to spark high emotion:
I name the women who spoke truth without hushing their voice,
who say racism
Frannie Lou Hamer
who say sexism
who say homophobia
Audre Lorde. . . .
The poem reminds me of a eulogy, yet retains the poetic flow we expect from a literary magazine.
Every word, every syllable, and every line in Sari Krosinsky’s narrative poem “In Transit” had my full attention. The writing is superb and the poem tells a raw story that intrigued me. With most work, certain lines stand out to me which I can easily quote and include in a review because they are simply that fantastic. In Krosinsky’s work, it is exceedingly difficult to select an excerpt. I just want to type the whole poem. The narrator heads into a public bathroom at the bus station to brush her teeth. It’s 4 a.m., and just before she enters the bathroom, a man tells her that he is in love with her:
When I come out, the man is waiting for me. He wants to marry me. He wants me to come back to his apartment. I wonder what he’s doing in the bus station if he lives in Philadelphia. He follows me outside, still proposing. I tell him I’m going to have a sex change; that’s why I’m here. He loves me no matter what. I say goodbye.
She is on her way to an appointment with a therapist in order to start taking testosterone. The emotions she is feeling, I am feeling—I can literally imagine her sitting in the cab and telling the driver that she has no money even though he doesn’t believe her. I can picture her spending her last four dollars on pizza and Coke. Krosinsky weaves not just a poem, but an experience and breathes life into her words, allowing her readers to be a part of it. The final stanza leaves me thinking:
The bus station is fluorescent and dirty and real. The buss pulls in, scratched steel like a dead missile, eager to be filled with screaming babies, drunks, people going home. And we’re eager, too.
We are all in transit in different ways, just as we are all at a different point in our lives. The excitement and realness is in our transit and our experience. Krosinsky reminds us that it isn’t always about the result, but the different snapshots of time and emotion that lead us there.