A Lit Mag to be Treasured
Bless me, reader, for I have sinned. It’s been about two months since I was assigned this review. I'm a person who has nightmares over turning in late work, and yet, it's a month late. This is what motherhood has done to me. It has also taught me about the value of brevity, as my working time is seriously fragmented these days. So, in between diaper changes, feedings, and reading Eric Carle books on the floor, here is my brief and heartfelt review of issue 14 of 580 Split.
Lovely editors of 580 Split: please don't feel cheated by the short nature of this review. The issue was given a treatment I've never given to another journal before: I read the whole thing out loud to an alarmingly calm and quiet four-month-old, Madeline, over a period of several days. Reading such a thing out loud makes the whole experience a lot more dig-in-with-both-hands and roll-around-in-it. It makes the stories come to life in a different way, and introduces an element of theater, which I believe is always lurking at the back of a good piece of writing.
The poetry in this issue reads like a collection of very concise, very beautiful stories. There is a lot of substance here. I'm thinking, in particular, of Erica Lewis' “excerpts from memory box.”
...i am almost always very lost or in love with all of this though i will probably always feel like an outsider someone sitting on your chest insisting on both completion and partiality a magpie looking for trinkets among the drifts...
Punctuation is obviously not a necessary part of this piece, and all of the poems in this issue do only what is necessary. Betsabe Gomez’ “What are You and Why are you Awake?” gives the reader a cold shiver of discomfort. It is a poem about dreaming, about race, about racism, about disquieting conversations. Roxane Beth Johnson’s “Wedding March” is brief and full of images I only wish I’d thought of first. She writes:
I don’t have an olive to my name. I’m small as a tonsil in the world’s throat.
All of the poems in this issue are beautiful. All of them.
And oh the fiction! Jeremy Byars’ “Truth” is so short and so cutting. It will break your heart in the two minutes it takes to read. Jane L. Carman’s “Dog Stories” sets you on edge with just the title. This story is about dogs, and I have never read a dog story that has not turned my guts into applesauce. (I had a dalmatian once. You understand.) The story is broken into parts—mini stories. Some of them are lovely, and some of them are traumatizing. Obviously, I did not read the traumatizing ones out loud to Madeline. A few of them are still haunting me in a really painful way. The stories in this issue, like the poems, are beautiful.
The nonfiction is hard. These are some tough, gripping, devastating pieces to read, and I’m glad I did. Thank you, Lily Diamond, for sharing that lovely, musical, painful piece about a mom who loved, who danced, who died. Thank you, Abeer Hoque and Adriana Páramo. From Páramo’s sharp and difficult piece, “The Wetbacks are Coming”:
Everything is recorded on their flesh. A quick glance and you can tell that they spent their nights under Crucifixion Thorn trees, the barbs of the cactus still lodged in their calloused feet. It doesn’t hurt them. They look human but have dragon feet.
There is photography in this issue. Really beautiful photography, and all of gathered people, which fits nicely with the theme of this issue: A Gathering of Voices.
The authors in this issue have been published elsewhere, or are MFA candidates. One of the authors claims to be a duck. The work here is beautiful (I’m using that word too much, I know), and the journal is just the right size for an afternoon, or for several short afternoons. So, read it. Read it out loud to your babies. They’ll like it.