Prose and Poetry With Social Conscience
Evergreen Review, a journal with a publishing history dating back to 1957, got its start through Barney Rosset as a publication challenging censorship, promoting the counterculture, and giving a home to the Beat Generation. Evergreen’s first issue boasts publications by Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre. It is a journal that still pushes the boundaries of genre and content. Issue 129 includes a continuation of a series of drawings accompanied by snapshots of prose, a visual nonfiction short by Bettina Jonic on her interactions with Samuel Becket, and a short story by Stacy Hardy about a politician’s literal masturbation during a speech.
Through poetry, prose, and genre-bending art, the Spring 2012 issue of Evergreen Review addresses social issues that are generally overlooked—such as in Christopher G. Moore’s essay, “Faking it in Bangkok: Dummy CCTV Cameras”— as well as offering new perspective on more familiar subjects. An example of this last would be Aruni Kashyap’s short story, “His Father’s Disease,” which tells the story of an Indian mother coming to terms with her son’s homosexuality.
One particular stanza of Mark Kerstetter’s poem, “Wilhelm Reich in Lewisberg,” brings to mind the heart of Rob Couteau’s Occupy Wallstreet essay, “To Crush a Butterfly on the Wheel of a Tank: Why Americans Must Take to the Streets:”
Do you think that by burning my books
you can stop the Life Energy
That by prohibitions and injunctions
you can stop one baby’s tear
Evergreen Review challenges the Establishment with heart. The strength of this issue is its sense of pathos. In “The Whimsy of Creation” we feel the speaker’s confusion, his desire to understand his uncle’s actions. In Celia Bland’s poem, “Your Patronage is Our Priveledge,” it’s easy to sympathize with the speaker’s sadness and her mother’s desire to return to an old way of life that is lost to them both.
When I first sat down to read this issue of Evergreen, the Submissions and Archives pages came up blank, but after a month of website work, every page now comes up without issue and without broken links. The website itself is a little busy. The mixed font sizes, sidebar content, and large “donate” banner distract from the content of the journal. Times are tough for lit journals, but limiting donation buttons on the homepage will help with the overall flow of the website. The site, however, does feel as though it’s on its way to being more clean-cut and streamlined, and the staff is clearly working to move in that direction.
I feel safe in saying that this online journal may be a good fit for genre-merging (art and prose, for example) work, as well as work that addresses current social issues with attention to the human experience. It’s legacy makes it a journal well worth paying attention to.