Magazine Review: Water~Stone Review Volume 18: All We Cannot Alter edited by Mary François Rockcastle.
This is the latest volume of Hamline University’s annual literary magazine, which I picked up at the Rain Taxi Book Festival. The subtitle comes from one of the poems in this issue, “Is This What Poets Do?” by Elizabeth Oness. Thus the theme is effectively what cannot be changed, and what people do about that.
The poetry is all that modern stuff I don’t understand and thus cannot evaluate the quality of. One might well ask why I keep reading literary magazines, as they inevitably go heavy on the modern poetry. I don’t have a good answer for that. “Suckling” by Jenna Le does have some interesting pink milk imagery, and “SS Eastland Capsizes in the Chicago River, 1914″ by Renny Golden tells a fairly coherent story. “Frank’s Nursery and Crafts” by Bao Phi is a tale of bad customer service possibly exacerbated by racial prejudice, and would have worked about as well in prose as far as I can tell.
The interview by Katrina Vandenberg and Taylor (Doc) Burkhard is also about poetry, as the subject is Detroit wordsmith and slam artist Jamaal May. He talks about how he structured his first book.
From the fiction section, worth noting is “Duotone Portrait of a Dragonfly” by R.T. Jamison. It’s the story of a brief affair between a Japanese art student and an American otaku (fan of Japanese pop culture), interspersed with marks used in traditional print-making. “As You Are Now” by Jeff P. Jones is a story set during a zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a zombie that has lost the ability to interpret its senses. It’s only able to feel alive again when it is eating the living, but that soon passes.
The best of the “creative non-fiction” category is Paul van Dyke’s “Goomey and Aflow”. An Iraq War veteran and a Somali refugee bond over their experiences as soldiers and names that are unpleasant enough no one will bother to insult you further. They may be beaten down, but not permanently. “The Café Book” by Charisse Coleman imitates the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon with lists and random thoughts.
The photography section is random and nothing particularly stands out. There’s also a longish essay on “Mood Rooms” which is apparently cut down from an even longer piece. It’s so-so.
There are two book review columns, one of which is all modern poetry books and largely impenetrable to me. The other one is supposedly about books of essays, but half of the books discussed are actually more modern poetry, which I think is a cheat.
This volume is a good way to get a broad view of what the Midwestern literary community is up to, and if you are into modern poetry, I think you will enjoy it much more than I did. I should also note that the 2016 volume is accepting submissions through December; aspiring writers might want to give it a shot.