As a group, the titles will tell you a lot: “Little Incisions,” “From God’s Notebook,” “In My Version of the Afterlife Grandma is Riding an Elephant,” “When Dada Ordered Chinese,” “Apparatus for the Inscription of a Falling Body,” “Scar Art,” “Six Whole Ducks in the Belly of an Ounce I Once Killed,” “The Middle-Class Philistine Heartfield Gone Wild.” Was Seneca Review always this, well, edgy? Is edgy the right word? Inventive? Out of the ordinary? Provocative, that’s it!
The first lines are pretty exciting, too: “As soon as I learned in science class that bodies fall apart into something useful I chose burial,” from Alice George’s “In My Version of the Afterlife Grandma is Riding an Elephant”; “Sooner or later all blindfolds come off” from Christopher Kondrich’s “Elegy for Digressions with Charlie Chaplin”; “On the third week in January, upon the lacquered concrete reflecting white light, in a Plexiglass box measuring one foot by one foot by one hundred and twenty feet, transparent through five sides with black fabric on the sixth,” from “Scroll” by Riley Hanick.
Even the contributors’ notes are unusually captivating: “Elizabeth Rush is a problem, a pirate, a bore.” A recent graduate of Reed College who now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, Rush’s first-ever publication appears here, an accomplished poem with a title that seems almost out of place in this issue. The poem, however, does not: “And the world – // the world is a crocus, a clam, a book.”
Also rare in the world of literary publishing, and most appreciated, is the journal’s reprinting of a marvelous essay by Beth Bosworth, “A Burden is Also a Song,” which appeared, unfortunately, with many typographical errors in the Spring ’07 issue. I am glad not to miss the essay and impressed with Seneca’s Review’s decision to make amends and print the piece properly. The work in this issue may push the envelope, but the editors’ values couldn’t be more sincere, respectful, or, dare I say it, traditional, in the very best sense of the word.