Volume XVI (2011)review by abigail hess (susquehanna university ’13) and rebecca james (susquehanna university ’13)
While beholding the winding sapling on the cover of the 2011 issue of The Shinnery Review, readers aren’t drawn to its leaves or branches but to the exposed roots. Likewise, this magazine emphasizes the authors and artists who ground and nurture their work. Lit mags often represent a place to introduce new and upcoming authors, and The Shinnery Review surpasses these expectations. Without outside context for each author such as an author bio or graduate status, this magazine gives the reader insight into the authors’ minds instead of a mere introduction.Since the 1930s this magazine from Abilene Christian University has published prose, art, and poetry from its graduate and undergraduate population. The pieces are organized by author, as opposed to genre or theme, which allows the reader to get to know the authors who have multiple pieces published herein.
Juliana Kocsis has five poems in the magazine. In “Stargazing, Age Five,” a daughter remembers what could be any night from her childhood. Even though the stars she sees out her window are there every night and her father’s goodnight kiss is customary, the poem searches for a way to explain how these familiarities are still surprisingly beautiful. The speaker is able to “imagine / bringing the stars a little closer / to my bedroom window, / tying them down like balloons / with a string of names.” This close examination of personal observations is one way that many of this magazine’s pieces pull up the roots of the poem or story and plant them above ground, exposing the hidden framework that allows it to stand.
By seeing multiple selections by one author, such as the six traditionally lineated poems and prose poems by Tanner Hadfield, the reader gets a broader sense of the ways these authors work. In “August 13, 2033,” Hadfield uses the metaphor of a yard sale to explain the speaker’s willingness but inability to bargain for a girl’s whole heart: “the ad said / let the buyer bare, and I was / knocking on your garage / before even the sun.” These lines are simple and direct, but are not sensational, while in “Untitled” images like the speaker’s landlord’s entrails, “wrapped like a bow around our apartment complex,” show the horror of falling into territory never before experienced. Lines like, “The fire hydrants have burst out of sheer joy,” show the fantastical feeling of the familiar becoming bizarre. “Funeral at MTWPA,” a short story by Brian Peacock, also speaks to the unknown through the story of a young American boy living with family friends in Africa after his mother has died. Readers can see from the first line—“It is a bad thing to think about Africa only in terms of the things that can kill you”—that relatable recognition of one’s own mortality which is evident by the honesty in this speaker’s voice. By the end of the story he realizes this fear will be perpetual; death is everywhere and unavoidable. Even when his friend feels she must tell him, “It’ll get better,” the speaker’s response of “yes” is really unsure. It is followed by, “her intense eyes begging for her own words to be true. In my heart I was begging too.” Once again an author from The Shinnery Review gives the reader a glimpse of the unseen and tangled undercarriage of human experience, that complicated infrastructure which feeds the evocative poetry and prose.