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Blue MesaReview - 2006

The closest this University of New Mexico journal comes to evoking the Southwest is in an "Elegy" for James Turrell, by Mark McKain, in which the author witnesses a sunset through one of the visual artist's holed cathedral ceilings and comes to grips with his mortality. (Turrell is, of course, still very much alive.) Yet the format and style of the Blue Mesa Review is not out of place: it's in the line of the coastal émigrés who have come to define the former frontier and brought their experiences with them. The exemplar is Leo V. Love, a native New Yorker who died only weeks before completing his MFA at UNM. Included in memoriam, one of his snarkier lines of poetry reads: "The safety seals on the aspirin bottle mean nothing / if the villain works for the drug company." Especially arduous is the task of sorting through the eleven short stories, an over-burnished collection of prose that, in typical MFA style (if such a thing exists), shows off more than it needs to. "Edwin," by Teresa Milbrodt, has a strong opening hook: "I have to be clear that when the director calls to say he needs a squirrel suicide, I am the first to suggest using a stunt double, perhaps as intoxicated chipmunk, for the actual jump." (So that explains the cover art! thinks the reader, with a slap to the forehead.) Even if the stories don't always provide room for empathy, you are unlikely to find a more dazzling selection. Best to take these in stride; the 200-page volume is worthy of a weekend read, urban or elsewhere, and it discharges enough grace upon careful scrutiny. As Kirsten Kaschok writes in "Prescription": "Do not hate the sleeping when you need them. // Wake them."

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Review Posted on May 31, 2006

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