Eight years ago, with encouragement and sponsorship from longtime supporters Steven Schwartz and Emily Hammond, Colorado Review established the Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, in memory of Liza Nelligan, a Colorado State University alumna who became a gifted and beloved editor of literary fiction. The prize celebrates Liza’s life, her accomplishments, and her many contributions to the literary world by recognizing the work of an exceptional short story writer. We are very pleased to feature this year’s winner, “Beautiful Souls,” by Joan Leegant, selected by final judge (and new CR contributing editor) Ron Carlson. Of Leegant’s story, in which two American girls on vacation in Jerusalem spend an afternoon on their own and find out they’re not the sophisticated travelers they believe themselves to be, Carlson says, “I admire the way the writer keeps the tension in the current scene while lacing in the weird, politically correct pressures coming from the parents. Structurally well-made, cohering to the overarching story of the day, the story moves toward a sobering revelation and a dangerous confusion, leading to real damage to the saucy adolescent confidence with which the girls started the day.” Like “Beautiful Souls,” the three other stories in this issue also deal with frustrated expectation; characters find themselves in situations and discover that things are not quite the way they had anticipated. In Tracy Pearce’s “The Polish Bride,” a young woman is courted by her former chemistry teacher, with whom she’s long been in love, and begins to see another side of him, strange and flawed. The precocious teenage narrator of Jonathan Penner’s “Belize” juggles work, life, and love in the adult world into which she’s emancipated herself, navigating a terrain more complex than she had perhaps bargained for. And having become the über-mothers they’d set out to be, the women in Emily Sinclair’s “Then, We Knew Everything” question their accomplishments when one of their own defects. Michelle Hoover leads off this issue’s nonfiction with her haunting essay “Our Little Bertha,” braiding together questions about loss and grief, the legacy of family history, and connection to place. And through a beautiful meditation on snow, Jeneva Stone explores her experience as the mother of a child with a disability in “Winter Kept Us Warm.”
Finally, we are truly delighted to announce—in addition to Ron Carlson’s joining our staff of contributing editors—one other change to our masthead: Steven Schwartz is our new fiction editor. A widely published faculty member in the MFA programs of both Colorado State University and Warren Wilson College, Schwartz is the author of the short story collections To Leningrad in Winter and Lives of the Fathers, and the novels Therapy and A Good Doctor’s Son. His fiction has received the Nelson Algren Award, the Sherwood Anderson Prize, the Cohen Award from Ploughshares, two O. Henry Prize Story Awards, and has appeared in over fifty magazines and anthologies. He is also a recipient of the Cleanth Brooks Prize in Nonfiction from the Southern Review. We are fortunate indeed to have him onboard.
All writing is occasional writing, whether the occasion be a given day or window, a political reality that inspires rage, or the poetic voice that conjures elegy, prayer. The sufficient forms of imagination make their way in time, marking the hours and seasons with their own passing. At this writing, disobedient citizens are occupying Wall Street, the aspens of the Colorado mountains are burning electric yellow, and John Zorn is catenating my Pandora. A sense of pleasure in the gathering of poems here, a sense of the ongoing occasion of the world. I hope you will find such resonances in the diverse contents of this, the latest issue of CR. I am particularly struck by its range: mordant humor, flinty prayer, fog bank attention, bomb meditation, volcano scour. There’s a thingness to the poems, and a sustained address.
Indeed, one of the pleasures in putting this issue together is the happenstance of receiving long poems. There’s excerpted work (David Axelrod’s “Song of Accord,” Michael Robins’s “Match”), serial work (Noah Eli Gordon’s “The Answer,” the last five entries from Stephen Ratcliffe’s thousand-page “Temporalities”), and an extraordinary sequence from Keith Waldrop. His “Marginalia” gathers the page to the scraps of speech and character and humor that make up our days: “to guess the truth // to despise Ruebens, to inter-/rupt succession, let temporalities /overlap // long road, lapse / of time.” Such dwell among his fragments. May you enjoy these all.
Featured in This Issue
David Axelrod, Angela Ball, Evan Brennan, Wayne Dodd, John Gallaher, Adam Giannelli, Noah Eli Gordon, Mark Halliday, Michelle Hoover, Russell Jaffe, Joan Leegant, Patricia Lockwood, Tracy Pearce, Jonathan Penner, Patrick Pritchett, Stephen Ratcliffe, Michael Robins, Rebecca Givens Rolland, Christa Romanosky, Broc Rossel, Ira Sadoff, Emily Sinclair, Jeneva Stone, G. C. Waldrep, Keith Waldrop, Elizabeth Willis, Sam Witt