'Review' presents literary gems

By Keri Hayes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The newest edition of Tucson's literary magazine, Sonora Review, provides a sampling of some of the most talented young writers in America.

A non-profit organization founded in 1980, the Sonora Review is published twice a year by graduate students in the UA Creative Writing Department. The magazine receives financial support from state and local agencies and patrons' contributions. Contributors' work has been published in anthologies such as Best of the West, Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Awards and Best American Poetry.

The 1994 Sonora Review Poetry Award went to Becky Byrkit, whose winning poems, "Couplet" and "I Drink Alone" are featured in the new edition.

Byrkit's "I Drink Alone" is a brilliant, rythmic performance piece designed to include audience participation and a saxophone rock n' roll band or solo blues guitarist. George Thorogood's song "I Drink Alone" is performed before the reading begins, while audience members intone the chorus between stanzas.

Byrkit teaches rhetoric and creative writing at UA, where she received her MFA in 1992. Her poems included in the new Sonora Review are from her second collection, BirdDog Real.

Kathi Martin's poem "How to be Fat How to be Thin," seems to portray two very common attitudes women have toward life. The "How to be Fat" section is not so much about physical weight, but more about mental freedom, letting life flow freely without trying to control its ins and outs: "Surrround[ing] yourself with Trays of Delight and Sinking Pillows of Ease."

The "How to Be Thin" section details the intricacies of a life obsessed with accounting and controlling: "Scribble similar calorie groups in colored inks . Hoard Eat-Me-Pills in unzippered pouches and swing jigglefree . Dig your nails into yourself for safekeeping."

Martin's work is described as driven by "an urgency to cheerlead messages against desensitizing and conforming influences." A self-described guerilla sociologist, Martin will soon release a CD, "Rocky Road Peep Show and Paperhangers' Directory Point of Purchase Dreams," that serves as a motivational, inspirational guide to a creative life. She teaches art and creativity at the secondary and university level.

A short fiction piece by Emily White titled "Malcolm Rader" is a well-formed and captivating piece about a young man who lives under a very strange set of circumstances. Malcolm Rader is the illegitimate child of a wealthy businessman; he has lived with his mother all his life, receiving bribe money from a father he has never met. When his mother dies, Malcolm is left to create a private world where he spends his days tracking his father's activities and spying on his father's family.

The story is interesting because the beginning and end are told from Malcolm's point of view, while the middle is from his father's wife's point of view. Both describe the regular Wednesday night, silent phone calls Malcolm and his mother used to make to his father's house. The wife says, "When they stopped calling about six months ago my husband seemed to come undone a little he'd knock over his full tumbler at the dinner table, or forget to clear the clothes off the bed when he went to sleep."

Malcolm and his father's wife are both curious about one another and interestingly, their lives are similar. Both live in the shadow of Malcolm's father, slowly making their way through dreary lives.

White's style is perfectly constructed for the audience's comprehension of the story's meaning, while her desription of Malcolm's psychological wanderings are exceptional.

Emily White was a 1992-94 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her critical writing often appears in The Village Voice and L.A. Weekly.

The Sonora Review is available at various local bookstores. The magazine costs $6.

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