This issue includes the Great Blue Heron poetry and Sheldon Currie fiction first, second, and third prize contest winners, poems from an additional 20 poets, three short stories, short book reviews, a review essay, and what is classified as an “article,” an “academic” style analysis of poet Anne Compton’s award-winning poetry book Processional. Solid and satisfying reading from cover to cover.
The poetry contest winners were selected from more than 214 entries. The contest criterion was to “favor long poems and multi-part sequences” and the winners, we’re told, “demonstrate an ability to write for the tensive qualities of living human voices. Either overly or implicitly, their poems are dramatic. Their poems are flexed by that quality which good poetry must have of being both unanticipant and yet formally cohesive.” Despite the fact that the spellchecker on my word processing program is unhappy both with “tensive” and “unanticipant,” I would agree.
The winning poems by Anita Lahey, Christine Wiesenthal, and K.V. Skene exhibit a successful balance between the purely poetic and the casually, naturally human and come to logical, yet somehow surprising conclusions. I was especially moved by Wiesenthal’s “Top Ten Reasons to Swing on a Clear Night,” which in less skilled hands might have seemed a mere exercise with its anaphoric structure (Because an… because on… because the, etc.). But, the last line is a killer and turns the exercise into an original and utterly memorable, even heartbreaking poetic experience (“Because this could have been your playground now, Tim. The whole / amphibian night”). Wiesenthal’s “Maligne Canyon” is equally compelling and lovely.
Judge Susan Kerslake says she “opted for the old-fashioned” kind of story for the fiction prize, and I agree that these stories by Andrea Marcusa, Beverly Akerman, and Andrea Cameron are conventional. At the same time, they remind us of why good old-fashioned stories are so appealing and satisfying and necessary. We are sympathetic to their characters’ situations and identify with their dilemmas and circumstances. And I especially liked Marcusa’s clever prose: “a five o’clock shadow that appeared at 3:00,” for example, and:
Mr. Lemard was a husky man with thick black curly hair that seemed to have spread from his chest onto his back like a bad case of poison ivy. His trim waist, strong arms and sinewy legs made him look fitter than the other middle-aged men at the club. Even though I was only 13, I thought he walked as if he knew this.
I must mention other wonderful stories in this issue, too: a contribution by Rebecca Higgins, based on the biography of Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis, “The Colour of Birds,” and another by Jim Reed, “The Weekend Out With All Our Coins.”