There’s that famous line in Forrest Gump that many people (even people who haven’t seen the film) will know: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” That’s honestly what went on in my mind while reading through the latest issue of Literary Juice. The most current issue has four poems, one fiction piece, and one super-micro story comprised of only 25 words (which is a neat concept unto itself) under a heading labeled “Pulp.”
The editors at Literary Juice are committed to the idea of not conforming to conventional narrative guidelines and, as a result, everything here has a refreshing randomness to it. The pieces are short and sweet; each issue can be read in one sitting. Much like a small glass of orange juice in the morning, these poems and stories are a welcome burst of literary energy for your mind to digest, perhaps even over your own breakfast.
In the “Pulp” section of this issue, there’s a 25-word story called “Lucky” by Anita Roberts Soupir. In this extremely short tale, we are introduced to Evie who “always wanted a red convertible.” How she acquires this vehicle is left somewhat open-ended, as to whether it was fortuitous or something perhaps more nefarious in nature. It’s a fun read. Writing a normal-length story is a difficult enough task, and to write a 25-word narrative and make it interesting? It’s no small feat, but Soupir achieves just that with “Lucky.”
Robert Garner McBrearty’s “Send Now” is the longer fiction piece of the issue and, like “Lucky,” is delightfully entertaining to read. The narrative centers around Chuck a former college teacher-turned-struggling writer who finally writes something worthy enough to be submitted to (and even accepted into), as Chuck puts it, “the major magazine.” The story has an informal tone, in that the narration feels casual and unassuming. Stylistically, McBrearty employs some interesting techniques here, such as switching character points-of-view and employing some conversational asides for good measure. There are shades of O.Henry with the way McBrearty’s story unfolds; saying anymore would ruin the joy of reading it!
Though “Lucky” and “Send Now” are examples of the amusing and even playful side of Literary Juice, Rose Knapp’s poem “Plot Holes Plz Explain” offers a change in tone. “Plot Holes Plz Explain” depicts a psychologically complex speaker describing themselves to an unseen listener. As suggested by the title, the life story of the speaker has (presumably unfairly) been compared to that of a movie. The poem forgoes punctuation, save for an initial comma in the first line, and that lack of punctuation gives the poem a breathless quality. There are some solid turns-of-phrase in here, such as “Armchair coronations / DSM with 13 years exp,” as well as clever alliterative lines throughout, my favorite being: “Melanges of malaise / And years of mania / Are not all mysterious / Or coherently textbook.” Knapp does a good job of creating a portrait of a speaker engaging in a brutally honest psychological self-analysis and how, sometimes, self-analysis isn’t always easy to convey to others.
My favorite piece of the whole issue just might be Kenneth P. Gurney’s poem “Crush.” The poem presents a simple scene of kids placing a penny on a railroad track and watching the results. I’ve always had a fondness for poems that capture concrete moments in time, and Gurney’s poem accomplishes this with vivid imagery. Gurney paints a clear picture from the get-go with the opening line: “In the sparks of locomotive wheels.” I could not only see the sparking wheels, but could hear the train coming through and could see the steam of the engine too: the canvas Gurney worked on left enough for me to fill in the blanks. Gurney’s elegant and direct language wonderfully conveys the gleeful thrill of youthful transgression, and the power that comes of it, with the closing lines “a violated law feels the crush of three kids’ laughter.” The moment the poem encapsulates is specific to these kids, but it also succinctly gets at the essence of what it means to be young and mischievous.
From a solemn poem about a failed relationship or a rhapsodic poem about the musical quality of nature to a fiction piece about the dangers of procrastination and the writing life, Literary Juice offers up a welcome variety of content with pieces ranging widely in tone, subject matter, and theme.