When I first laid my eyes on the cover of the newest issue of Caketrain, I knew I would be in for a treat. The cover images titled “Kingdom of Heaven” by Yonca Karakas Demirel are both aesthetically pleasing and intriguing—they ask the reader to open the journal and explore what is within this issue’s pages. I expected fresh, new, and inspiring ideas that would make me want to write and that is exactly what I got; Issue 12 of Caketrain will not leave lovers of contemporary creative writing unsatisfied.
This issue features five poems from Jessica Poli, each of these poems is very image driven. These poems all seem to be part of a larger series, thus a narrative arc can be seen throughout the progression of the poems. All the poems had artful moments, but for me, the most interesting of the five was Poli’s poem titled “Rooms.” In “Rooms,” the speaker works to personify a house in order to bring a “you” back to life or to make a departed “you” part of the speaker’s life once more. The speaker sets the “you” up in the second stanza to be personified by declaring, “The house has teeth. It eats.” In the next stanza the speaker alerts the reader to the fact that whatever life-force they are trying to channel through the house is one that is gone, “The house is a memory: / heard in the creak of an armchair.” The poem ends addressing the “you” and the inescapable nature of the “you and their memory stating, “You are the house and the house / is a memory of the house.”
There is something to be said for the proper pacing in a journal, not just in regard to lengths of pieces, but to topics as well. Lackluster pacing is something you do not have to worry about in Caketrain, and part of this is because they publish great work, such as Daniel Wessler Riordan’s short story “Grieve Elsewhere.” This story both made me laugh and made me rethink the way society as a whole treats those who are at death’s doorstep. The story is about a man named Henry who has contracted some mysterious illness that is literally causing him to slowly disintegrate. However, no matter what body part is falling apart, Henry cannot seem to receive any sympathy from anyone he knows, even his wife Sarah: “I sneezed and something flew out of me. I couldn’t identify it. ‘Christ, Henry,’ Sarah said. ‘Get a hold of yourself.’” This story is a quick and interesting read that you don’t want to miss.
In keeping with contemporary literature, readers will also see a graphic short story titled “Sven Rearranges” by Nick Francis Potter. The story follows Sven and his interactions with a character named Beth and a wolf.
For creative nonfiction lovers, this issue of Caketrain features a great lyric essay, an excerpt from J’Lyn Chapman’s book “Our Last Days,” a finalist in Subito Press’s 2014 competition. The piece works in conversation with William Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, and her Grasmere Journal. Each vignette that is included is constructed in a similar way to Dorothy’s journal entries, and in some cases, these vignettes include quotes from the Grasmere Journal. My favorite aspect of these pieces is that each diary-esque entry possesses an eerie yet calm atmosphere of an ending that is both approaching the “we” and being approached by the “we.” One of my favorite lines comes at the ending of the last vignette: “We were there with all things aching and with all that died.”
With houses becoming embodied, bodies becoming disembodied, and an air of ending always lurking, the 2014 issue of Caketrain is the perfect thing for some relaxing summer reading and writing inspiration. To enjoy, all your body must do is pick up a copy, sit back, soak up some sun, and read.