A Great Way to Spend Your Afternoon
You know, I hardly ever review online literary journals. It isn’t because I don’t like them—it’s because I can be fairly spastic with computers. It takes me a minute (or ten) to navigate most webpages. I point my cursor and click around, and get terribly lost in the cruel desert of the internet. Fortunately for me, the July 2012 issue of Connotation Press is easy enough to read through. Once you’re on the main page, point and click on a story, poem, or essay. Then you’re there. Alternately, click on a story, poem, or essay, and then click “next” on the bottom of the page to read on. (I really hope I’m right about this. If not, I invite the editor to set me straight. And I invite any eleven-year-old in the United States to teach me how to use a computer more efficiently.)
This issue of Connotation Press begins with notes from the poetry, fiction, and CNF editors (Kaite Hillenbrand, Meg Tuite, and Robert Clark Young), which set the tone and provide a sort of table of contents for the current issue. There is an introduction by guest editor Keetje Kuipers, in which she writes about the value of recommended reading. “Without the enthusiasm of the readers and writers around us, it can be difficult to step into the work of a poet we’ve never encountered before or whose poems don’t fit the type we’re usually drawn to.” Well, that’s very true. So let Keetje Kuipers and me recommend a few truly fantastic poems. Elizabeth Bradfield’s “An Apology of Sorts” begins:
I was the one who ripped your amateur flagging
from the trailside oak and sweetfern, mouth set
like my mother’s as she picked up dirty socks
from the corners of the house—exasperated,
determined, aware she fought the inevitable.
It was also me who kicked apart
your stick arrow and erased your dirt-x.
I love a good unapologetic apology poem. There are several poems by Elizabeth Bradfield in this issue, and they are heralded by a lovely interview with Bradfield, conducted by Kuipers. Natalie Diaz’s poem, “Mujer de sal,” is stunning with movement, recalling a Bible story in a very fresh way. She begins:
They named themselves—We’re angels, they said.
Though their toenails were ragged. Their shoulder blades
no different from her own. When the gang of neighbors
snapped their jaws in the air, threw adobe bricks through
the windows, rang the doorbell until it sparked and smoked,
busted vihuelas and guitarras to knots of splinters and gut
strings against the gate in a choir of desire, maybe she was
the one chasing the mob away with Pancho Villa’s pistol—
a silver Remington with Doreteo Arango scratched at the barrel—
cocking the hammer: chk-chk, chk-chk—maybe she threatened
to call la policía—(but everyone knew better than to call la policía.)
The point is, she never blamed them, the neighbors,
the throng. Who hasn’t ached for an angel beneath them?
And oh, the poems of Cynthia Marie Hoffman. Maybe poems about motherhood and fetuses and pregnancy struggles won’t always make me sob, but I doubt it. I think this is just what I do now, postpartum hormones or not. In her poem, “The Liver Speaks to the Ectopic Embryo,” Hoffman writes:
Do you know what it means? Even though
we are together you will never not be lost I had not understood
you were meant to leave but I must stay
you must stay with me in these crowded heavens
where the dismal planets are now bumping
against each other and I cannot say
if I can carry you much longer we are not, after all, weightless.
In Hoffman’s “12 Weeks,” she writes:
Your baby, small as a thumb, rocks inside you
as you bend at the table, touching a match to the wick.
In your twelfth week your baby knows its sex though does not
know what it means. You allow its secrets. You have
secrets of your own, carrying
the tray of bitter cheese...
I need to take a break after these two poems, in the way that I need to take a break after a postpartum visit to the OB, in which I am able to hear the heartbeats of the babies inside their pregnant bellied mamas just next door to my exam room. It’s beautiful and exciting, and I am only a little sad because that part is over for now. That’s how I feel about Hoffman’s pieces.
Holly Virginia Clark paints a beautiful picture in her poem, “Moon.”
I didn’t say I was hungry and here you are
with clay bowls of lentil soup, the hambone
dripping on the rack, and we are two old men
in a Goya painting, you bellied up to the bed,
next to the one who looks like a skeleton...
Peter Cooley, a familiar name and Director of Creative Writing at TulaneUniversity, writes a series of “Rodin” poems, named for the French sculptor. In “RODIN,” he writes:
He casts us back to Greece and then sets free
their bodies so they’re more than sexual
but more like Eve in Eden, free, untouched.
What difference between body and the soul
when work is play and there’s no time at all—
There are so many other poems by some wonderful poets in this issue of Connotation Press—I really recommend reading through them all, and slowly.
The fiction in the July issue is really fantastic. DJ Berndt’s micro-fiction, entitled “Lenscrafters is the Most Magical Place on Earth,” is just about as strange and excellent and spare as the reader hopes, based on its flawless title. He begins:
I am in Lenscrafters and it is the most magical place on Earth. I sit on a throne in the middle of the store, surrounded by mirrors and employees who are taking turns placing frames on my face. I am the king of this Lenscrafters. The employees put thick, red frames on me and I can see perfectly for miles in every direction. I see mountains and oceans, I see men and women and animals and machines, I see fear and I see love.
Kamala Puligandla’s short story, “Bunchlow,” is a sort of “choose your own adventure” story, and frankly, I would love to see more of these in literary journals. I love choosing my own adventure. Who doesn’t? Timothy Gager’s micro-fiction, “Continuum,” brilliantly begins:
When Jesus writes poetry it makes me want to quit.
Lisa Marie Basile’s piece, “My Rooftop Father,” is sad and terrifying in the way that only a story about a father can be. She writes:
Brass charms, copper strands, the smell of aluminum & body salt. A man—my father—standing on the roof at sunset—chest out, monster.
Eric Sasson’s short story is pretty amazing, and so is the title: “Author’s Journals for the Dictionary of Hannibal Schaumberg, the language of non-existent words.” This guy can write my titles any day of the week.
The fiction in this issue is as impressive as the poetry. Take a breather after the poems, then dive in.
Clark Collier Cooke’s nonfiction, “Jive,” is stop-your-heart good. His prose could probably be considered poetry as well, and his voice is too gorgeous to miss. A fair warning—this piece isn’t 50 Shades of Grey (and we should all be thankful for that), but it is extremely graphic. David Womack’s “The Pathology of Cancer” follows the cancer that weakened and eventually killed his mother: An incredibly moving piece. George Korolog has a way with words and descriptions in “Al Walker Passes the Johnny Walker Talking Stick.” He writes:
Al passed the half empty bottle and kept talking, tonguing the crags at the sharp corners of his mouth, halfway between a smirk and a smile, like a crafty preacher, saying that if it’s not your time, then you got to stay, no choice, like when Marshal Cleveland’s woman put a bent and rusted steak knife in his back 13 times when he come home mean and pissed on the floor.
Jan Zlotnik Schmidt’s “Seven Days in the Nursing Home” is heartbreaking in its simple telling of events. Scott Campbell’s bio is full of intrigue—“Scott Campbell is a writer and eBay vendor who lives in Seattle with his partner Terisa, her other partner Larry, and their three dogs”—and I was psyched to find that his nonfiction piece details the exact thing I found intriguing in his bio. It is called “The Year the Press Came Calling or How My Girlfriend Mainstreamed Polyamory.”Erika Trafton’s piece, “Aleppo Spring,” is topical—a sad and lovely account of a trip to Syria. June O’Hara writes about an online match that turned into something fairly traumatic.
I wish I could write about every piece in this issue, but I can’t. And as this review is already somewhere around 1,600 words, it’s probably time for me to close. But read it. Read all of these pieces. There’s a book review, and a brand new column by Erica Goss—just read it all. It’ll take a long afternoon, and it’ll be the best afternoon you’ve had in a long time.
Connotation Press accepts online submissions all year long, and accepts everything from written work to visual art, and all sorts of in-betweens and crossovers. If you have something really wonderful, send it in.