Fearless Journal Delivers Another Knockout
Review of Redivider, Fall 2018 by Louisa Parzyk
Volume 15.2 of Redivider packs some serious heat with free-verse poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and graphic narratives addressing topics like death, war, racism, and more in its 141 pages. More often than not, the subject matter has a dark bent that gives way to grave themes.
A case in point would be the poem “The Beet” by Jane Wong. The simple slicing of a bloodred beet drives the speaker to remark on its “organ spill / getting everywhere like the loans / I owe.” It’s her “father’s ruined jaw / misshapen like a novice ceramicist’s bowl, / his teeth knocked out post gambling / brawl.” It reminds her of “scrubbing [her] grandmother’s feet / raw, each toe curling toward tomato vines / and water spinach legs.”
As you can plainly see, the language used is very rich. Many poems in Redivider follow suit, though a few poems get away with a much more sparse delivery, as is the case with Isabelle Shepherd’s “This Way of Touching,” featuring lines like, “we learn things / like that it’s rare / but sometimes a / baby’s heart will / grow outside / its body & after birth / doctors tuck / its beating back / into the body / beneath a blanket / of skin.” Though in general, it seems you’d have a better chance submitting poetry with more complex imagery like “The Beet” above.
The fiction pieces in this journal are conventional in structure. And much like Redivider’s poetry, they all have veins of darkness in their themes. “Captain America’s Missing Fingers” by Molly Olguín follows two children waiting for their father to return from war, while finding out their dementia-stricken grandfather was unfaithful to his wife while he was fighting overseas. Christine Waresak’s story “Borderlands” addresses the racism faced by two Chinese Americans in the 1800s, while also addressing the protagonist’s abandonment of his family back in China. “Lena” by Mary Taugher relates the story of a man’s family issues and reconnection with his estranged grandmother, a long washed-up and controversial movie starlet. The piece “Catch and Release” by Christopher Amenta depicts a strained friendship and a seedy crime. All four pieces delve deep into the unflattering side of humanity, though each find a certain beauty hidden in the pain.
The majority of pieces in the journal had realistic settings, more often than not taking place in the US. However, there is a piece of fiction called “Dawn” by Cat Ingrid Leeches that discusses a siren luring people to their deaths. There’s also the poem “The Eaglet of Caucus” by Keith Wilson about a young eagle that feasts on the liver of the Greek god Prometheus. Though these two pieces depart from realism, thematically they still seem to remark on social issues.
Speaking of social issues, Redivider is not at all afraid to accept submissions that discuss, at the forefront, issues of racism and intolerance. Keith Wilson’s three works unapologetically spar with the racism toward African Americans in the US. An excerpt from his nonfiction work “Swell” gorgeously pursues the loss and memory of the 17 million Africans killed in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Comparing these 17 million to Dunbar’s number (“the cognitive limit of the number of people we are able to maintain meaningful relationships with”—a number of around 250), Wilson captures the fleetingness of our comprehension in the face of such a huge statistic. Perhaps in reference to the cramped quarters experienced on a slave ship, Wilson comments that Dunbar’s number feels like “a grade for a cage: the number of birds that will fit stacked on their sides.”
But no piece is as unapologetic as Jas Breece’s “I Am a Black Woman But That is Not All I Am.” Breece impactfully asserts her identity as a black female human through her use of quick, biting language. More than any other piece in this volume, Breece’s intent is bold and direct as she refuses to soften the edges of her outrage.
Lastly, Redivider contributors come from impressively different backgrounds. There are a few writers in here who are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees or have never been published before. On the other hand, many contributors are published authors with novels and chapbooks. There are several who were nominated for or won Pushcart Prizes. Some have work that’s been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the ThreePenny Review. There’s a good mix of male and female contributors. While most are American, there are a couple international contributors.