review by chelsea ritter, susquehanna university, class of 2016
Prairie Margins is a print literary magazine from Bowling Green State University that publishes undergraduate work from across the country. It accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, photography, and art.
The 2014 issue of Prairie Margins captures the reader’s attention from the get-go with a serene painting of blossoming flowers at sunset decorating the cover. The humble letter from the editor further piques curiosity about the magazine’s content. The last paragraph of the letter states, “What I’m trying to say is thank you for holding our hard work in your hands whether you picked it up, happened to find it, or had it thrust upon you,” recognizing the various journeys that we may have taken to come by this genuine compilation of art. The works inside are as real as the words of the editors, introducing us to situations that feel familiar even when the readers may not have actually experienced them.
All of the short stories in this magazine are exceptionally well done; however, my personal favorite was “Smaller than Jupiter” by Rebecca Bax. In this story, we get to know four children, Chrissie, Eddie, Mikey, Suzie, told from the youngest, Suzie’s, point of view. Narrating from a child’s perspective is always a challenge for writers, especially concerning the difficult emotions a child experiences when their friend contracts a deadly disease. Bax writes, “We are smaller than we can possibly imagine, but I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know any of it.” The reflective narrator shares her memories in a way that doesn’t feel forced or gimmicky. By the end, we feel Suzie’s grief, but the author further complicates the emotion as the reader comes to understand that even after death, the lives of loved ones continue.
I was astounded by the poetry and evocative images in all of these poems. My favorite was “Sleeping In” by Catherine Simpson. I loved the versatility of meaning in this poem, as well as the sense of being able to relate the various ways that a reader could interpret the poem. “At night I turn away/from him to feel/ honest.” Readers can feel the sadness and guilt from the words that spring from the page. The form flows as the reader’s mind would, in a wave like sense through the end of the poem as the reader follows the arc of sentiments of real pain and loss.
This issue of Prairie Margins showcases real people and real situations that enchant and captivate their reader. It challenges the reader to dig deeper into everyday experiences and find the beauty in sorrow, in guilt, and even in times of peace and calm. At the end of this magazine, I am left humbled and honored to have these writers share their works with me.