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Charles Rafferty’s short story collection, “Saturday Night at Magellan’s,” now available from Fomite Press

Charles Rafferty (contributor to our Fall 2013 issue) recently published a collection of short stories with Fomite Press called Saturday Night at Magellan’s.

Charles Rafferty has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. His tenth collection of poetry, The Unleashable Dog, is forthcoming from Steel Toe Books.

His stories have appeared in publications such as Sonora Review, The Cortland Review, Bound Off, The Fiddleback, Louisiana Literature, and Citron Review. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Quarterly West, Massachusetts Review, The Literary Review, DoubleTake, and Connecticut Review.

Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.

Book Review: Happy Life

Happy Life
Written by David Budbill
Copper Canyon Press, 2011
ISBN 9781556593741

Happy LifeLike a knock on the noggin from a Zen master’s cane, David Budbill’s “Happy Life” hits home with a clarity that made me laugh out loud – ah, truth! He captures the essence of the seasons, chopping wood, carrying water, before and after enlightenment. In this, his ninth poetry collection, the poet, playwright, novelist, short story and children’s book writer reflects on forty years of a ‘happy life’ with one eye on the Tao and an honesty that admits to being, like the beautiful women he sees on trips to the city, ‘preoccupied with sex and ambition.’ But not so much so as to disturb his concentration on a candle flame in the dark, a tiny flower in the woods, or the feel of wet leaves on the path. Shortest of many masterfully spare poems is the four word (six counting title) “Cynical Capitalists” : ‘Privatize profit. / Socialize loss.’ which pretty much sums it up, leaving very little else to be said about all that. In one of his wry reflections on ageing, he looks at his wrinkled skin, sitting down, wearing shorts and wonders “What Happened to Me?” as we all do, or will. Like the classical Zen poet Hanshan, writing of his Cold Mountain life in 8th century Tang dynasty China, Budbill’s contemplations of this human life from his Vermont mountain are timeless.
Review by Susan Lynch
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Book Review: When My Brother Was an Aztec

When My Brother Was an Aztec
Written by Natalie Diaz
Copper Canyon Press, 2012
ISBN 9781556593833

            This 3am war bell, duende vision prison

Natalie DiazGot it? As seen in this randomly-chosen line from Natalie Diaz’s first collection of poems, When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press  2012), there is a poetics-infused prosodic wonder at work here, wrangling her family mythos like a Homeric pro as they deal, home on the res in Needles, with her tweaked, Quetzacoatl’d, Geronimo bro, who shows up at restaurants, ‘a lamp cord knotted at his neck’, and steals all the lightbulbs.  That’s just the tame stuff.  There is much, much worse afoot.  And Diaz has a life too.

Diaz fills us in on all of it.  I defy anyone (else) to turn such circumstances into such enthralling poetry.  The title’s provocative (with accompanying cover photo), then you see she really means it.  Laying out long form after long form in original syntax that neither regrets nor defends, Diaz chronicles her brother’s meth-fueled ravages from an unsafe distance with tragicomic aplomb, direct lyricism and glistening irony.  “Downhill Triolets” renders a(nother) late night altercation on the lawn with tribal cops, Sappho, Jimi Hendrix, Geronimo, the tweaked brother, Sisyphus, Lionel Ritchie, and God, into three neat poetic sequences.  What?  Problem?  “Remember how long it took the Minotaur / to escape the labyrinth.

When My Brother was an AztecAnd then, read the prose poem about “The Last Mojave Indian Barbie.”  This first book from Natalie Diaz, an MFA-holding award-winner who works with tribal elders preserving the Mojave language, is a Lannan Literary Selection.  And yes, it’s all going to be on the quiz.  Every word.

Review by Susan Lynch
© 2012, All Rights Reserved