A Panoply of Delights
The plain green cover of the spring 2009 issue of The Greensboro Review shouldn't fool anyone. In this issue, we discover a wide range of exciting fiction and poetry.
The issue opens with Renée Ashley's prize-winning prose poem, "I Have a Theory about Reflection." This poem is about the enormity of the mother's role in the speaker's life. The last three lines in Ashley's poem are especially resonant: "I am a match and every time we speak-- and / sometimes when we do not--she strikes me Even in the bend of a / spoon I can see her reaching."
Christian Winn's "Mr. Formal" is a charming coming-of-age story about a young man who establishes a new life with his father in Idaho, far away from the domestic discord they've left behind in California. Early in the story, Stephen's dissatisfaction with his father is evident: "What I wanted was to understand, to know why I didn't like what I saw as my dad." Along the way, Stephen matures and ultimately reconciles with his father. We leave him watching his father through a window, ballroom dancing by himself.
Later in the issue, the poem "Still Life with Peaches" made me curious enough to look up the actual painting described by poet, Joel Long. This poem is an exemplary example of what an ekphrastic poem is supposed to do. It begins, "Before the peach was gone, it had one side" and builds to a stunning climax.
In "Text," Paula Brady alerts us that the poem--"after Marianne Moore"--has been spawned, evidently, by her reading of Moore's work. This poem is interesting, but without any apparent allusions to Moore's work, its exact meaning is elusive.
The recipient of the Robert Watson Literary Prize for fiction, "Yeguas Y Caballos" chronicles the life of a man whose wife has just left him. Author Travis Klunick writes prose that's fluid and precise, evoking Alice Munro with his masterful descriptions of rural landscapes. It is no wonder that this story was a prize-winner. Aside from the vivid imagery, the story's protagonist is a thoroughly complex character--heartbreakingly lonely yet deeply committed to providing a stable home environment for his children.
Jody Rambo's poem "Watching Westerns" draws us into the world of the Western. Her poem will register with men and women with fond childhood memories of watching 1950s movies like High Noon, Shane, and The Searchers and 1950s television shows like "Cheyenne", "Maverick", and "The Rifleman." Not only does Rambo remind us of a simpler, gentler time in TV and movie land, but she encourages us to try on new identities, allowing us to slough off the trivialities of our lives like an old pair of jeans.
Though Camille Norton's poem "Rocket" is primarily an antiwar poem, a marginal theme that emerges is the notion that we all experience a time in our development in which we are not rooted in our gender identity. Norton's speaker says, "I was neither a boy nor a girl, my skin / smelled sweet as milk before it turns." Norton's language here is eloquent, aptly defining what innocence is.
Elizabeth Gonzalez's short story "Half Beat" is rife with childhood memories. This story details how quotidian an existence a girl (Claire) leads in Toledo, Texas. The one person who brings intrigue to her life turns out to be her piano teacher, Miss Wood, who little by little, divulges the facts of why and how she broke up with a former beau. The story culminates with the narrator's epiphany, her realization that "We [she and Miss Wood] were not so different . . ."
My favorite poem in the issue is Brent Fisk's piece "Missed Call," a poem about an adult child's apprehension regarding a call he receives from his mother. Fisk's poem is clear and direct, free of oblique language. W. G. Scherban's short story "Revelation" is a dark and cynical piece about Disney World employees whose personal lives are in disarray. All Scherban's characters share a quality of vulnerability. Goofy is an ambitious, sexually adventurous young man who cannot land a job in his chosen field, dancing; Snow White is a sexually frustrated married woman who seduces Goofy; Prince Charming is the unsuspecting cuckold who is satisfied with his lackluster life. The story's climax occurs when Prince Charming discovers Snow White's treachery, attempting to pummel the much younger and stronger rival Goofy. This story ends on a sardonic note.