After hungrily reading each word of the featured works published on the Crazyhorse website, I was more than excited to get my hands on the entire Fall 2017 issue. Through Shane Brown’s “Blue Hole,” a cover art piece, I fell into the wonderland of prose and poetry. Jonathan Bohr Heinen, the managing editor, notes that “art isn’t some frivolous reflection of aimless escape.” While this issue’s pieces take us on a journey, they nevertheless offer a reflection of reality. As Heinen puts it, “It’s the light that shines so brilliantly and helps us make sense of the world we inhabit. It’s truth.” The editor’s insight offers an entry point for readers as they carefully tread the pages of the 92nd issue seeking “the light.”
Sarah Blackman’s poem “Late Night Unspooling” opens doors into the journey through this issue. The speaker starts with an explanation, “Because what comes from the body / is a claim for the body.” This statement sets the tone for the entire poem which explores the connection between a mother and a child. The speaker evokes her children’s births, illustrating the body’s claims, “Mine says the body / Mine mine mine.”
Molly Bashaw’s nonfiction essay “Lebenslauf” also focuses on the bond between a mother and her unborn child. When she gets pregnant, the narrator teaches refugees German as a second language in a shelter in Gaukönigshofen, Germany. While the narrator and her partner planned to have a child, they “were not married and often still fought dramatically over small things in a way that made [her] think twice about offspring.” The essay offers insight into the narrator’s intimate thoughts and reflections of the world and the people around her, including her partner, her refugee students, and her unborn child. Bashaw fills this essay with personal meditation on her experience carrying a child which places the reader in the role of a confidant.
Continuing the familial theme, Chris Gavaler focuses on a family that has recently lost one of their members in his fiction piece “Godmother.” At the center of the story, a young woman called Chat, which is short for Catherine, steps into shoes of her recently deceased sister, Molly, as she goes on a family trip. This trip, planned over a year in advance, was supposed to be a family vacation for Molly, her husband Aaron, and their two children. As “Aaron had never left her alone with [children] before,” Chat doesn’t know how she should behave with the kids. In turn, the two children continue glancing at their father seeking his approval of Chat’s suggestions, unsure if “their aunt had overstepped her authority.” The story explores this unusual dynamic between the family members as Chat, haunted by her deceased sister, attempts to find her place in this family.
Several works of this issue are concerned with significant events, whether they are significant for the speaker personally or for the whole country. For instance, Bruce Bond focuses on Gene Cernan in his poem “Elegy for the Last Man to Walk the Moon.” The astronaut's steps and words provide an opportunity for the speaker to reflect on his own understanding of the significance of this walk on the moon. Bond writes:
I too was there. My face
in the otherwise darkened room lit
by TV feed. If I did not understand
your words of peace and hope, how you walked
with them and so gave voice to a thrall
of nerves unburdened in the dead still air,
I knew you as the more courageous version
of a boy, the one who would remain.
The speaker further contemplates the significance of the astronaut’s words. He strikes readers with his observation, “Peace is always a little unearthly.” It comes as no surprise that this poem has been selected as the winner of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize.
Another poem, Liana Sakelliou’s “Bird of Death,” deals with a significant event. This poem appears in both its original form in Greek and its translation by Tonia Kovalenko and Don Schofield in English. While the first two lines, “Everyone remembers exactly where they were / when they heard the news” might evoke the American tragedy, 9/11, and connect the American audience to the piece, the date placed under the title of the poem points to the rise of military junta in Greece. The speaker depicts the image of Greek army taking control:
While the tanks were bruising Acharnon Street
and Mount Parnitha was slowly disappearing beyond the horizon,
while the other side appeared strung upside down
behind the image of a dark soldier
with the phoenix rising from a burning nest,
Against this horrific backdrop, the speaker reflects on the things she learned among which is “to hide behind walls that weren’t there.”
This issue also features a number of wonderful translations; the most notable ones include three poems written by Li Qingzhao, a writer and a poet who lived during the Southern Song Dynasty. As noted in the author’s bio, her work “defied cultural expectations for women.” Thanks to Wendy Chen, the translator of her works, the treasure of Qingzhao’s poetry is revealed to a new, English speaking audience.
The 92nd issue of Crazyhorse offers a variety of works: from intimate pieces exploring familial relationships, such as Andrew Blevins’s “The Egg Man,” to pieces taking place in alternative realities like Eric Schlich’s “Quantum Convention” (winner of the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize). Wherever the poetry and prose of this issue might take you, it always comes back to truth, our guiding “light” through art and life.