New Online Mag Features a Few Good Authors at a Time
Streetlight Magazine’s 7th issue is filled with work from mature and experienced writers, each of whom are widely published and hold an original stake in literary circles. This reader found the work exhibited in this issue to be down-to-earth and exceptionally communicative. The issue is a sparse, but filling plate of creative work from experienced, creative minds.
For starters, Roselyn Elliot’s heartfelt essay, “Her Apron Full of Crinkle Root,” captures, from a child’s perspective, what it was like growing up in the post WWII era in Northern New York. In the author’s words, the essay “allowed [her] to show and tell a part of [her] life and bring a sense of the mythological to relationships and events that really happened.” The essay is a biographical snapshot of her grandmother, and the unique relationship that grandmother and granddaughter shared is constructed in this piece with a sort of magical realism. The essay-memoir is about childhood innocence and impressionability and about a life of hard work, loss, and ritual through generations. In her interview with Streetlight Magazine’s editor, Susan Shafarzek, Elliot elaborates on her childhood in rural New York, describing farm life there as a lifestyle that required ingenuity and resourcefulness. She describes experiencing hard conditions that were softened with many instances of compassion from the women in her family. Elliot’s essay is an intimately human story of people and places that, over the course of many years, have taken on a patina of legend. Nostalgia, however, does not displace a sense of immediacy in the narrative, which is why Elliot’s piece is most remarkable and engaging.
The two poets featured in this issue of Streetlight bring a similar sense of human plight, linked to place and circumstance. J. Chester Johnson’s poem, “Stranger Among Other Phantoms” conveys a sense of cognitive dissonance and spoke to this reader of the imposition of anonymity in a de-humanizing urban environment. Standing in the ticket line for a ferry becomes, in this piece, an isolating and anxious experience, where the individual barely recognizes fellow earth-dwellers as human, perhaps questioning his own place in the tight-margined machinery of city life. Johnson is an essayist and translator, as well as a poet. He has also written extensively about the American civil rights movement, a topic which perhaps informs his other creative work, including this poem--in which the marginalizing influence of the city itself works in such a way as to disenfranchise the individual.
The second poet featured in this issue is Rich Ives. Ives’ poem, “The Missing Sugar of 1981” encapsulates the need to instill meaning in the terroir, the infrastructures of human habitat, and relationships that may or may not have been real. It is a truly beautiful piece, expressing longing and resignation. “It’s not the impossibility that ruins it,” writes Ives, “ but perceptions higher than the door in the crook of the word’s last letter.” Ives is an experienced wordsmith, author of two books of poetry from Bitter Oleander Press and the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Award.
The fictional selections in Streetlight issue 7 are written by Erika Raskin and Lawrence F. Farrar. Raskin’s narrative concerns a young woman trying to manage the affairs of her mentally ill mother, while struggling to maintain an emotional distance from memories of a rocky upbringing with an unstable parent. The story is a well constructed and well paced frame story: the story of a past, framed and juxtaposed with the present. It’s a sober commentary on responsibility, compassion, restraint, and mental health. The piece is, furthermore, very character driven and the emotional landscape of the protagonist, Tierney, take center stage. Raskin takes the reader on a journey that, thematically, could very well be autobiographical. But this is only reader speculation.
Lawrence Farrar brings his background as a career diplomat to Japan to play in his story, “It’s Been a Long Time.” The story is about two individuals who rendezvous six years after their initial involvement with each other. Rachel, a professor at Irvine and Dr. Kensuke Kobayashi, a Japanese surgeon meet in a hotel restaurant and their conversation lays bare cultural and gendered divides that have made it impossible for them to communicate their emotions effectively—a situation that has made both individuals bitter and somewhat jaded in their past and creates a palpable disappointment in the present. This is a sad story that ends on sadder note, but one that skillfully comments on the challenges of a global economy that is not fiscal, but interpersonal. It speaks to emotional limitations that physical borders can, and often do impose.
Last but not least, the artwork featured in this issue of Streetlight is exceptional in its natural scope and method. Artist Frederick Nichols Jr. combines his skills as a photographer and an oil painter to create breathtaking artwork that depicts the natural world. His method is to first go out and photograph scenes from the wilderness—trees, rivers, meadows—and then bring those photos into his studio to recreate them using other mediums such as soil and linen. The resulting paintings are often impressionistic renderings, capturing not just the scene as it appears in the photo, but an emotional connection to the scene as well. Lighting and colors shift slightly to convey the artist’s relationship with the place. An MFA graduate of the Pratt Institute, who completed his undergraduate work at UVa under the tutelage of realist painter Robert Barbee, Nichols began experimenting with photography, knowing that it was considered a highly controversial method for a studio artist to employ. However, Nichols has, over the past 4 decades, embraced the symbiotic relationship between his photos and paintings and his work is highly valued both domestically and internationally. Nichols states, “through my study of the wilderness, I hope to renew an interest and desire not only to protect, but also appreciate, the natural world.” He lists artists such as Thomas Moran, Frederick Church, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh among his artistic influencers.
Though Streetlight chooses to feature only a very few authors and artists in each issue, this particular release is full of quality literary content, with thought provoking art, prose, poetry, and non-fiction selections from seasoned artists, who are, for the most part, well established in the literary and artistic fields. The works showcased are decidedly conventional and carefully honed—a break from an ever more popular “deconstructed” approach to literature and the writing craft. All in all, Streetlight Issue 7 is an enjoyable read, seemingly geared to a more phlegmatic literary audience.