It surely comes as no surprise that the content of each issue of Colorado Review is selected months, sometimes a year or more, before publication. But it’s remarkable how the stories, poems, and essays often strike us somewhat differently as we prepare to send an issue to the printer, how their resonance changes in relation to events that have unfolded in those intervening months—that continue to unfold as the journal makes its way into readers’ hands. While none of these pieces specifically address the covid-19 pandemic, they nevertheless speak to the things that, despite our focus on the virus, we still contend with, obsess over, dream about, fear, and hope for. Our sense of who we have been, who we are now, who we will become, for example. In Jessica Treadway’s “Kwashiorkor,” a woman finds her hard-won sense of emotional well-being threatened by someone from her past. The narrator of Stefani Farris’s “31 Flavors and None That I Want” recalls a summer exploring the dangerously shifting boundaries between adolescence and young adulthood. In Carol Dines’s “Near Misses” a woman considers the relationship between the close calls in her life and the ways in which intimacy eludes her. An emerging stand-up comedian in Alex Sagona’s “Equals Comedy” struggles with his responsibility to his opioid-addicted brother, attempting to find the humor in the situation while discovering the limits of comedy as well as our power to save someone. In her essay “The Mills,” Jennifer Genest looks back on the triggering event—the murder of a girl in their small hometown—and evolution of her anxiety as a child, teen, adult, and parent. Yelizaveta P. Renfro works to reconcile the life and identity—the story—of her aunt, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, in “Susan: A Partial Dictionary.” And in her compellingly quirky lyric essay “On Gurning,” Rebecca Brill weaves connections between ugliness, loneliness, the discomfort of occupying one’s body, and her affection for Emily Dickinson.
It is my great hope that these pieces reach and resonate in ways you need—perhaps didn’t know you need—and that you can join us in a bit of respite as we welcome you to the summer issue.
I like a good poem. Don’t you? I like to finish a poem and notice my body has let out a sigh. As if my body—under the spell of the poem—has been holding its breath all along. As if my lungs and my diaphragm—even the blood that needs the new air lungs provide—have been waiting through the rush and weave of the poem for permission to go about the mundane business of breathing, of rising and falling, of oxygenating again. I like a poem that asks my body to put aside routine—even necessary routine—long enough for the page’s parade of splendor to conclude.
As I read and I read—making my selections for this issue— I waited for poems that made me stop breathing. Poems that overtook my body one word, one line, at a time. Poems that delighted, enticed, and surprised. No subject matter dominates these poems. Prepare to move through many places in space, attention, and time. I just wanted to share poems that changed the way I understood my own body in relationship to the world.
Sometimes these poems made me laugh out loud. But usually that laughter didn’t last. Usually it turned into something deeper—sometimes to something sadder, sometimes toward a painfully accurate insight. Sometimes laughter turned toward the kind of joy that comes with acceptance, even celebration. Sometimes these poems made me want to call my mother, my father, made me want to hug my daughter close. Sometimes these poems made me want to go outside and look more carefully at the trees, the horses in a nearby field. These poems made me reconsider my assumptions about heaven. They made me pay more careful attention to the river. These poems made me want to listen to how farmers call their cows. They made me think about the Spanish I know and how I use the language when I speak. These poems made me think, yes, because they made me feel.
There’s plenty that goes into the making of a good poem. Much more goes into the making of a good poem than I have room, in this short introduction, to explain. But, luckily, you’re not here to read my introduction. You’re here to read good poetry, and Colorado Review’s Summer 2020 issue has pages and pages of good poetry for you. Take a deep breath, and dive in.
—Camille T. Dungy
Featured in This Issue
Tara Bray, Rebecca Brill, Jack Christian, Emily Cinquemani, Elizabeth J. Coleman, M.A. Cowgill, Carol Dines, Ryler Dustin, William Fargason, Stefani Farris, Matthew Gavin Frank, Gabriela Garcia, Matthew Gellman, Jennifer Genest, Jose Hernandez Diaz, Ann Hudson, Canese Jarboe, Maja Lukic, Gary McDowell, Saretta Morgan, Suphil Lee Park, Maggie Queeney, Jeremy Radin, Doug Ramspeck, Nancy Reddy, Yelizaveta P. Renfro, Christine Robbins, Alex Sagona, Isabelle Shepherd, Natalie Solmer, Jessica Treadway, Travis Truax, Isaac Williams, Lindsay Wilson, Nicholas Yingling