Every fall, we have the true pleasure of featuring the winner of the Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction. This year, final judge Margot Livesey selected Shannon Sweetnam’s “Aisha and the Good for Nothing Cat.” This story, Livesey writes, “is set in a place of tragedy—Syria—but the story itself is not tragic. Despite losing various family members, Aisha continues to live her life, go to school, play games with her friends, recite poems. We see in these pages a more complicated truth: how one might continue living one’s life in the face of war and destruction, what can be endured if only one has a good for nothing cat for company. I love the ordinariness of this story of heartbreaking loss and the wonderful, flowing prose.” We extend our warmest congratulations to Ms. Sweetnam.
In this issue, we have more stories and essays from writers new to our pages: In David Crouse’s “The Earth Is No Escape from Heaven,” we enter into the curious world of a support group for people obsessed with apocalyptic fantasies. Joanna Pearson comes to us with “The Whaler’s Wife,” in which a young woman spends a transformational summer as the guest of a wealthy family haunted by a mysterious tragedy. In Michelle Ross’s dystopically domestic “A Mouth Is a House for Teeth,” a mother has become housebound and nearly paralyzed by her fears of the outside world. Erica Berry contemplates the nature of worry, fear, and anxiety in her AWP Intro to Journals Award–winning essay “On Worry.” Corey Van Landingham writes about her father in “Death Mask,” working toward a more nuanced understanding of their complicated relationship as she examines his passion for photography. And in her lyric essay “Meditation 38,” Julie Marie Wade considers the butterfly and its various incarnations throughout her thirty-eight years.
This is the first issue we’ve assembled in Colorado Review’s new home, still on the Colorado State campus, having left our former space of twenty-plus years in May. And so it’s a new season for us in a sense beyond just the changing of the calendar—a move that’s been energizing and transformative, which seems to reverberate through this issue’s stories, essays, and poems.
Welcome to the fall issue.
What’s poetry to a sow’s ear? Something comparative, something to eat. A moo-vable feast to parry dread, it’s dark times out there, but the Muse is in the crowd (covering). There’s the Cosby circus (in the end, sentencing), the Supreme Court debate (more #metoo-ing), midterm elections (looming), hurricane season (Florence dispersing, Kirk gathering) the fraught/unfraught of the dying of the light. Something to rage at, something to eat.
This issue begins in a body without organs (Toby Altman’s virally deconstructive “Discipline Park”) and ends with “the body is a door left open” [Brad Trumpfheller’s “Bad Queer (Homunculus)”]. In between, the sense of extension—of the dispersed but also shared condition of twenty-first-century Modernity (we’re fully in it now, eh?)—is palpable. See Kristin George Bagdanov’s sense-mapping in “Proof of Extension,” the “wave patterns” of Sherwin Bitsui’s Dissolve, or the inhabitory eye of Aby Kaupang’s “Vivian Maier.” It’s the “fluency of matter / to matter in its mutations / to itself” (Bob Hicok, “Lush”).
In other words, this issue’s poetry stretches. Try age, experience, from Brian Clifton’s “A Cicada Sings at Night to Avoid Predators,” winner of the 2018 AWP Intro Award, to Jerome Rothenberg’s august “A Round of Solipsisms,” written for his eighty-sixth birthday. Or from Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s premonitory “Below Our Tree, Stands” to Elizabeth Robinson and Susanne Dyckman’s collaboration “Agnes Martin.” Form stretches to meet the age: “You see the pattern is between itself.” Beyond the American mirror, there’s a spray of international prospects, from the electric gulag of George Kovalenko’s “Tailor” to Siwar Masannat’s em(bat)tled “Mammals—,” Dai Weina’s “Eighteen Days without Night” (translated by Liang Yujing) to Tyler Goldman’s acidic Martial translations.
What do we do in the face of it all? What direction to turn? Heliotropic to the last, we watch our poesies fade, fall. And yet a choice, to harmonize the light. Dear Reader, as winter comes on, turn:
In the chiaroscuro of these times,
the “sad and desperate times” wherein we seek
felicities beyond the hope we prime,
we choose, when choose we can, the light. Fantastic
these “sad and desperate times,” and so we seek
nearby or far “a tiny wild park”
and choose, when choose we can, to write fantastic
paeans to harmonize the light and dark.
(Peter Michelson’s “Prothalamion”)
Featured in This Issue
Toby Altman, Sarah Aronson, Kristin George Bagdanov, Erica Berry, Sherwin Bitsui, C. Fausto Cabrera, Caylin Capra-Thomas, Amy Catanzano, Travis Cebula, Brian Clifton, Kate Colby, Caroline Crew, David Crouse, E.G. Cunningham, Mark Ducharme, Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, Susanne Dyckman, Alan Gilbert, Melissa Ginsburg, Tanya Grae, P. K. Harmon, Bob Hicok, John Isles, Aby Kaupang, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, James Henry Knippen, George Kovalenko, Krystal Languell, Chloé Leisure, Yujing Liang, Siwar Masannat, Peter Michelson, Kimberly O’Connor, Joanna Pearson, Elizabeth Robinson, Michelle Ross, Suzanne Manizza Roszak, Jerome Rothenberg, Emily Skaja, Shannon Sweetnam, Emma Train, Bradley Trumpfheller, Corey Van Landingham, Julie Marie Wade