Despite having to evacuate the city during the fall term, Bayou’s editorial staff nevertheless had time to compile an impressive selection of work. Especially notable are the nonfiction pieces and George Pate’s “Indifferent Blue,” winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival One-Act Play Competition.
“Indifferent Blue” is set in heaven, a supposedly perfect place. But a character, Stanley, doesn’t like it, because “the very idea of perfection will cease to have any meaning because there’s nothing to judge it against.” Stanley and his friend’s intelligent banter elaborates on this aversion to perfection while Stanley tries to leave heaven for a less monotonous place.
The three nonfiction pieces describe different worlds in America: the Big Apple, American Indians, and rock. Their familiar terrain makes them, in some ways, a comfortable read, but they also leave the reader with challenging questions. Aaron Gilbreath’s “The Mice of Manhattan” tells how, after dabbling in the New York City publishing world, the author escapes back home. Must writers and editors flock to New York if they want to make it, or can they make it outside that wonderful, cutthroat city? Robert Rebein’s “A Most Romantic Spot” recounts a visit to former Cheyenne Indian territory. A detailed record of what the Cheyenne left behind when they fled from Custer gives the reader a picture of the lost civilization. What would America be like if the American Indian civilizations hadn’t been decimated? And in Jim McGarrah’s “Call and Response,” the author reminisces on the night he heard John Schilling play, concluding that the musician had Lorca’s “duende” – being “truly alive in the presence of death, of feeling the overwhelming sensory joys of living conflicted with the knowledge” he had to die. What American artists have this duende today?
Of other writing in this issue: in Kirsten Clodfelter’s story, “A Song Your Father Taught You,” the narrator uses vivid details to subtly compare her ex-boyfriend to her dead father; William H. Wandless’s poem “Lifelike” exposes lies told around a coffin; and Michael Jenkins’s poem “The Fisherman’s Wife” imagines the chaos that might occur if a fisherman’s wife were a poet.
All in all, a collection to be proud of. I look forward to reading Bayou’s next annual issue.