In “Reconsidering the Sunflowers,” Stephanie Harrison recalls her father’s habit of painting just one side of their family’s house a different color each year and the moment she saw this through fresh eyes: “Something in me had blinked and refocused. It was like the optical illusion I’d marveled over in fifth grade: beautiful woman or hag? Definitely hag. Once I’d seen it, I couldn’t stop seeing it.” A stand-in for her father’s sense of self, the house reflects the elusivity of his identity—ever shifting throughout their relationship—and ultimately his struggles with mental health. Questions of identity and self are at the heart of this issue’s prose, as characters—and writers—examine themselves closely in pivotal moments and ask some hard questions. Standing with her cousin Melinda in the dreaded “Family Planning” aisle at the drugstore one night, the narrator of K. S. Dyal’s “Love Is an Animal We Can’t Catch” turns to her cousin and sees her face transformed in the fluorescent lighting: “Like her face was my face and I couldn’t recognize either one of us anymore.” Trying on different selves as they navigate early adulthood, the young women offer each other support in the uncertainty of their futures. In Lindsey Drager’s “Blackbirds,” an eight-year-old whose mother is struggling with postpartum depression finds herself in the role of family caretaker. Envisioning her future adult self, she wonders, “What kind of person are you?” With her youngest child soon off to college and an unfaithful husband, a woman spends a hallucinogenic afternoon in a community of unhoused women, exploring her identity as a woman at mid-life and presaging a personal transformation, in Amy Stuber’s “Bears.” Drawing on Hume for clarity—“the self is nothing but a bundle of different impressions”—the narrator of Eugene Stein’s “The End of the Line” is juggling a midlife self-improvement obsession, her ex-husband’s peacocking efforts to upstage her current husband, and her thirteen-year-old daughter’s desire for boys’ approval. In “Salvaging,” an essay about his relationship with his mother and the impact of her hoarding, Brad Wetherell considers what we look like when we write about others, how we are reflected in that act. When a student asks what Wetherell’s mother thinks about his writing about her, he struggles to answer, conjuring his writerly self, “trying to perform the intellect I assumed that they assumed a ‘writer’ would possess.” And in “The Archer,” Jacob M. Hall revisits a period of instability in his father’s life, when he does not much resemble a parent: “I find myself watching my father more closely now, looking for signs, though of what I cannot be sure.”
With compelling stories and essays that examine questions of the self and the mirrors within mirrors of those answers, we welcome you to the fall/winter issue.
—Stephanie G’Schwind, Editor-in-Chief
Amidst the fall’s decrepitude of leaves and political malice there remains a cautious note of love in the chilly air. It’s what’s possible, what tinges this fall’s poetry selections, and something we need as a species, precious as air. And the world answers with a various and nomadic voice. As the immortal sage Yogi Berra once opined: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” That injunction—to wander, seize a fork, love what you see unflinchingly—sings through these poems in a richly global voice. Some of that’s happenstance, some an editor’s predilection, and some a clear sign of what’s multicultural now. Take the awp Intro Journals Award–winning poem “Visiting a Friend on a Snowy Night,” by Chengru He, which opens the poetry: “I walk and walk, as if // smelling the petals in your / teacup.” Or the daily attendances of an elder Karan Kapoor notes in “Dida,” who “tiptoes / to the temple / the koels / are snoring . . . she is the sea / contained / in a conch.” Or the declarative bravery of Jaz Sufi: “I want to live, for what it’s worth. I want what it’s worth, / all of it: the tepid joys and every stone thrown // down sorrow’s well-worn throat.”
The intricate tracery of our sometimes embattled environments is love too: “the steep slope to the straightaway river . . . Slope where black-glinting zinc slag / was dumped . . . / I antiphonally fling my arms as wide / as an inch is to a lichen” (Brandon Krieg’s “Lehigh Gap”). It’s hard to pay attention, here and now, then and there. Take Suzie Eckl’s epistolary “recoveries” from 1906: “Dear — // I waited a long / time, wanted the land / amid whispering pines and / sage.” Or the palimpsest of literatures and places in John Kinsella’s “Clouds”: “Hides behind and comes between / emanates from torn flesh and pits / envelopes and spreads; fades away.” We’re all connected, hand to mouth (Cole Swensen, “A Pencil”), the monsters are under the bed (Hannah V. Warren, “Monster of the Week”), but there’s still hope, and the golden apples of our imagination lie just below the surface: “Give me my shovel / of love for the sound / it makes slipping into / the gravelly ground / where we buried all the golden ones” (Timothy Donnelly, “Digging for Apples”). Take a long walk, a deep drink, and enjoy this issue of Colorado Review.
—Matthew Cooperman, Poetry Editor
Featured in This Issue
Jonathan W. Chu, Christopher Citro, Timothy Donnelly, Lindsey Drager, K. S. Dyal, Suzie Eckl, John Gallaher, Adam Giannelli, Jacob M. Hall, Stephanie Harrison, Chengru He, Karan Kapoor, John Kinsella, Arah Ko, Brandon Krieg, Jami Macarty, Caleb A. P. Parker, Susan Rich, Petra Salazar, Liane Strauss, Amy Stuber, Jaz Sufi, Eugene Stein, Cole Swensen, Sher Ting, Marc Vincenz, Hannah V. Warren, Tana Jean Welch & Brad Wetherell