Sunday, December 28, 2008

Latest Dappled Things

The Advent/Christmas 2008 issue of Dappled Things is out, right here.

If you consider subscribing to this magazine/literary arts journal that is brimming and crackling with both established and emerging talent, then write the President or Editors, dance a little jig and I'm sure they'll send you a free copy to get a sense of what it's all about.

With this latest I noticed they are blocking access to more of the pieces on-line, which is good. It's good the on-line version is getting more geared as an extension of the physical paper, and not vice-versa.

Of the pieces that can be read on-line, John Zmirak's feature Nearer My Dogs To Thee follows the writer's history of owning dogs due to the advice of his spiritual director, who between mouthfuls of pasta, tells him: “You wanna know pure and unconditional love, the kinda love God has for every human soul? Get a dog.” The piece is charming and down-to-earth, whose message is as enfleshed and made concrete as the spiritual director's advice, "Get a dog". I like how it has no "spiritual lesson" tagged on at the end.

By way of fiction, I'm not sure whether I liked Lauren Schott's The Strawberry Effect more than Katy Carl's The Convert. As far as characterization, the inner world, goes, The Convert is remarkable for its wanna-be stoic protagonist who finds his only change can come about through God's grace - namely and firstly through confession, and not (thank you dear author) through castration. But you know, I liked the idea behind The Strawberry Effect, and sometimes think Catholic writers would do well to set out and write stories like this that risk sentimentality. We need to take up writing with this kind of made-to-measure lightness, like one finds in the crisp levity of Kafka's language, without any dissembling that would cover the fact the writer simply took his pen and started writing on the paper. It's similar in quality to Dena Hunt's story The Salvation of Glorianne in the last Mary Queen of Angels issue. After all, the universality that is Catholicism must needs take up all aspects of life. I like The Strawberry Effect because every ounce of one's being wants to say that the concept is far-fetched, but the wee kernel of that concept holds this irrefutable weight, before which one must be in awe.

For poetry, what stood out for me was R.S. Mitchell's The Creek and The Afterglow Candidate, Michael Schorsch's Saint Catherine's Wheel, and because I'm a sucker for solid metrical poetry with solid conclusions, sonnets not excepted, Michael Miller's Embers.

I was also struck by this last stanza from Joseph O'Brien's Four Calling Birds:

And between love and silence, the song itself seems light enough to bear.
But listen to the darkness here. It’s an echo swallowing itself up;
A broadcast of coins revolving in on their own orbits across
A sanctuary floor; the night’s last bells wobbling the twelfth chime
With the dull richness of sadness; a pigeon calling out a moment later.

And though I am still disinclined to Gabriel Olearnik's language style (though am quite taken with the poetical lurch that he suddenly leaves you in) I found Steam to be quite powerful. Presumably it's about some homosexual encounter between two men.

In the realm of review, Meredith Wise gives us two books: Exiles and Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life. From the author of the latter:

"To realize that a tradition of Christian poetics is out there, fresh and invigorating and new, that a Sacramental poetics which might illuminate our world is not a fantasy but a real possibility, and that Hopkins did this, showed us the way, that he reinvigorated the language and--more--might reinvigorate us and our world so that we could see it as if for the first time--that is something worth pursuing."

Aside from Matthew Alderman's Agnes, all the art in this issue is the photography of Patrick Anderson. Incidentally, this issue has what is my favourite photograph so far: Anderson's Tomb of the Black Knight. I know it is Dappled Things thing to have for an issue's cover what is inside that particular issue, but I hope they use this photograph sometime for a future issue. It deserves it. There's something about the weighty yet light feeling of the hands put together in beseeching prayer upon this knight's death. All that armour of fighting the good fight in this world now gets abandoned in the ascent of the soul, yet remains as a testament.

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