Friday, October 30, 2009

When Things are Tight, check out Hanging Loose The Fall 2009 issue

When Things are Tight, check out Hanging Loose
The Fall 2009 issue

article by Michael Todd Steffen

Literary journals as a rule, gathering work from several sources, tend one way or the other: to demonstrate a coterie likeness (in theme or style), or to celebrate like Walt Whitman a grand embrace of variety. The Fall 2009 Hanging Loose sets itself unflinchingly to the latter strategy, giving writers and readers, in this time of economic constraint and hesitation, carte blanche to browse and relish in a range of expressions, from thrift to luxury, from the timid companionship of a calf that follows KEITH TAYLOR’s father around in “The Cattle on the Parthenon’s South Frieze” (p. 84), to KATHY SCHNEIDER’s endearing catalog of excuses not to leave an elusive lover in “Lapigi” (99).

We look through garments, bric-a-brac, we look for others. Between her glassy liberal psychologist and the less forgiving damselflies in “Spooning” (60) JENI OLIN is brought to the surprising consumerist-wit question, “Wouldn’t it be touching/to try on people at a sample sale?”

As shoppers meet limitations, they economize with lists, lists such as the long-lined odes beginning this issue of HL. In “Ode to my Backyard” (19-21) the passage revisiting ‘the so sweet a place” where John Keats is buried in Rome echoes throughout the achieved negative capability of David Kirby’s breathless three-page poem.
Then in the array of vignettes and strophes, a gem by Rosalind Brackenbury, “Ferry across the James River” stands quietly forth in its intimacy and clarity:

the water was carved the bow wave
in a deep almost colorless curve;
you stood at the stern of the ferry
and I came to find you, I knew
you’d be there wearing your jacket,
cap and gloves; and above you
the gulls, their bellies lit by the low sun
from underneath, hundreds of them
following the wake (26).

If HL demonstrates an eye for referential literary talent, it is not blind to the harder experiences, say, of CHRISTEIN GHOLSON’s “Sleep Deprivation,” which records the twists of events in a lidless tenancy building:

One night I heard two drunk kids blubbering “I love you, man” to each other in the hallway. A bit later—fists, bottles breaking… (34).

Still with plenty of play currency for what Nabokov called “unreal estate,” an abundance of cultural acquirements and thoughts for pennies keep turning HL’s pages. We are bargain drivers, says ELIZABETH SWADOS in her poem of anxiety for the critic and author of The Anxiety of Influence, “A Question for Harold Bloom” (85). Look says MARK PAWLAK, a contributing editor, with “Apologies for Rilke,” paying legerdemain for one of the Austrian poet’s most memorable meditations on the spiritual challenge of enduring art. And just why not? Monte Python superimposes wags of a mustache on the Mona Lisa, and as Rolland Barthes has pointed out there is, when all is boiled down, no proof for semantic difference between the pop of film and belles of lettres.

We ask to read as far as the eye sees, and the dreamlike atmospheres of the acrylic paintings by ARNOLD MESCHES, HL’s feature artist for this issue, achieve intensity, volume, through the painter’s method of “unlikely juxtapositions.” Subjects of artifice, acrobats, flame-hurlers, or of sophistication, a white-clothed dinner table, find themselves in the bewildered setting of woods at night. Mesches’ technique of contrasting brilliant colors against deeply obscure backgrounds draws in and offers to swallow the viewer’s eye with enchantments of luxurious baroque ballroom interiors, as well as with the blazes of fire in the nocturnal sylvan scenery.

Mesches leaves us with an overall effect of dark surrealism bordering on expressionism, with the costumed and masked characters of children’s entertainment and nightmares, all befitting the theatrical harrowing of the Halloween season. Lock your doors. Don’t pick up that phone. And cover these paintings!

The Fall 2009 is a well-selected, finely and handsomely bound journal of intriguing and entertaining pen-craft and artistry that makes an apt companion for considerate readers of interest. It is well worth your nickel.

Hanging Loose 95
is available for $9.00
(3 issues for $22.00…) from
Hanging Loose Press
231 Wyckoff Street
Brooklyn, New York 11217
visit their website at

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