As in every fall issue since 2004, we are delighted to present the winner of the Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction. This year’s winning story is “The German Woman,” by Josie Sigler Sibara. Lori Ostlund, who selected it, writes that it is “a beautifully written story—at times stark, at others lyrical—a story that provides a truly powerful examination of survival and self-delusion, love and hate, all of them existing at the nexus of overwhelming guilt. The author’s retrospective narrator, thinking years later about his actions at the end of the war when American forces entered Germany, is consumed by that guilt still. It is my favorite kind of story—a story with no easy answer, no answer at all really, to the question of how crimes committed by human beings during war can be lived with by the perpetrators later.” This is a deeply moving story that will stay with readers for a very long time, and we’re so proud to feature it.
It’s hard to recall a time in recent history when we’ve been so challenged in forming new or maintaining existing relationships. While so many of us are in varying degrees of isolation, it’s difficult to make genuine connection. The stories and essays in this issue each wrestle with the ways in which people attempt to reach through to others. In “The German Woman,” a wounded American soldier imagines a life with the title character, who has provided refuge and nursed him back to health. In Haley Crigger’s “Not in Any Trouble,” plain and sheltered Lacey befriends wealthy and beautiful Sydney as the two young girls navigate the perils of adolescence. In Mary Grimm’s “The Weight You’re Both With,” a young man attempts to determine his relationship to the people in his circle—his roommate/sometime lover, his friends, his boss—and thus his identity. And in Cally Fiedorek’s “Hometown Hero,” a floundering has-been football star finds himself the guest of a former and unpopular classmate, who he hopes might redeem him. Clint McCown looks back on his time as the only white actor in a Puerto Rican theater troupe in “Noo Jall.” Robin Cartwright considers the challenges of raising a feminist daughter amid the tensions between mothers and daughters, men and women, in “On Daughters and Direct Polluters.” And Ania Spyra, in “Dog Years,” recalls her father’s struggle to adjust to post-Communist life in Poland, unable to relate to his coworkers or his family. Whether you’re a new or longtime reader, we welcome you to the Fall/Winter issue and hope that you’ll find connection and companionship here.
In Walter Benjamin’s last major work, Thesis on the Philosophy of History, the ostensible witness—the angel of history—is flung into the future, looking back at the wreckage of time. A parallax of perspectives, it is a futurity cataloging a carnage Benjamin named “progress.” The image of the angel Benjamin takes from a haunting painting by Paul Klee, Angelus Novus. I invoke this thinking, this image, as I consider where the world is headed going into election season. It’s a reminder of Art’s witness, and how all literatures are linked, as are all bodies, human and more-than-human. And it’s a reminder of the pervasiveness of time: “Time is more fundamental than space / It is, indeed, the most pervasive / of all the categories / in other words / there’s plenty of it” (Edward Dorn, Gunslinger).
More than plenty, too much—too much in a day, a year. It’s been such an exhausting run round the sun that I can’t help thinking we’re all tuckered out from such durational challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, the daily scandal, the unprecedented wildfires raging all over the American West (one just up the Poudre Canyon from Colorado Review’s home!), the just-now-getting-started hurricane season. What in the world—always in the world—will happen?
As much as I’d like to say the poetry in this issue will be a simple balm to your soul, it’s not that simple. Everything is political, temporal. From the weight of lost things gathering under trees in the initiatory “Understory,” by Augusta Funk, to the lost tractions of language in Lyn Hejinian’s “An Aftermath of Aphorisms”: “We aphorize across the flap [as] . . . The aphorist deliquesces.” And other times, places, poems reveal our intersubjective whorl in such striking work as Sawako Nakayasu’s translations of the important Korean modernist woman poet Yi Sang, the trio of poems by the Nepali poet Samyak Shertok (winner of the AWP Intro to Journals Award), and the incendiary comments on race and gender in Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s “A Nation of Two.”
Days rise, seasons hurtle, and the body keeps on keeping time. Poetry does its work, as the varied lines of this issue illustrate. There are aubades to wake us, carpe diems to help us act, ubi sunts and elegies to mark who we’ve lost, who has come before. And poems of domestic resistance that mark our voices as lovers, parents, children, intimate humans. Facing a historic unknown, may the angel of history direct our “progress” from aftermath. Or, more likely, in the words of Despy Boutris: “I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into // The night tastes of copper. / I’m lying in the meadow, fisting clover // while a distant dog unravels its howl” (“Self-Portrait as Lake”).
Featured in This Issue
Megan Alpert, Anne Barngrover, Despina Boutris, Cullen Bailey Burns, Robin Cartwright, Cassandra Cleghorn, Peter Cooley, Haley Crigger, Gillian Cummings, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Caitlin Ferguson, Catherine Fiedorek, Augusta Funk, Mary Grimm, Lyn Hejinian, Matthew Kelsey, Dan Machlin, Clint McCown, Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Sawako Nakayasu, John A. Nieves, Katherine Noble, Christopher Salerno, Samyak Shertok Lama, Josie Sigler Sibara, Jennifer Soong, Ania Spyra, Marisa Tirado, Daneen Wardrop, Kerri Webster