Irreantum v. 10 no. 2 — a review in tally

Here is a sweetly cranky seriously-so-reader-response-oriented tallied initial review of the fall 2008 edition of Irreantum, which arrived in the mail two days ago: Continue reading “Irreantum v. 10 no. 2 — a review in tally”

Nothing Forgettable Here

Nothing Forgettable Here: The Human Meaning of Irreantum‘s Recent Poetry

I.

In their introduction to the poetry section of A Believing People (found online here), Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert comment that “much [early] Mormon poetry,” like “most of the popular poetry written during that era [the nineteenth century],” is “derivative and didactic” and thus “regrettably forgettable.” Indeed, they continue, because such poetry is “[s]tiff, cliché-ridden, and sing-song in its verse, much of it [really] offers little to the modern reader.”

Not so with the poems collected in Irreantum‘s past two issues, 9.1 (Spring 2007) and 9.2/10.1 (Fall 2007/Spring 2008). Rather, this recent gathering of Mormon poetry breaks loose from poesy’s “traditional shackles” in an effort to weave the varieties of personal experience and lyrical voice around a more individualized aesthetic. Of course, this tendency is nothing new: poets have been experimenting with free verse (and beyond) for decades–at least since the rise of modernity–and many Mormon poets have followed suit. (If you want a sampling of Mormon poets writing in mostly non-traditional forms, take a gander at this somewhat outdated listing of names from Harvest‘s table of contents).

Such general movement away from the strictures of traditional forms has allowed contemporary Mormon poets to focus increasingly, in the words of Cracroft and Lambert, “upon the human meaning of Latter-day Saint history.” To me, such a varied and personal focus allows Mormon poets (as Mormon writers of other genres) to develop a deeply individual aesthetic witness of the story of the Restoration as played out in the flaming mundanities of the poet’s life, a testament called for years ago in President Kimball’s compelling vision for Mormon arts and letters.

Irreantum‘s recent gathering of poetry represents some of the ways this poetic witness is being borne by just a sampling of contemporary Mormon poets. What follows is my review of Irreantum‘s poetry year (section II is a slightly revised version of this response to William’s review of Irreantum 9.1). Continue reading “Nothing Forgettable Here”

Failed metaphors of failure

After looking back at some of the embarrassing language I use in my review of Irreantum 9.2/10.1 — words like “trinket” and “cul-de-sacs of meaning” — it occurs to me that I should just get all these failed metaphors of the failure of Mormon letters out of my system now so I won’t plaque you with them in the future.

So here it goes:

1. Mormon literature is like that Kafka quote about the axe and the frozen sea, except with a tub of Jello and a rubber mallet instead.

2. Mormon poetry is like the cute but slightly overweight girl (or guy) you meet at youth conference and end up hanging with the whole weekend and then make sure to dance with several times at every stake and multi-stake dance that year, but never contact or really even think about in between dances. Continue reading “Failed metaphors of failure”

A look at Irreantum 9.2/10.1

Irreantum 9.2./10.1 is a double issue, containing the fall/winter 2007 and the spring/summer 2008 editions. Edited by Angela Hallstrom, it contains seven pieces of fiction, two critical essays, two creative nonfiction essays, 11 poems and four reviews. It also features art work by Maralise Petersen.

With the abundance of short stories, the two critical essays and especially the original art, this double issue, in my mind, is the closest Irreantum has gotten to becoming the refreed, (utterly) literary journal that it claims it wants to be. These changes culminate a process that began several years ago when Laraine Wilkins took over the reins from Chris Bigelow. I have very mixed feelings about this process — and my reaction was made all the more complicated by the fact that this issue marks my debut in print. Continue reading “A look at Irreantum 9.2/10.1”

Liner notes for “Speculations: Trees”

The next issue of Irreantum will feature “Speculations: Trees” my first creative work to be published in print. Many thanks to the editors for a) considering publishing an honorable mention and b) working with me to edit it for publication. It’s a double issue so it costs $10 and can be (you can also view the table of contents there). Or you can subscribe to a full year of Irreantum for $16. Or join the AML for $25.

But if you want to read it, you’ll have to track down a copy of the issue because out of respect for the AML, I will not be providing it for free anytime soon.

If you will be receiving this issue of Irreantum or are motivated to purchase it, you might want to wait and read the liner notes until after you have read it. Spoilers abound and a lot of the below won’t make sense without a knowledge of the work. Sorry.

I’m not sure how to describe “Speculations: Trees” — and have tried out several different options none of which seem to really work for people — but what I would currently call it is a series of five short pieces that are sort of a combination of creative exegesis, prose poem and parable. Or something like that. I’m open for suggestions. Anyway, here are my completely self-indulgent, but hopefully not entirely dull liner notes: Continue reading “Liner notes for “Speculations: Trees””

A look at Irreantum 9.1

It’s good to see the Association for Mormon Letters working to get caught up with publication of its literary journal Irreantum. I always find it a bit puzzling and sad when a new issue is published and is not mentioned in the Bloggernacle, on the AML-List, etc. So I’m going to take a stab at a quick, subjective review of Volume 9, Number 1 (which I guess would be the spring 2007 issue).

Short Stories

I admit it. The major reason I keep my AML membership (and I did let it lapse for a while because I was unhappy about the delays with Irreantum and the lack of AML Annuals — which are very important to me because I’m not able to attend the yearly conference) is because I want access to short stories written for the Mormon market. I would be very happy if every issue, regardless of theme/focus, published 5-7 short stories.

This issue features four — the winners of the 2006 Irreantum Fiction Contest* (there was a tie for third place). I enjoyed them. I wish that there wasn’t such a bias towards your standard American literary realism short story. But I can’t really complain — two out of the four stories knocked my socks off, and I think that’s a pretty good ratio (the other two were just okay).

“Light of the New Day” by Darin Cozzens is the first place winner. It’s easy to see why. About a middle-age unmarried man who lives with his ancient, irascible, well-meaning-but-controlling mother on a farm, it is a polished, complete story with a couple of amazing images and all those small details and moments that literary readers enjoy. It’s a very good story that has some interesting things to say about the Mormon experience. Very anthology worthy. But it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of Mormon literature — or rather it doesn’t do anything with form or content that really surprised me. And yet,  I really like it. Continue reading “A look at Irreantum 9.1”

Shawn Bailey takes third place in Irreantum Fiction Contest

The Association for Mormon Letters has announced the winners of the 2008 Irreantum Fiction Contest and the new Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest. I’m pleased to note that AMV’s own Shawn P. Bailey was awarded third place in the fiction contest for his short story “Outside.” I had the pleasure of reading a draft of “Outside.” It’s a very good story. It’s about a young Jack Mormon who meets a rich, conservative, younger LDS guy who is dying of cancer while working to landscape the grounds of the Bountiful temple before its open house and dedication. It involves an awkward family dinner and more notably a trip to Wendover on the “fun bus.”

Congratulations, Shawn. And with Irreantum seemingly back on schedule hopefully you all will be able to read “Outside” and the other award-winning stories somewhat soon. Continue reading “Shawn Bailey takes third place in Irreantum Fiction Contest”