Tahoma Literary Review issue 4 (Volume 2, Number 2) is now live. We’ve come out a few days earlier than anticipated in order to coincide with our reading tonight (July 23, 7 pm) at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Books. Here’s a little bit about what you’ll find inside, but the best way to appreciate the issue is to buy a print copy or Kindle from Amazon, or download a free e-reader version from our Current Issue page. You can also hear exclusive audio of many of our pieces at our Soundcloud feature.
We begin this issue, our fourth, with several pieces that delve into the political spectrum, an apropos subject considering the presidential election of next year’s November already dominates the news. Brandon Amico’s poem “The Elocutioner’s Mask” is a perfect example of candidate doublespeak and self-martyrdom. Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo follows with her poem, “Upon Celebrating America’s Birthday,” which subtly recalls the crooked politics that destroyed L.A.’s Chavez Ravine in the 1950s. Closer to our home in the northwest, Priscilla Long provides a comprehensive history of a long-neglected and politicized river, intertwined with her personal exploration in “Days on the Duwamish.” Nathan Landau revisits above-ground nuclear testing with his poem, “The Atomic Ark,” which recalls how animals were placed in areas of fallout to record their reactions, if not their suffering.
In fact, many of these pieces involve an animal presence, and we continue down that tangent in “Toilet Fish,” Edmund Zagorin’s hilarious take on a father-son relationship that involves, well, a fish in a toilet. And then there’s “The Chicken Poem,” by Karen Skolfield. You might not believe how many chicken poems TLR has received in the last few months, but suffice it to say we could almost publish a themed issue of them. Skolfield’s poem, however, is perhaps the definitive entry in this literary henhouse. “Superweeds,” by August Donovan broadens the conversation to include plants as well as animals, and a dog named PrettyBoy is among the players in Kathy Anderson’s short story, “Go. Stop.”
From here the issue tacks exclusively toward the human. “Love and the Crumb Girl,” by Deirdre Lockwood, is a long-form poem that explores the often opposing images of a person: the ones we create for ourselves, and the ones others assign to us. These almost never mirror, and often trigger character realization. In that regard Lockwood’s poem shares the spirit of “Taksim,” a story by Marc Neison about a man who must deny his family history if he is to survive in Turkey’s cutthroat urban culture. In “All God’s Chillun,” by Miles White, the conflict is an old one endemic to America, which continues to haunt us.
It’s those haunting pasts that surface in the following pieces. “Joshua Tree,” by Steven Sanchez examines the complex cultural resonance in his given name. In “Varsity,” Brock Kingsley gives a chilling recollection of a high school incident that only much later began to make sense. Nancy Carol Moody’s poem “March, 1959,” is equally chilling, its outcome fifty-six years hence still shrouded by family mystery. The element of violence in these pieces is continued in “Two-Part Inventions” by Terese Robison. In this flash fiction the focus is on predation, as it is in “‘Don’t,’” a poem by Carolyne Wright. Latent threat and vulnerability continue in “Upstairs, My Daughter Draws Jesus” by Ciara Shuttleworth, another of our long-form poems.
One of our cultural shortcomings in dealing with societal ills like these is our penchant for obfuscation, couching unpleasantries with euphemisms. Nicole Stellon O’Donnell confronts this practice in “At Least Name it What it Is.” Tyrese Coleman’s flash fiction, “What You Look Like,” offers a similar personal encounter, as the speaker of the piece must admit an inability to abandon loss when the future has come to replace it.
There are ways to deal with such feelings, physical ways as well as emotional, as Tasha Cotter expresses in “Girl as Infidel,” as the speaker comments on her world with rocks thrown from a truck. Or one can drive to remember while trying to forget, and feel the pull of both desires, as Stacey Balkun does in “Meridian.”
For pure memory, there’s “The Kitchen on Davis Street” by James Gyure, a bittersweet study of perseverance and optimism amid crushing circumstance. In Devon Ronner’s “Numerous as the Stars” we go back even further to old times, in an old country, and a dream-like tale of foreboding and sacrifice. So too in the nonfiction, “Glass,” by Chris Arthur, can we find a form of sacrifice, even from the life of a tiny, beautiful bird.
We close this issue’s entries with two poems that bring us back to nature. “Office of Disease Prevention” by Barbara Duffey looks at the rewards and the costs of nature on its terms. In “The Oriole Outside My Window Reminds Me” by Maya Jewell Zeller nature reminds of our freedom and innocence.