Smooth Transitions: a Journal That Moves Seamlessly Through Genres
Segue: to make a smooth, almost imperceptible transition from one state, situation or subject to another [Encarta Dictionary]
Award-winning and well-published authors, many with multiple book titles to their names, fill the pages of Segue 10 with fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. The magazine, published once a year in August, is an online publication of Miami University. Writer's guidelines are available on the website with submissions only accepted from January 1 to April 30.
In this particular issue, five fiction pieces contrast against one creative nonfiction piece and numerous poems by eleven different authors. Most poets have more than one piece in the issue. As the magazine's title suggests, the authors lead readers from surface subjects of love, nature, illness, and cancer to deeper interpretations of honor, survival, and even death. The works are provocative and thought-producing. Some pieces are somewhat conventional and others, especially the poetry, are edgy, pushing the boundaries of common practices.
Readers will find the notes and interviews on the authors especially useful as most of the writers discuss their works, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a piece of writing. It's like looking over the author's shoulder while he or she writes, enabling readers to find out what exactly it was that triggered that particular take on an issue or event.
For example, read Danny P. Barbare's poem, "The Jelly Bean":
She's a real jelly bean.
She'll bring out the sweetness
Once you bite into her hard shell.
And she'll stick around awhile...
And now read his notes on the poem:
"The Jelly Bean" is...a more comical poem I wrote. I simply take a jelly bean, which I was eating at the time and just concentrate on the images. What compares. I think deeper into the images, making light the whole time. The subject, she can ultimately be fiction, but it does have to seem real and make sense. I think object and emotion or feeling have to go hand and hand. She is more of a feeling than an actual person. An emotion. To where the jelly bean is the concrete object that gives me reality.
These notes are particularly helpful when trying to decipher a more complex piece such as Sean Howard's poem "shadowgraph 69: oven with windows" in which the ideas came from "a project to convert each Nobel physics lecture delivered in the twentieth century—some 150 addresses, all but one of them by men!—into a 'shadowgraph,' a poetic X-ray or exposé of hidden themes, latent or repressed symbols, unconscious images, etc."
The result is an undulating fusion of words and non-words or what Howard describes thus:
The main technique deployed is a variant of the dada-inspired 'cut-up' method pioneered most prominently by Brion Gysin and William Burroughs in the 1950s. I call the approach, which I first developed about fifteen years ago, 'downlining:' copying the text onto a series of ten-word by ten-word grids, then reading the words downwards, exploring, reflecting and elaborating on the (often shocking; frequently hilarious; occasionally grotesque) images produced or suggested...
The fiction and nonfiction works are intricate reads that explore the meaning of life, honor, and illness. From the battlefields of World War Two in 1942, to a handicapped, adopted Russian child, to divorce and cancer, readers are taken on a slow but thorough examination of what it means to be human. More conventional than the poetry, the stories still push the envelope in dealing with common themes.
For example, Vanessa Blakeslee writes of her piece, "Ed Dyess, Hero of Agoloma Point, April 22nd, 1942." "I wrote it midway through the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College, when I was trench-deep in setting all types of challenges for myself as a writer. I wanted to stretch my abilities, write about people and situations vastly different from my (then) comfort zone of often thinly-veiled autobiographical fiction… for a long time the bizarre, true story of Ed Dyess and his band of pilots who ended up fighting a land mission in the Philippines with old Lewis guns from the first World War and oven mitts stuck in my imagination."
As another example, many sections of Mark Richardson's short story, "Black String Bikini" are written as flash-forwards, insights into things that will happen, that change the perception of what is happening, if not for the characters, at least for the reader.
Segue 10 is a well-balanced blend of traditional and avant-garde works by established authors. Reading the magazine will encourage new and published authors to think outside the box and draw outside the lines, thus creating innovative new patterns in their own writing.