Katy Haas

The MacGuffin – Fall/Winter 2021

Nancy Buffum’s “Girl at Piano” on the cover of vol. 37.3 is a prelude to the trio of musical poetry in the exposition to this issue, composed by poets Frank Jamison, Tobey Hiller, and Vince Gotera. As with any other sonata, the recapitulation comes later—András Schiff through Murray Silverstein’s eyes; guitarists, off-stage (Berlioz anyone?) in Gabriella Graceffo’s “Relics”; extended vocal technique in Eric Rasmussen’s “The Irresistible Gobble”—but not before Lucy Zhang’s multi-part “Trigger” and Lynn Domina’s multi-peninsula “Yooper Love” develop the form a bit. Finally, we reach the coda, this time a scherzo: “The Slapathon,” from J.A. Bernstein.

Read more at The MacGuffin website.

Cutleaf – Vol 2 No 2

In this issue of Cutleaf, Yasmina Din Madden shows us the ABCs of relational ups and downs in “Zero Sum Game.” Tiffany Melanson reflects on color theory in and out of prison in four poems beginning with “Visitation: Tomoka Correctional Institution.” And Mary Zheng navigates the necessary pain of empathy in the emergency room in “Jane.”

Learn about this issue’s images at the Cutleaf website.

A New Novel of a Tempestuous Time

Guest Post by Rick Winston.

David, the protagonist of Dan Chodorkoff’s insightful new novel Sugaring Down, is conflicted. He moved to Vermont in 1969 to be part of an activist political collective, but finds himself drawn to the quiet rhythms of the Vermont seasons. The more radicalized his comrades (and especially his girlfriend Jill) become, the more David finds true fulfillment in putting down roots.

David and friends come to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom with very little practical knowledge. Through his closest neighbors, the vividly realized Leland and Mary Smith, he gradually acquires the skills to survive. He must use them all when the collective disintegrates and he faces a winter alone.

Leland and Mary do not pass judgment on the newcomers and become a guide to much more than splitting wood and boiling syrup. They advise David and friends on what not to say to hostile individuals in town, how to behave at Town Meeting, and in general how to act so that— eventually—they might be accepted in their community.

Through Leland and Mary, we also learn some Vermont history that predates the counterculture. David has never heard about Barre’s radical history (Mary, the daughter of a granite worker, has Italian roots), or the forced sterilizations of Abenaki people during the eugenics movement, or the bulk tanks that forced Leland and Mary to give up dairy farming.

Chodorkoff is especially evocative as the reader sees each successive season—their glories and their challenges—through David’s city-bred eyes. And it was painful to this veteran of the late 1960s to relive the heated political conversations of the time. The book takes place at a time when some on the “New Left” were turning to violence, and Chodorkoff does not shy away from these upsetting themes.

Chodorkoff uses the maple sugaring process as a central metaphor, hence the title. The sap boils off (and there is furious boiling indeed) and we—and David—are left with the essence. Sugaring Down is a worthy addition to the growing literature about Vermont during this tempestuous time.

Sugaring Down by Dan Chodorkoff. Fomite Press, February 2022.

Reviewer bio: Rick Winston lives in Montpelier, Vermont and is the author of Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era 1946-1960.

‘The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois’

Guest Post by Kevin Brown.

In her first novel, Jeffers covers a wide range of history, but focuses on one place called Chicasetta, moving from the Indigenous Creek to African Americans and whites as they move into or are brought into the area. The novel follows two strands of a story that ultimately intersect: one from the Native American viewpoint covering hundreds of years and one following Ailey Garfield from her childhood to graduate school in history in the early 2000s.

There are echoes of African American history and literature, ranging from the obvious references to DuBois—not only the title, but significant ideas in the novel—but also narratives by those who were enslaved (Jacobs and Douglass) and more contemporary writers, such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. While drawing on such sources, though, Jeffers makes this story her own by setting it so concretely in one place and following one family’s history.

My one criticism is that the novel covers so much time, even within the contemporary story, minor characters seem to come in to serve a particular role, then exit quickly. That’s especially true when Ailey is in college and graduate school, as those characters seem to represent some idea that needed covering.

However, Jeffers uses the historical sweep to explore questions of America and identity and race, knowing there are no answers, only questions, as Ailey says at the end of the novel: “I know the story will be over soon. That I will wake up with a question. And then another, but the question is what I have wanted. The question is the point. The question is my breath.” Jeffers’s novel shows us the power of questions: Who’s asking them? Who’s avoiding them? What’s left out?

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Harper, August 2021.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press).  He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. You can find out more about him and his work on Twitter at @kevinbrownwrite or at http://kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

A Tender New Year’s Resolution

Guest Post by Annie Eacy.

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, and I’m isolating in my childhood bedroom after testing positive for Covid-19 after nearly two years of masking, vaccinating, boosting, testing, and more. My whole body aches and all I would like to do is spiral in self pity. Instead, I pick up a green book on my bedside table: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.

Small town Ireland in the 1980s. A blue-collar man, reserved and hardworking, is married with five young daughters. He lives a measured and somewhat mundane life, not prone to much contemplation or self-reflection. That is, until one day not long before Christmas, he makes a discovery requiring an act of heroism that has the potential to change many lives and not all for the better.

This is a marvelous, unassuming novel filled with small, tender moments: helping his girls with the spelling in their Santa letters, filling hot water bottles for their beds, watching them sing in their church choir. “Aren’t we the lucky ones?” he says to his wife one night, and she agrees. However, his gratefulness is warped by the misfortune of others. How should they have so much and not share it? Keegan’s novel begs many questions about heroism and altruism, but the most compelling might be that while there can certainly be tenderness in heroism, can there also be heroism in tenderness?

I close the book, no longer wallowing in my self-pity. My mother knocks to offer me tea—her voice soothes, like honey for my sore throat. I hear her soft slippers on the stairs, the tapping of dog paws following, the click of the gas stove. Small, tender things. How much there is to be grateful for when you look or listen for it, and after reading Keegan’s novel, that’s what I’ll do.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. Grove Atlantic, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Annie Eacy is a writer living in the Finger Lakes. She writes poetry, fiction, and essays, and is currently working on a novel.

The Massachusetts Review – Winter 2021

This special issue is dedicated to the climate crisis and those being destroyed and changed by it. Work by Shailja Patel, Vanessa Place, Omar El Akkad, Rick Bass, Alex Kuo, CAConrad, Barry Lopez, Laura Dassow Walls, Craig Santos Perez, Salar Abdoh, Brian Turner, Lisa Olstein, Joseph Earl Thomas, Khairani Barokka, Amitav Ghosh, Marta Buchaca, Mercedes Dorame, Rob Nixon, Gina Apostol, and more. See a full list of contributors at The Massachusetts Review website.

Kenyon Review – Jan/Feb 2022

The Jan/Feb 2022 issue of the Kenyon Review features the winners of our 2021 Short Fiction Contest: Ted Mathys, Sam Zafris, Rachel L. Robbins, and Malavika Shetty; stories by Vanessa Chan, Lan Samantha Chang, Drew Johnson, and Joanna Pearson; essays by Melissa Chadburn, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Alice Jones; and poems by Ruth Awad, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Traci Brimhall, Katie Hartsock, Cate Marvin, Maggie Millner, Michael Prior, Natasha Sajé, and Joan Wickersham. Now at the Kenyon Review website.

Kaleidoscope – No. 84

In this issue, we see a common thread of resilience. Humor and an appreciation for the little things are along for the ride. Featured essay by Kavitha Yaga Buggana. Featured art by Sandy Palmer. Fiction by Kelly A. Harmon, Lind McMullen, and Courtney B. Cook; a personal essay by Jackie D. Rust; creative nonfiction by Judy Kronenfeld, Laura Kiesel, Kristin LaFollette, and Tereza Crvenkovic; and a book review by Nanaz Khosrowshahi. Poetry by Alan Balter, Lucia Haase, John Dycus, Linda Fuchs, Diane S. Morelli, Alana Visser, Wren Tuatha, and T.L. Murphy.

Download the new issue PDF at the Kaleidoscope website.

The Georgia Review – Winter 2021

The Georgia Review’s Winter 2021 issue with new writing from Morgan Talty, Victoria Chang, Cheryl Clarke, Ira Sukrungruang, Garrett Hongo, Edward Hirsch, and many more, as well a story by Maya Alexandrovna Kucherskaya translated from the Russian, two iconic speeches from the early years of the OutWrite literary conference, and the winner of this year’s Loraine Williams Poetry Prize.

More info at The Georgia Review website.