With this issue, I started backwards, working my way from the bottom of the table of contents on up. After I read the creative nonfiction and the fiction, I couldn’t wait to move on to the poetry. This issue is filled with solid writing that breaks the boundaries of traditional writing and that surprises by heading toward cliché and then rocketing away from it.
When recalling significant historical events, such as when J.F.K was shot or when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, people always seem to have a story about where they were and what they were doing when they found out. Karen Dietrich’s nonfiction piece “Challenger” could have easily turned into another one of these “I remember when . . .” stories, but Dietrich, writing in present tense as if she is the age she was at the crash of the Challenger, turns her story into something more:
I can hardly stand to be around my mother right now because it’s all she wants to talk about, the poor teacher astronaut who exploded in seventy-three seconds, ten miles off the ground.
I know that there are ways to control the world. I’ve been working on them for a while now. If I stomp my feet five times before the garage door closes, then nothing bad will happen to me. If I microwave a hot dog for eleven seconds at a time, hitting start over and over again until it is finally warm, then no more space shuttles will explode.
I don’t tell my mother about the things I do to keep the world safe, but I think she understands somehow.
Sarah Sorensen’s “Grace Period” is about a woman going through a break-up. Writing about such a universal topic is hard because of how much it has been done before, but Sorensen delights readers through the details, turning the post-break-up, mundane events into comical scenarios:
Some people from a religious group stop by. They say that they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. They say, no, not Mormons either. I let them in. I tell them that there is no furniture to sit on, so they stand awkwardly in the living room. The woman stares at the porn box on the floor. There is nothing of me in my smile. The man holds out a pamphlet. “I’m not much of a reader,” I say. He frowns. Then he sets the pamphlet down on a rather unwieldy stack of books. No one says anything for a while. They leave.
Lindsey Harding’s “HD Immortality” had me laughing throughout as the main character thinks he is destined for reality T.V., noting that “Danger without documentation is dumb. Really dumb.” Even as the plane he is in crashes, he can’t grasp the reality that he is in real danger, and it is not part of his “reality” television show.
T Kira Madden fiction piece “Body Language” starts, “It’s the way your moods cross at the ankles, the way your tongue flutters in time. Words only tangle things, speak from your bones, and it was your body language, I told you, that said it.” Although it is a piece of fiction, the words of the piece flow together in the mouth like poetry, like a love letter the narrator refers to.
I easily got lost in Sally J. Johnson’s poetry. “[i am the universe and i am]” has wonderful lines such as, “i am taking a brick from my body to leave in the / place of my destruction to tell my kids i stood” and “as big as a lady who stays up nights to drink constellations of / wine and who wakes with water running out of her skin fast so she can trace the places / where there needs yet to be tears.”
Be sure to read the rest of the poetry by Emily Bonner, Scott Keeney, Dallas Lee, Thomas Lux, George Moore, Sergio Ortiz, Joanna C. Valente, Robert Wexelblatt, and Changming Yuan as well as the other nonfiction piece by Matthew Zanoni Müller and the fiction by Beth Morgan. Only on their fifth issue, The Boiler truly only includes work that is fresh, engaging, and surprising.