It’s a good thing that Alligator Juniper comes out only once a year because if you want to take in all of it – and you should – it would take nearly that long to get through it. That is, if you give the journal the time and attention it deserves. I hardly know where to begin.
The magazine features extraordinary black and white photography by the magazine’s national winner Jim Haberman, as well as Ben Boblett, Larry Jones, BK Skaggs, Catherine Ralls, Austen Lorenz, Jennifer Warren, and student winner Michael Richards, reproduced with exceptionally fine and vibrant precision. While these photographs could not be more distinct (vast, almost surreal landscapes, close-ups of flowers, portraits of unforgettable people in unforgettable poses), they share what photography contest judge Susan Modenhuer describes as “the mystery of a moment in time.”
Also exceptional is this issue’s “Special Feature” titled “Genre Blur,” introduced by editor Rachel Yoder, who asks us to “expand or abandon” our ideas of categorization. Accomplished prose writer Margot Singer kicks off the brief section with her essay “Genre and Voice in Creative Nonfiction” in which she summarizes the magazine’s aim: “to explore the ways in which different types of literature use the techniques of other forms.” Julie Marie Wade’s “Layover” is a poem-like construction merging visual elements (upper case letters, lists, dictionary-style entries, a variety of styles of spacing) with a blend of poetry and prose elements. The piece begins, aptly, “And what would you call this?” Amanda Nazario's “The Collected Works of Sara Ruiz” is fiction within a fiction within a fiction. Blake Butler’s “List of 50 (6 of 50): Memory Incantation” is / does what its title announces. Rachel Toliver’s “The Theory of Air and Speed” brings prose and poetry together to consider the meaning of bodies in love, in time, in the seasons.
Creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry contributions are equally compelling. These include a moving personal essay, “River Voices,” by the magazine’s national winner for creative nonfiction, Catherine Dryden; Zach Vesper’s poem, “Evening” composed of strikingly original images; and student winner’s short fiction “The Border,” a short, astutely and lovingly absurd portrait. Contributors’ notes include brief remarks about what inspired or informed the works. Award-winning photographer Jim Haberman writes of his photos of the Middle East: “After you have lived in that part of the world, you never quite see things the same way again.” The same could be said of Alligator Juniper.