The Spring 2016 issue of Mid-American Review from Bowling Green State University is a serious jackpot for readers. Not only does this issue include the regular quality content, but it also features a translation chapbook with poems from Slovenian poet Meta Kusar. And this issue includes the winners of the 2015-2016 James Wright Poetry and Sherwood Anderson Fiction Awards. Looking back through notes, I’m aware that the main phrase for such a collection is “and then . . .”
At the beginning is the delightful poetry of Alexandra Teague painting the work of artists and their models. From “The Altogether”:
And I heard what I didn’t say. His statutes bolder
than real women. The marble I could be, daughter
of a chisel. Molten bronze. I felt him look me over:
Then the movement of Jen Siraganian’s “Armenian Wedding”:
I shine a full-teeth grin, except I hate
Armenian line dances, the linking
of pinkie fingers, the yank left, switch hips,
now right, back to left, the endless spiral.
I smile at my dad who never dances.
Seventeen, I am in love with a girl—
No offense to the short story authors I don’t mention. I’m struck by Julia Strayer’s “A Dog So Mean,” where: “We lied to our parents and they never noticed. We came home smelling of smoke and beer and earth, hoping life would be better than we imagined.”
And Barrett Bowlin’s “Origin Story,” a series of fantasy shorts that should be true. And Jacklyn Bergamino’s “How to Marry a Mermaid,” where:
As a scuba instructor, you will meet many women who think of themselves as mermaids. Women who love the water and can swim as if they’re half fish. [ . . . ] But do not be swayed. Mermaids do not come so easily.
And then we have to move on to “This Hollowed-Out Place That Barely Exists,” the poems by Meta Kusar. My compliments to the three translators. Perhaps there’s room here for half a poem, one longer example from “Embers”:
Telescopes don’t investigate dark matter.
And a scientist can’t tell me
why I’m here. Embers!
If you can’t see the fire, there’s no spark in the poem.
Just a shining.
Such words are too spindly to burn.
Passions flare because they thicken with gravity.
They shatter words, which then never heal.
Without embers not even a star will form.
Thick words conflagrate & gorge out lines of poetry,
the dust of stars. It’s all spawned in their midst.
This poem too. From seeing and expanding.
And then there are the awards section. Not a simple ‘part three’ but another entertaining and inspiring group of poems and short stories that deserve their own perusal and review.
This year’s winner of the James Wright Poetry Award is Alison Stagner for “Dig at Cana” where:
The wet iron taps
Never shut off—we lean into them to wash broken shards,
shaking mud into cupped palms
as bins catch rains of dates and olives falling on all sides
of Galilee—a sea we hear,
is drying out of living memory, will be, sooner
than expected, only as big
as its myth, turning its beveled head always toward
the darkening shadows
of our hands, and the memory of itself as a mirrored thing.
Five other poets are honored, and it would be well worth the readers’ leisure time to entertain the submissions.
The Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award this year is for Cady Vishniac for “Move.” This is a story of a family that’s moving from the East Coast to Ohio, and it’s a moving story for any readers that have dealt with change and growth in their family. Again, there are five other authors who are more than just ‘runners up’ and honorary mentions. Their names and their works will appear on our lists again, I believe, in the close future.
This issue of the Mid-American Review adds to our anticipation of future work.