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Cutbank - Winter 2009

  • Issue Number: Number 70
  • Published Date: Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

What captures my attention and then holds my interest is Cutbank’s predilection for strong, inviting first lines. Ingrid Satelmajer’s story “How to Be a Disciple” starts off the issue: “Sure, there’s the obvious – Jesus H. Christ, as Binky says, his thumb between a wrench and a hard place.” Rebekah Beall’s personal essay, “Sight,” which begins with “My God, you’re heartsick.” Cara Benson’s prose poems (though I am not sure they couldn’t also be labeled sudden fiction), which begin: “The kettle was boiling above and the baskets were underfilled” and “Everybody walked in the room I mean everybody in the same room then walking around that room to sniff the walls as a type of appraisal of that room.” And Daniel Doehr’s “The Ticket Office Girl,” which opens with, “I saw the ticket office girl again.”

This issue’s poems are equally deft when it comes to first lines. “The moon out, the water running,” writes Trey Moody in “One Question.” Michael Peterson’s “A Lesser Domesday Book,” begins with this couplet: “When the scribe bored the answer became a seam, / an account not of a field but the riddle of a farmer gone forward”. These works deliver on the promise of their opening lines.

Special standouts for me include several poems by Peruvian poet Carlos Villacorta, translated by Daniel Alarcón, also with enticing first lines. “Ciudad Satélite” (“Satellite City”), for example: “Mi abuelo recorría las arenas en su micro marchito / Y un silbido lo acompañaba” (“My grandfather crisscrossed the sands in his wilted bus / Accompanied by a whistle”.) “Wilted bus” is an especially interesting, even exciting translation of “micro marchito.” Because Alarcón cannot reproduce the alliterative qualities of the original, he creates an image of equal power and originality with an unusual, but wholly authentic expression of the adjective “marchito” (spent, withered, wasted, old and faded). Villacorta’s poems are constructed of sturdy images rendered in strong language with sharp and deliberate rhythms. This is powerful work that deserves an “audience in translation.”

I love Beall’s essay, the only nonfiction in the issue, a short, tense, honest little piece about fear of the dark. Beall’s prose is compelling, her self-revelation heart wrenching, yet controlled, and her timing is impeccable.

The beautiful reproductions of photographs from the “Through the Window Series” by Aimee Lewis are gorgeous and evocative images of trees, sky, water, rain, snow, a street scene, an odd, blurry contrast to the issue’s precisely etched poems and stories.

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Review Posted on May 25, 2009

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