Thursday, July 17, 2014
Review of the Briar Cliff Review, Volume 26, 2014
Briar Cliff Review, glossy, eight by eleven, book bound, has riches: for the eye, for the mind, for the heart. There are poems, essays, short stories. Every poem is accompanied by a color photograph, or a color photograph of an artwork, on a facing page. The resulting experience is sumptuous. The editor, Tricia Currans-Sheehan is an ironist and a gimlet eyed observer. I know this because the photo given pride of place is black and white, pictures a man’s chest, hands pulling his shirt open to reveal the Superman logo reaching from his collarbone to mid abdomen. Above the left fist gripping the shirt, is a smallish but readable name tag like one you would wear at a convention: CLARK KENT/ DAILY PLANET REPORTER/50 YEARS OF SERVICE.
The editor’s theme: the international is local. The editor’s choices broadly international. Thailand, Paraguay and Pakistan, are examples of the reach. The first story “Thunder in Illinois” rather remarkably illustrates that theme. It spans the world from Champaignw-Urbana to Bangkok, but its locality is the marriage of the Evanses. Mister being an international contractor with a mistress in Bangkok and Mrs. being a fourth grade teacher who nonetheless and knowing his indiscretions stays married to him. Their battleground is a scrabble-like weekly game. They have been keeping score for all the years of their marriage. He is losing by a few points although their scores are close and add up to more than a million. She minds about the mistress. He is dying slowly from Leukemia. What is amazing about this story is how adroitly the writer, Leslie Kirk Campbell, handles all this material so you never notice you are reading a novel in five pages.
Rose Lane’s “Apogee,” the winner of BCR’s poetry contest, follows a dying father through all the last times he does the things he does in his life, selling his lobster boat, mowing neighbor’s lawn “for a couple of bucks.” While the family watches the tractor reel, and his head bob up over the tall bushes, the poem rises to a moment when the father picks up a dying baby bird, “no bigger than a knuckle,” holds it and merges weeping with it in their common death, the bird “pecking his path ahead.” Opposite this poem is the photograph of a painting, “Vespers,”by Arlene Laoesche Branwick,a gold and orange yellow cloudish color and a dark maroon, leading to a bright line horizon and then more darkness. Apogee, the word, designates the point at which a planetary body is furthest from the earth, a dispersal or a movement of spirit both poem and painting share.
Another coupling of the visible and the poetic: on the left side page a monotone Roberto Kusterlle, A Silent Mutation 9A/Head. gelled and spiked, spikes, sharp beige tipped, scalp hair dark, sie of neck and face a rich browny beige, skin rough even scarred. The shocking sight is the spikes all over the head, but you can’t help thinking thorns. No face show in the photograph.
The facing page, a poem by Jed Myers, “Another Start”
Before all the stars there was a dark /magnificent woman. . . a run
just under the knee in that black silk
stocking with all the luck – that’s all
it took, a little defect, maybe
only as long as a light year
The power of that defect and the scars and spike resonate in such a way that again the picture and the poem become meditations on each other’s power and power, itself.
This is a magazine with many such moments.