I should start by saying that I’ve been holding a grudge against apt for some time now. It turns out that if you don’t read their guidelines very carefully and submit something out of their reading period, they send you a very snarky e-mail. I’m not a fan of snarky e-mails; in fact, they kind of hurt my feelings. So I had vowed to hate apt forever.
But their 2012 issue makes it pretty hard to hate them. In fact, the issue accomplishes something few literary journals do: it begs you to come back and re-read it. And not just once or twice. This is the kind of journal you want to keep around.
The collection is filled from cover to cover with strong, daring pieces, which makes it hard to pick any favorites. I call them “pieces” because the editors of the issue have been intentional to blur the lines between prose and poetry. Though it’s hard to be quite sure which you’re reading at a given time, it doesn’t matter. Nearly every piece is filled with fierce narratives and clever surprises. There’s not a single selection in the issue that fades into the background.
Take, for example, Breonna Krafft’s “I Have Been Thinking about the Ocean.” The poem spans eleven pages, using punctuation to create the effect of waves. Beyond the clever visual arrangement, though, Krafft’s meditation on water is thoughtful and prophetic. She confidently spans topics as diverse as family, tsunamis, pollution, funerals, coral reef as used in bone grafts, and the gigantic heart of the Blue Whale. The effect is a contemplation that seems to unfold as easily as waves lapping at the shore.
Or there’s Thomas Nowak’s “The Teen Years for Jesus.” It’s not only irreverent. It’s hilarious, imaginative, and, probably, spot-on:
Jesus went from job to job
and his bosses would tell him
to clean himself up. Maybe shave.
He eventually started playing guitar
Next to the train station. No one
gave him money, but they smiled
at his cover of “Wonderwall.”
The issue is filled with moments like this that make you giggle, gasp, and think. Another good example is Russ Woods’s “Murder the sun.” in which a narrator emphatically tells the reader that “There is a sun out there and it needs to be murdered. By you.”
In Lindsay Coleman’s “Last Party,” an eight-year-old doesn’t want the other kids at her birthday party to think the game of bobbing for apples is rigged: “I can already hear the conspiracy theories from the other kids swarming above me. I’m not out of breath yet so I stay down.”
Or Thomas Mundt’s “Let’s Play Bomb Scare” in which a couple decides to make their lives a bit more exciting by pretending the empty baby car seat in the back of their “Certified Pre-Owned Civic” is “a knapsack bomb, like the one that sad, sunburned white man was accused of planting in that pedestrian mall during the ’96 Atlanta Olympics.”
In the editors’ note, the apt team points out how they have intentionally arranged the pieces in the issue to cross the borders of genre and style and to let each narrative lead you into the next. The effect is a collection of work that is fun and eclectic. Having already read it twice, I’ll still be carrying this issue around for a while.