Fine sonnets, formal verse, and modern poetry inhabit The Evansville Review. The covers of the mag feature a blue glossy finish framing a woman who is arching her back in front of some stained glass icons, it is very formal and a slightly theatrical painting, titled “Mariana of the Moated Grange” by Millais. Besides poetry, inside the elegant covers are eight pieces of short fiction and three items of nonfiction. The short fiction tends to have an other-worldly tension about it, a dreamy quality mirrored in the painting.
In contrast, the nonfiction consists of an unremarkable interview, “Conversation with Mark Jarman,” and two prose pieces. “Discovery Channel” by Timothy Marsh, appears to be a rather engaging, ironic discussion of Discovery’s productions, until the reader finally discovers what the narrator is actually about. The revelation turns the ‘story’ on its head and makes it far more intense. Paul Bone’s “A Gathering of Shades” is a flowing discussion about poets, their verse, and their tendencies. He gets to his points quickly. If you are a familiar with the poets, then it is well worth reading.
The fiction is inventive. “All These Things I’ve Learned to Do” by Sigers Steele is an artful tale similar to that of a traveling medicine salesman, only this one sells pop psychology. “I am brilliant because I make all this shit up. All of it,” brags the narrator, before the tables are turned, and turned again, leaving one trying to weigh whether good or evil has been committed, and who has committed it.
“The Arundel Tomb” by Sarah Rees Brennan might seem like a young person’s story, but its theme is ageless and timeless, wistful and hopeful. Youth’s falling in love, missing out on life, and renewing oneself, is an old story, and if well-told, never gets old. Ann Claycomb’s “In Search of a Smaller Bar Scene” is wild, loose, even if it is about a woman living a stoic life – and on the verge of being punished for her troubled past.
These stories have a common theme: illness, chronic illness. Illness that is not pretty, but messy, though the stories veer away from preaching and include hope and kindness. “The Estate Sale” by Richard Spilman includes these qualities, particularly well, considering the author gets into the interior of an aging minister, and an imperfect man, one who might remind one of one’s grandfather, or a grandfather one is glad never to have had.
The poetry is a treat. It is unusual to see so much formal poetry in one collection; the modern poetry and traditional poetry mix together like pepper and salt. Robert B. Shaw’s “Blue Period Sketch” is whimsical, as it tells a funny story:
Stepping outside for once without my key,
I heard the latch click like fatality.
I felt my pockets, called myself a name
(there being no one else around to blame).
From this upbeat beginning the poem rolls on to become more humorously pathetic, and can lift one up. Another poem, ornate, colorful, touching many senses, is “Spanish Evening” by Anna, Comtessa de Noailles. In the third stanza she writes of “crimson carnations”:
And there smooth fragrance svelte, their tremolo
Of bliss, soak soft of ether, light
Of touch … Bell tolls in topaz belfry … O
Languorous, languid, Spanish night!
Does anything more need to be said? Her verse is like rich dessert. This literary magazine is a feast one can sink one’s teeth into, and a deep pool one can sink into; relax, feel stimulated, and deeply satisfied.