Archive for the ‘Why We Chose It’ Category

Why We Chose It: “A Slow Poem” by Daniel Liebert

By Matt Valades, Poetry Editor

Back in the pre-virus Fall of 2019, a seemingly distant past grown fond and yellow at the edges, when the coming year held only promise instead of plague, the poetry editors here at The Greensboro Review sat down less than six feet from editor-in-chief Terry Kennedy to discuss and select poems. I happened to bring up “A Slow Poem” by Daniel Liebert, one of a series of similar short prose poems in his submission. While many of these poems stayed with us, both Julia, my coeditor, and I admired this one most, the first in the set.

“A Slow Poem” struck us for its economy as well as its tension between the casual voice and intense, lucid images that, as Terry brought up in our meeting, raise the stakes over the course of the poem. This poem, unusually, does not have an “I” in it, no involved speaker for the reader to identify with. Instead, the separate images in the poem’s hypothetical poem become more specific as it proceeds from “a madman scrubbed and suited for visitor’s day,” then culminates in final lines that are simply unforgettable. The circular, repeating syntax and phrasing describes a poem in the act of its own making, which fits well with its quiet build. A lack of sentimentality but a powerful feeling comes from this poem, despite being only four short sentence fragments. We finished reading it together feeling curiously satisfied but not quite sure how, a good sign.

We chose it to close out the issue for its sense of closure with a lightness of touch. Hopefully, the poem’s care and power offers some much-needed (though temporary) satisfaction to readers of Issue 107. We think it will.

 

Matt Valades is a poet and recent MFA graduate from The University of North Carolina – Greensboro. His poems have been published in Subtropics and Carolina Quarterly, while a review of his has appeared in PN Review (UK).

Why We Chose It: “The Fair” by Will Hearn

By Evan Fackler, Fiction Editor

When Nic, the African-American narrator of Will Hearn’s story “The Fair,” travels to Neshoba County to meet his girlfriend’s all-white family for the first time, his interactions are shadowed by the general history of race in the American South, as well as the specific history of the murder of several Civil Rights activists in the area during the Civil Rights Movement. Meanwhile, Nic’s own upbringing in Louisiana and his knowledge of (and love for) the Creole language (as opposed to his girlfriend’s continental French) come to mark him in complex ways as a body differently situated within the cultural and historical space of The Fair. 

In prose both strikingly clear and richly evocative, “The Fair” is both deeply personal and profoundly political. It’s a story that explores not only how the histories we share end up coloring the specific ways we relate to one another across various sites of difference, it also explores the central irony of this legacy: that we are rarely ever actually present for those historical moments that give context to our most intimate interactions. The pervasive but unsettling disembodiedness of this shared history is suggested by Nic’s experience of the faira place where he goes throughout the story without ever being able to fully recall it.

This is complex and interesting work, and a prime example of what I search for when I’m reading through submissions for The Greensboro Review: stories that locate a shared political and cultural history within the minutiae of daily, intimate life.

Will Hearn’s “The Fair” appears in our new Spring 2020 Issue 107.

 

Evan Fackler is an MFA candidate in fiction at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he lives with his wife and their cat, Zadie. His reviews and interviews can be found at Entropy Magazine and storySouth.

Why We Chose It: “Violation” by Sharon Solwitz

By Richard Moriarty, Fiction Editor

What we loved about Sharon Solwitz’s “Violation” (in our Spring Issue 105) when we first encountered the story was how seamlessly it alternates between two very different perspectives while maintaining a consistent point of view. Attempting this style of narration comes with plenty of challenges: it’s hard enough to capture all the complexities of just one character’s perspective as a story unfolds. Sydney is a high school student recently bereaved of her younger sister; McCann is a police officer who carries the guilt of failing to prevent a shooting while on duty at the school where he worked. The events of the story elucidate the struggles of these two very different characters; they also manage to depict the common ground between them. The fine balance of character summary and present action in this story creates this sense of a similarity in experience between the characters. Sydney cannot listen to her friend describing her own familial difficulties without becoming wrapped up in her own: the narration allows us to feel her regret for not being able to treat her sister better while she was still alive. McCann is unable to so much as sit down by himself for a meal at home without his thoughts drifting back to the day he was taking his lunch break when the shooter entered the school’s library; we can feel his remorse because of the way his memories follow him throughout the story.

“Violation” is the work of an author who knows her characters so thoroughly that she can move around in time—stepping back into the past or throttling ahead into the future—to provide an insightful detail at just the right moment in a scene so it deepens our understanding of her characters without distracting us from the moment at hand. From our first read of the story, we were convinced the series of events that unfold was the right sequence needed to render its characters as close to life-like as possible. After encountering characters as richly detailed as Sydney and McCann, we decided to accept the story right away.

 

Richard Moriarty just finished his second year in the MFA program at UNC Greensboro. He’s originally from Kansas City. He went to University of Miami (the Florida one) for undergrad, where he studied advertising. He’s working on a collection of stories tentatively titled River Runners. Books currently on his nightstand: The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and Run the Red Lights by Ed Skoog.

Why We Chose It: “my other mouth //” by Maya Salameh

By Michael Pittard, Poetry Editor

One of the most exciting poems I came across while reading for Issue 105 was a gorgeous and thundering piece by Maya Salameh. “my other mouth //” is a poem unafraid to deal with the complex realities of being of Arabic lineage, confronting its reader with both beautiful language, syntax, and images but also with dark, brutal scenes and diction, as in the following lines: “…my Arabic loves like mint / in stalks & leaves / a mouthful of holy water / the splintering of ships / the crucifix / on my grandfather’s wrist /.” Language and culture create our ideas of self-hood, and Maya’s poem breaks down both society’s desire to fully embrace differences but also its desire to ignore them completely.

There is so much that is human and vibrant in this poem that stands out at first blush, and on subsequent re-reads Maya’s skillful wordplay and more nuanced arguments emerge: “/ if you ask me if I am fluent in Arabic / I will tell you / I am a poet / & a poet owes a language her tongue / hands / toes / I will say / before its arrival / the world was prose /.” The poem’s form, with line break notation embedded in the lines, argues against Western poetic tradition but doesn’t completely reject it either. The poem’s speaker, and Maya, understands that people, places, and the world can be more than one thing at any given time. Yet they are not bashful about standing up for what they believe in. It is one thing to be young and full of passion, as Maya so clearly is, but it is another to be young, full of passion, and capable of seeing the world in all of its complications. The Greensboro Review loves to elevate lesser-known (and often lesser-heard) voices, and Maya Salameh, at the time of publication a college freshman, is a poet clearly on the rise.

 

Michael Pittard is a recent MFA graduate of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His poems and reviews have appeared in such publications as Tupelo Quarterly and Red Flag Poetry. He lives in Greensboro with his cat, Roosevelt.