So the cover of my Prairie Schooner, Winter ’07 issue is already gone—I sliced it off with an X-acto knife so I could frame Chris Ware’s fantastic image of Nebraska for my wall. Chicago may try to claim Ware and the dark, comic vision of his graphic novels for themselves, but his roots are undeniably Nebraskan, and this cover is destined to be a classic.
Of course the inside of the issue holds up as well. Highlights for me are:
Leslie Lawrence’s stirring essay on the death of her partner of more than twenty years, "What Can You Do?" "’She died,’ I’d say. The thud of those D’s satisfied me in the way that the spineless ‘passed away’ did not."
A wonderful selection of poems by Constance Merritt—most meditations on love—some on the reward of finding mutual love, and others on the bittersweet taste of love denied. "Lonely in the House of Love" in particular was a stab in the heart:
Lonely in the House of Love,
who can measure the length of a day,
the weight of an hour,
the ounces of salt in a week’s worth of tears—
every good gift withdrawn,
hope’s long road narrowed to this
last night in a strange bed:
one of you clenched against the cold and sobbing,
the other steeling herself against compassion
or simply indifferent or sleeping;
both intent on morning, the mercy of departure?
After that, look for Jeff Worley to raise your spirits with "Not Knowing the Names," a delightful bit of nature writing by a poet who is completely unencumbered by the necessity of knowing names of whatever bird, bush or tree he stumbles upon in the wild. I always love Worley’s light touch and sense of humor, and again he doesn’t disappoint.
New discoveries for me in this issue were Nancy Zafris’s absurdist story, "After Lunch," and some sharp and shocking poems by Beth Bachmann that took my breath away, especially "Last Call." I’d reprint it here, but why spoil the surprise? See for yourself—pick up the Winter ’07 issue today, or start a subscription now and get a year’s worth of wonderful poetry and prose.
Kate Flaherty, a fiction writer and essayist, is the former managing editor of Prairie Schooner.
Visit the University of Nebraska Press’ Prairie Schooner Web site for more information.