Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters. AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008. The review concludes today with a look at poetry and short fiction. Read the other entries in the series.
Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction
I am aware of two major poetry collections published by Mormon authors in 2008. Neil Aitken’s debut collection, The Lost Country of Sight, won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Aitken, a graduate of BYU, is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California. C. G. Hanzlickek, a judge for the Levine Prize, wrote, “It’s difficult to believe that Neil Aitken’s The Lost Country of Sight is a first book, since there is mastery throughout the collection. His ear is finely tuned, and his capacity for lyricism seems almost boundless. What stands out everywhere in the poems is his imagery, which is not only visually precise but is also possessed of a pure depth. The poems never veer off into the sensational; they are built from pensiveness and quietude and an affection for the world. ‘Travelling Through the Prairies, I Think of My Father’s Voice’ strikes me as a perfectly made poem, but poems of similar grace and power are to be found throughout the book. This is a debut to celebrate.”
The second poetry collection is BYU professor Kimberly Johnson’s second collection, A Metaphorical God. The collection won a prize from the Utah Arts Council in 2004, and a prestigious NEA grant. Poet Linda Gregerson, in a cover blurb, wrote, “She’s a polyphonic prestidigitator, a virtuoso of the vibrant heart, and-stunning in our fallen world-a genuine metaphysician, with all the healing aptitude the word implies.” A reviewer at Midwest Book Review wrote, “Seeking to combine the divine with the sensual, Johnson’s verse is as thought provoking as it is sexually titillating, creating a strange and delightful blend indeed.”
Three Mormon authors had short stories published in prestigious literary journals in 2008. Ryan McIlvain’s debut story, “Keep it Bible,” as story about Mormon missionaries in Brazil, appeared in The Paris Review. McIlvain, a recent BYU graduate, is currently working on a MFA at Rutgers. Stephen Tuttle had two stories published, “Amanuensis” in Hayden Ferry’s Review, and “The Two Mr. Greens” in Black Warrior Review. Tuttle is a young writer who recently was hired by the BYU English Department. PD Mallamo’s “Sign of the Gun,” about a drug runner who saves a Mormon woman from bandits, appeared in an on-line version of Granta.
I have already mentioned Orson Scott Card’s 2008 short story collection, Keeper of Dreams. Card has also done a service to Mormon speculative fiction authors by publishing four of them in his online magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalatic Medicine Show. Among those authors was the prolific story author Eric James Stone, who published three stories in Card’s magazine, as well as a story in the prestigious science fiction magazine Analog.
Irreantum and Dialogue published seven short stories each in 2008. I enjoyed many of the stories. Among the most memorable were Darin Cozzens’ “Reap in Mercy” (Irreantum, 2008), Joshua Foster’s “The Newlyweds” (Dialogue, Summer 2008), Jack Harrell’s “Calling and Election” (Irreantum, 2008), and Larry T. Menlove’s “Who Brought Forth This Christmas Demon” (Dialogue, Fall 2008). Cozzens teaches at Surry Community College. Harrell teaches at BYU-Idaho, and has a new collection of stories forthcoming from Signature Press. Foster, a former student of Harrell’s, recently received an MFA in writing from the University of Utah, and edits an online journal of environmental writing. Menlove is currently working on a novel about an isolated Mormon community where an apocalyptic scare leads to mayhem.
I usually do not cover creative non-fiction in this essay, but I do want to mention that young BYU English Department faculty member Patrick Madden has had a string of essays and other non-fiction works published in literary journals over the past few years. In 2008 one of his essays was republished in Norton’s annual anthology The Best Creative Nonfiction.