The Broken Plate is an annual produced by undergraduate students at Ball State University, which includes the work of many novice writers alongside more accomplished contributors. Particularly noteworthy are poems and essays in the "In Print Section," which features the work of authors celebrated during the University’s In Print Festival of First Books (March 2009). This section is composed of essays on craft by fiction writer Kyle Minor and memoirist Laurie Lindeen, and the poetry of Nickole Brown. Minor and Lindeen’s essays are insightful explorations of their own artistic processes. Brown’s poetry is expertly crafted and polished. Her voice is wry and worldly, feigning innocence, but demonstrating savvy.
While not typical of most of the prose in the issue (the tone is more earnest), I especially liked a story by Benjamin Arda Doty, “Things Said and Forgotten,” an emotionally restrained, but nonetheless emotionally compelling tale about Alzheimer’s that takes place in Kazakhstan. I was impressed, as well, with a poem by Heidi Hart, “The Map,” lovely and lyrical, although this piece, too, is not necessarily typical of the poetry in this issue, which tends to be sharper and edgier in tone than Hart’s piece.
I liked very much a poem by William Doreski, “Visiting My Cousin in Serbia,” which begins:
Christmas crawls over the Balkans
on its knees. Vranje. Nis,
Paracin. We’d stop for lunch
but fog pouring down the ridges
could be ancestral ghosts, the gargle
of surly rivers may restate
death rattles of recent wars.
And I was much taken, to my own surprise, I admit, with a poem by Ryler Dustin, “Stone Birdsong,” which I wanted to dismiss (too colloquial, just one more poem about a dead parent), but which is simply too clever and well put together not to admire – and reread with renewed appreciation.
Frankly, I’m not sure if “Everything in its Place,” by Katie Berger, is fiction or nonfiction. But, it doesn’t matter. It’s a wonderful piece of prose that begins: “If you want to know more about my father, stand in the basement between the shelf of broken coffee pots and the model sailboat he started in his 20s,” and then goes on later, “To understand my mother, you must disagree with everything my father says.” Is she writing about her life or mine?