If you've had it with glamour and cuteness in your literary diet, turn to The Chaffin Journal for the antidote. Formerly known as Scripsit, this journal from Eastern Kentucky University is all meat and potatoes. The writing frequently dwells on quotidian themes in rural and small-town locales. That means The Chaffin Journal opts for straight story and verse over risk taking. Overall, the performance is uneven, but sometimes, the lumps in the landscape provide solid, memorable art.
The focal point for “The Legacy,” by Nancy Aldrich, is a grandmother's hands: “How old was I when I / saw that mine had the same angles, the same / flyway finger tilt, the ski-jump nails?” By acknowledging the hands as the means of household labor, the narrator in Aldrich's poem celebrates the role of women that is easily taken for granted and acknowledges how households and the roles within them are changing. Also related to bygone eras, “Midway,” by D.L. Olson, returns to the conscience of a thirteen-year-old caught between distant dreams and hard family expectations. Sure, the symbolism is more than obvious: a boy, child of immigrants, midway to adulthood, living in a middle-of-nowhere town in the Midwest in 1958, whose favorite hobby is reenacting . . . the Battle of Midway! But the story is completely true to its time period in diction and mindset.
There are other surprises in The Chaffin Journal. Joel Allegretti gives a nod to Frank O'Hara when he illustrates 1950s suburbia with neon-lit imagery: “Burnt supper? D in arithmetic? / Inconsequential weighed against / An intergalactic raspberry gelatin / Consuming a roadside diner.” Charlotte Innes, taking after Ben Jonson, invites a friend to dinner, and the slow, delicate feast of language can conjure up a Jacobean dining hall or just a decorated American home, depending on your imagination. At its best, the work in The Chaffin Journal is a monument erected atop the past, not stuck in it.