West Marin Review’s 2015 Editor’s Note draws attention to the journal’s lack of overall theme, though readers will quickly see Volume 6 is tied together by the social climate and by strong, absorbing writing, with lots to love in both poetry and prose.
In poetry, Erin Rodoni won my heart with “Because There Is Loss.” Beginning with: “We keep driving until the light / fires the wasteland red,” and ends up in a motel. In beautiful language, the speaker reads the motel Bible—“the motel’s coffined gospels”—bringing forth images of moments where something was miraculously made from nothing inside the book’s pages. Sparsely placed lines capture the emptiness that follows the reader and speaker down the road.
Moving on to prose, Robert Kroninger’s memoir piece “Japs Not Wanted in Winters,” remains relevant, although it takes place many years ago. After WWII when Japanese citizens were released from internment camps, Winters placed signs outside their city: “I saw a sign nailed to a utility pole, reading in large print, ‘WE DON’T WANT ANYMORE JAPS IN WINTERS.’” Paired with a photo of one of these signs by Dorothea Lange, one can’t help thinking of Trump’s feelings about Muslims and wall-building or the Black Lives Matter movement. Kroninger gives a stark reminder that we haven’t managed to change much at all in over 70 years.
In the same vein, Elisabeth Ptak takes us back to Ferguson in her “Charles Dickens and Ferguson” piece, in which she compares parts of St. Louis and her childhood to Dickens’ novels. An interesting mashup of past and present, Ptak’s piece is a creative take on her history and the area’s history.
Madeline S. Butcher and Mark Ropers close the issue with a poem and a painting, respectively. In “Awesome,” Butcher adopts a playfully bemused tone when pondering the way “awesome” has stopped meaning “a thing so vastly greater than we,” and has begun being applicable to everything—even an order of fries. Butcher leaves off on a “deliriously hopeful” note that carries through to “Kite” by Ropers, a painting of a kite suspended with the person manning the spool out of frame, a deliriously hopeful sight.
All the art in this issue seems to serve that same purpose: it provides flashes of hope and color that grab a reader’s eye as they page through, like the pressed specimens in biophysicist Peter Connors’s “Pacific Marine Algae.” The specimens range from paper thin wisps to what looks like thick paintbrush strokes. Each is mesmerizing and otherworldly. Throughout the issue, paintings by young artists blend with artists who have years of experience, these flashes of color a part of what drew me to pick up this issue of West Marin.
While still perfectly relevant in 2016, the 2015 issue ofWest Marin Review is filled with strong poetry and prose and “awesome” art that will leave readers impatiently awaiting Volume 7.