Drunk and Disorderly
Whiskey Island Magazine, published by Cleveland State University since 1977, is a curious little two-color publication with few contributors (thirteen) and yet numerous contributions (thirty-one). For instance, Nin Andrews alone has six pieces in WIM. Oddly, the unhelpful Table of Contents doesn't distinguish between poetry and fiction (or artwork and photography) and has no page numbers, although I eventually discovered that the names were in order of appearance. So a reader just opening the magazine from the beginning has no idea what Nin Andrews writes or, initially, where in the magazine to find her. (I'm only presuming "Nin" is feminine; the contributor's note was no help.)
One other overall criticism of the Contents is that not all the prize winners in poetry and fiction are listed there. This is because only the first prize winners appear in the magazine. The second and third prize winners are listed on the prize page, following the Contents, but do not appear in the magazine. This may be of interest to Cleveland State, but it's merely frustrating to general readers of the magazine.
Beyond the Table of Contents, the most notable visual aspects of WIM are its wide margins and the unique (and, to this reader, unfortunate) choice of justified left and right text alignment for fiction. Also, without page numbers in the Contents, it seems unceremonious not to put the fiction and poetry prize winners up front at the beginning of the issue. I had to go flipping through the magazine to find them.
Alas, I also wish the editing had been sharper. I see, for example, a missing period at the end of a paragraph, a closing quotation mark without its companion, a single space at the start of one line of a poem with a justified left margin, and a "to" that should be "too." And that's only from two writers.
"Where Faith Went" is a satisfactory short story by Robert Pope about an acclaimed poet named Harold and his search for the elusive Jane (first name actually Faith--hence the slightly corny title). The story is told by his friend, Paul, and also features a mutual acquaintance, Marcia (whom Paul calls "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia"). The dry wit of the first-person narrator carries the story along and gives it any real vitality. ("He's kind of lovely, in a way, if you stand back and think about it.") The ending is poignant in a couple of ways.
"You Asked For It" by George Bilgere is a memory piece, a poem about the speaker's childhood fascination with the eponymous TV show and a particular guest who was a whiz with slingshots. The real subject is hinted at only once--"He was the kind / Of father I wanted to have"--and never mentioned again. But it drew me in and held my curiosity long after I finished reading the poem.
Bilgere has another poem, "A Nice Place to Live," that is a thoughtful meditation on anger and the haves and the have-nots in our country. My favorite preposition in the magazine is in the phrase "Then it's time for an evening stroll down to Murph's / A couple of beers with Roger / Under the news." That ‘Under" places the "news" in a TV above a bar and paints a complete picture of what the bar might look like. I wonder, though, if Bilgere meant the play on words when he wrote, "Not even the leader / Of the free world. I'm a hater / From the bush leagues . . ." I hope not.
Mary Biddinger's "Saint Monica's Sweet Sixteen" is another memory piece, this one a beautifully detailed poem about Monica's sixteenth birthday party, "her boyfriend and Uncle Paul / shoving each other during / an episode of Punky Brewster" and "Behind green foyer drapes, / Amelia Fletcher loses her / virginity and it only takes / twenty seconds . . ." All of Monica's frustration is captured when "Monica / wishes she had a hammer / to throw through the window." But instead she "retreats to her special place / under the stairs . . ." This is a lovely poem, my favorite in this issue.