The Spring 2016 issue of Kestrel, a journal of literature and art out of Fairmont State University in West Virginia, includes a broad selection of poetry, an entertaining collection of short stories, and a fascinating group of art works. I know, that sounds like a pretty clichéd opening; the content, however, does not permit using novel exaggeration and false praise. It’s just good work that needs noting quickly and energetically. The work is definitely energetic.
The poetry provides a broad range of imagery and experiences. Too much poetry today rests on the “autobiography” of the poet and requires more work than many readers are willing to do, but there are works in Kestrel that evoke times and images quickly and vividly. Works such as “Red Poppies” by John Sibley Williams, which doesn’t require that readers actually go to Flanders Fields to experience:
Red poppied lapels. Temporary offerings.
A conversation halved. There’s too much blood
In a stranger’s apology.
Journals often reflect the preferred style and content of their editors, but Kestrel provides a variety that provokes interest. For instance, Jennifer Met’s “Ghost Grove,” which is intriguing by both its style and content:
a great wave came up on the banks flooding the land
with salt water which and all the trees
died—here bleached bones still stand frozen
in the moment of death on tippy toes reaching
their stretching spines rod straight just to keep
above sea water but this is only a ghost story
The strongest contributions in this issue are the short stories, which provide a variety of interesting perspectives on relationships, regardless of age or gender. Joe Baumann’s “Duties of Rabbit, Duties of Wife” uses style and tone to generate the mood and mindset of a woman in a dull and unengaged marriage.
. . . and J is still asleep. The rabbits are huddled, five or six of them, around their bowl. The cat stares at them . . . . It lets out a little bleat of noise when it looks up at me, as if to say: What can I do?
Zeke Jarvis provides us with a teenager’s perspective of ennui in “Roadkill,” as we follow two drinking guys on their high school homecoming night, feeling as dead as the animals they’re running over.
Gilbert Allen describes the insights of a housewife-pole dancer as she gathers the neighborhood exercise group:
Alison, my younger daughter, had given me a Lil’ Mynx pole for my forty-fifth birthday. “I’ve been thinking about our relationship,” she said. “Strip together, partnership together. Classical female bonding, Mom.”
And of course, there’s more.
The art work, as always in small journals, is in limited quantity, but the quality is readily appreciated. Michael Kunzinger’s photographs are appealing; Brett Busang’s acrylics are nostalgic, and Ivan de Monbrison’s multi-media is striking.
There are more than enough journals to keep us well entertained, but a blessing for reviewers is the opportunity to always find one more that makes you look forward to seeing the next issue.