The cover of the Summer 2016 issue of The Stinging Fly keeps the waning spirit of summer alive for a little while longer with art by Lizzy Stewart. A bright blue background is adorned by a three-piece cross-section of a girl’s face in profile, the pink insides of her head packed with lush, green plants.
The works of featured poet Roisin Kelly echo this imagery, fresh with memories of summer in “Rapture,” where the speaker listens in the garden as “The sound of your car fades in the rattle / of raspberry stalks like papery bones” and waits for summer, which brings the promise of color and completeness that past summers have held. Later, deer watch “with their pink-jelly eyes, their raspberry eyes,” and then return in “Glenveagh” to lap at the castle. Kelly’s set of poems all feel slightly connected from the musical quality of her words, to the nature that shows up again and again.
This feeling of connectedness is addressed in the issue’s editor’s note. As Thomas Morris bids farewell as editor, he mentions a few commonalities found within the different pieces in this issue: coincidences or “co-incidents.” While he focuses on the use of ants as metaphor in two separate fiction pieces, I was struck by the frogs and toads that repeatedly showed up within different works.
Tess Jolly hangs out with the amphibian in “Frog,” the poem’s speaker sitting with Frog as they compare belches, sit in silence, and sometimes speak about more serious things:
if I can imagine what it’s like to know ice-crystals are forming
in all your inner spaces, to wait immersed in mud
then surface in a new century.
Liz Gallagher takes the frog baton and runs with it in “That is All,” (incidentally one of the stories featuring an ant mentioned in the editor’s note) found immediately after Jolly’s poem. Gallagher’s main character thinks, “Some people speak of frogs. I want to express frogness” instead of being a person who is bad at saying good-byes, not as confident as her peers, and who seems to base much of her happiness on her lover, giving me the impression that the main character could’ve used some time with Jolly’s Frog. Throughout “That is All,” Gallagher writes in a way that flows despite disconnectedness, a dreamlike quality encompassing the different sections.
Many of the prose pieces in this issue utilize unique voices, none of them feeling “standard” or giving any “I’ve read this before” impressions. Patrick O’Flaherty’s “In a World That Dreams of Ending” even manages to stand out as a unique piece of fiction, even though it’s (intentionally) weighed down by clichés, both in phrases and in plot as it follows an O’Brien as he searches for his lost Elizabeth. The detective story reads like Raymond Chandler discovering the simile for the first time, while relentlessly pelting us with the clichés: “To call a spade a spade, it was a shot in the dark but I kept my fingers crossed for the end of the tunnel, for a glimmer of hope.” Readers may find themselves cringing while reading, but O’Flaherty provides an entertaining story that’s hard to dislike.
Summer may be ending very soon, but that doesn’t mean The Stinging Fly’s Summer 2016 issue should be passed up. Inside, readers will find unique writing from Ireland and beyond, with plenty of voices American readers might not have experienced before. Stretch summer out a little longer with The Stinging Fly.