Published by Minnesota State University at Mankato, Blue Earth Review is a stellar compilation of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. This happy threesome is fresh and enjoyable. There’s no niche. No artwork other than the cover. No crazy long commentaries by editors. Therefore, why go on and on about this journal’s vision? No reason as far as I can see. Let’s jump right in.
The poetry in this issue is wonderful. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but here goes. There’s a poem called “Sauce” (Anna Clair Hodge) that has me enraptured. It begins with a description of a sauce that includes strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and pecorino cheese. Being a food enthusiast, I was hooked from the start. Halfway down the first page there’s a snowstorm, and the speaker is injured in a skiing accident. Then there’s another shift to the speaker cooking for her lover and the lover kissing her out of a sense of obligation. Finally, it miraculously ends in these last beautiful lines:
Or how when a stray dog,
one eye gone, found us
on the porch, you held her,
stroked her, said good girl,
sweet girl, most beautiful
girl in the world.
And suddenly I realized this is one of the most interestingly bittersweet, hopeful love poems I’ve ever read. The speaker is awed by the lover’s tenderness. There may have been a stray dog, but let’s admit it. The stray, injured dog is the speaker. We know from the ski accident that the speaker has been hurt. She even says she is “Hurt, / and sad for having fallen, / for not having been more.” But we also know from the last few lines that the lover is her redemption. Why s/he felt obliged to kiss the speaker earlier in the poem, we know not. But maybe that was just the beginning, the first step in a love that would blossom. We do know that the lover will accept her brokenness. It’s what we all want from our partner – unconditional love. To say so much in a meandering poem about sauce and snow and stray dogs is what I call spectacular.
On to fiction. There’s one fiction piece and four flash fiction contest winners. For my part, I’d like to have seen more fiction or longer pieces spread throughout the magazine. However, some of the flash fiction is really good. First place winner “Reverse Triggers” by Matt Siegel is a disturbing account of a mother who finds a particularly alarming folder on the family computer. The folder, as well as her daughter’s diary, details a sickening history of her daughter’s eating disorder, including pictures of “thinspiration” (women weighing as little as sixty-three pounds), pictures of “pregnant women and the grossly obese,” and entries detailing daily food intake consisting of cigarettes and sugarless gum. Not to mention the closet full of vomit jars and diet pills. Gross, disgusting, disturbing, and alarming are just not up to snuff in describing what I’m feeling right now. In fact, I have no words for this. This piece makes me feel so sick to my stomach that I know it must be good. When the mother confronts the daughter, the daughter slits her wrists, yet lives, and later goes on to therapy, gaining weight and finding happiness. But the mother keeps the folder as a reminder of what they have to be happy about. It’s a horrible kind of reminder, but no doubt effective.
Last, but not least, is the nonfiction. As an editor and avid reader looking for fresh, new nonfiction pieces, I’m often disappointed. I don’t want to read someone’s journal entry, and I don’t want to read a newspaper article. I’m sure you don’t either. Like me, you’re looking for something between too personal and too formal, and you want it to retain literary integrity. The two nonfiction pieces and one undergraduate contest winner for prose are marked by great description and dialogue as well as thoughtful and relatable introspection. My favorite is “First Kitchen” by Dionisia Morales. It describes the first date she and her future partner embark on. They sit in his kitchen with wet hair and ruddy cheeks, she wearing his oversized clothes. Anyone would believe they had just made love. But they had been hiking and were caught in a rainstorm – she is waiting for her clothes to dry, he is making dinner. It’s a short piece. It’s not that anything momentous happens. It’s that years from this first date, the author will remember this moment from their past as the beginning of something unknown. She says
I detected no sign of the mortgage we would eventually struggle to pay or the mountains of diapers we would one day change. There was no hint of how waking up naked and safe in each other’s arms would become bittersweet with the responsibilities of children, work and household chores.
Like “Sauce,” this love story is bittersweet and tender.
Blue Earth Review is a place for poetry lovers. The fiction and nonfiction are good but sparse. The introduction of contest winners and young writers is also refreshing and encouraging. But think to your tastes. For me, it tastes good. Dog-eared and spine-broken, there’s a space on my bookshelf for Blue Earth Review.