Pamplemousse, Johnson State College
volume 1 (issues 1 & 2)
review by jillian mannarino & caroline miller (susquehanna university)
Pamplemousse, formerly known as The Gihon River Review, is a print literary magazine published biannually by Johnson State College. Founded in 2001 and then turned over to the college’s literary publishing class in the Fall of 2010, the magazine features poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as interviews and book reviews in some issues.
Pamplemousse submerges you in the surreal. The pieces often have a whimsical and fantastic nature, even when grounded in reality. The authors featured in this magazine offer new perspectives on the ordinary events of the human experience, making even the mundane seem extraordinary. In his poem “On Our Way To Dinner” in issue 2, Clifford Fetters illustrates that the real world is indeed an enchanting realm in its own right. The poet celebrates earth’s fantastical elements through a glorious and reliable moon amidst ephemeral human observers as he writes “but this / is better than aliens, this is our moon lifting over our earth.” We, as readers, could not help but “Ooh” and “Ahh” as we imagined the “Pink/White… intuition queen” ascending into the sky, shining celestial grandeur upon nothing more than sand from Miami Beach.
Even the most absurd concepts within the magazine have their roots in universal sentiments that work to form connections with the reader. Chris Berry’s “Catch and Release” in the first issue shows that even supernatural creatures and unusual events are motivated by basic human emotions. When the story’s protagonist, Connor Wright, finds a mermaid trapped in a fishing hole, he says it is the most foreign thing he’s ever encountered. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the things that keep the mermaid from leaving the pond – fear of the unknown and lack of faith in herself – are the same things that prevent Connor from moving past his recent divorce and starting a new chapter of his life. “Sometimes people get stuck,” Connor realizes at the end of the piece. “They get sad, and – and it takes a lot to get them out of it. They need a push in order to move on.” The simplicity of his epiphany combined with the bizarre circumstances from which it arises allows the reader to see the connection between themselves and the impossible.
Pamplemousse is full of pieces like these two, stories and poems that act as counterpoints for each other, highlighting both ends of the spectrum from fantasy to reality, as well as everything in between. From descriptions of painful nostalgia elicited from old photographs in Peter Money’s poem, “The Times,” to the surprising images of Hansel and Gretel eating oatmeal and doing laundry in a selection of poems from Kary Wayson, the pieces transport readers into manic reveries and distant storybooks.
The endearing layout of the magazine invites readers into this journey. The artistically stylized title alludes to the fanciful content. The passages are presented in a non-intimidating format, the pages displaying a simple font with ample white space. As a promise of the magazine’s foundation in realism, charming snapshots of a mustard-colored street sign advertising the prices of various fruits and an industrial building against a wooded background are used as cover images. The design also gives a nod to the magazine’s namesake, which is French for “grapefruit,” by featuring the fruit on the back of each issue, a tradition that we appreciate.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Pamplemousse is that it’s difficult to say what exactly captivates us. The selections elicit abstract, emotional reactions, rather than concrete, intellectual ones. While reading the magazine, we often could not describe why we liked a certain piece, but nonetheless, the intangible response was powerful and lasting.