When the days are longer

This morning my nine-year-old daughter came into the kitchen while I was preparing her lunch for day camp to announce that she found it “ridiculous” that Minecraft does not make seasonal adjustments for time: morning and night arrive at the same time year round. “Doesn’t Minecraft know it’s summer?!” she exhaled with her hands in the air, eyes rolled. That it was 8:00 am and we weren’t already in the car frantically en route to school was, in itself, an adjustment for summer. Another is that there are a few extra minutes in the day not dedicated to the rigorous drill of homework, dinner, bath, story, and lights-out by 8:45 pm that can, instead, be used for catching up on reading. The joys of summer.

The summer 2017 issue of The Southern Review is out, and I’ve already fielded numerous compliments, starting right with the cover. A live oak canopy opening up to blue sky, the cover painting, by New Orleans–based artist Elise Toups, is quintessential Louisiana and gives the issue an immediate sense of place. You can view a gallery of Toups’s images here. A strong sense of place as subject is reinforced with the first three poets. Alison Pelegrin’s “Our Lady of the Flood,” about the devastating floods in South Louisiana last summer, opens the issue with a woman surrounded by a “citronella halo” and carrying a “laundry basket of kittens in one arm.” In her “shrimp boots and rubber gloves,” she walks on water, leading her people “to the safety of each other.” It’s a powerful opening to strong issue of texts.

Jill Osier follows with three poems, “Elegy,” “Siberian,” and “Star Field,” set in Alaska, where the speaker regularly visits the local library to read by a window that overlooks a ridge. It’s the same region where the last caribou was killed and a meadow of tiny flowers sits high above the town. She reads her poems in our audio gallery this season along with several other writers, including Erika Meitner, who provides a long four-part poem.

Meitner’s “Another Ohio Road Trip” weaves its way through several states, touching on the subjects of death, infertility, a Super Bowl party, the movie Free Willy, and the speaker’s intersection with the Catholic Church. Having grown up taking road trips every summer with my family—often to Pennsylvania and Ohio, where my mother’s family still lives—the landscapes in Meitner’s poem felt familiar, and they immediately transported me to our own station wagon loaded up with six or seven kids who were counting trains and factories, reading billboards, and searching for a Stuckey’s.

At the other end of the journal, closing the summer issue, is Bob Hicok’s “Poem ending with a murder/suicide.” While the issue opens with poems that present specific corners of the United States, it closes with a piece that addresses the whole of America. Hicok’s poem begins, “It’s interesting to me there’s a minimum / but no maximum wage,” and then muses about work and fairness and quality of life, among other things.

In between are numerous works that talk about place, including Jeff Hardin’s poem “One Moment Touching All the Others,” about finding one’s place in the world—in other words, finding home. Edward McPherson’s “Sky-Stormers of the Llano Estacado,” set outside of Midland, Texas, presents the story of nineteenth-century “weathermakers” who use explosives in an attempt to make it rain. And Danielle Lazarin’s “Floor Plans” is a story that takes place in a New York City apartment building, where two women, neighbors who are both experiencing great personal changes, seize an opportunity to form a fast but fleeting friendship.

Fast and fleeting is what summer always seems to be. So enjoy the season that, if you’re fortunate, provides the gift of a little time and opportunity for reading.

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