Journal of Writing & Environment

From the Archives: Todd Davis’s Poetry Volume 8.1/8.2 Spring /Fall 2003, and Volume 9.1 2004

Review and Republishing of Todd Davis’s Poems: “Learning to Read” Vol 9.1 and “Some Heaven”Volume 8.1/8.2 Spring /Fall 2003

by Erin Schmiel

I love how easily Todd Davis expresses themes of spirituality in his quiet nature poems. He says, in “Learning to Read,”: “I understand that learning to read,/like so much of life, is about faith and doubt —/the possibility of one, the heaviness of the other.” In just three narrative stanzas we see the progression from the oblivion of the 5 year old narrator: “my joy when you told me/I was driving, too young to realize you held /the wheel”, to the responsibility of road markers: “signs /sprouted like goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace, and you/demanded I read them, pretending not to know/what to do if I didn’t.” The final stanza carries the reader forward from this scene and out into the world knowing that what has been said is as true for them as it was for the father and son.

In “Some Heaven” the narrator is a father watching his child pray for “some heaven/that has no fences,” after they find a rabbit “caught between the slats of the fence,” that he has had to kill. I feel he is asking for forgiveness, too, when he believes his child’s “prayer is right/ What more should heaven be? /A place made/ of wild carrot and dill…a warm October/day that never ends.”

These words cut me to the quick with their urgent, yet natural spirituality. I had to pause and say —yes— this is the way of it not only for the lives in the poems, for me the reader as well.

Both poems are republished below with permission from the author.  (more…)

From the Archives: Review of Flyway, Vol. 6.3/7.1 Spring 2002

Reviewed by Samantha Futhey

Otherness: Flyway’s Asian American Special Issue

Flyway reveals the “other” in identity, cross-cultural mishaps, food, and sense of place with this special Asian American issue. From the black and white photograph of Japanese-Americans departing for WWII internment camps, on the cover, to a white woman’s confusion in her Thai boyfriend’s family in “The Whitest Woman in America,” the writings in this collection reach beyond what it means to be Asian-American. Poems and stories in this issue reveal the collectivity of human experiences, exploring what it means to be human. The following are standout pieces of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction found in this issue:


Celebrating Flyway’s 20th Birthday

This year marks twenty years for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. We’ve grown a lot in the past two decades. Beginning with founding editor Steve Pett’s inaugural edition, which featured pulitzer-prizing wining author Jane Smiley, to today’s mobile webpages featuring content from emerging writers and artists such as 2014 Notes From the Field Winner Susannah Clark and paintings from Jake Ford.

Over the years we transitioned from a print journal to the current on-line format. Flyway also became a journal run exclusively by graduate students of Iowa State’s Creative Writing and Environment program.

For the next few weeks, our blog will post reviews of past editions and special republished work to celebrate Flyway’s past and heritage.

We’ll also be hosting a special tribute panel to Steve Pett at this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Program’s Annual Conference (AWP) held in Minneapolis. Visit our booth, which will feature our first edition, even a signed copy, among many of special editions (Asian American, Native American and Latino editions).

In the meantime, enjoy these reviews and republished works and let us know what you think!




Web Rove: Pumped about AWP

By Claire Kortyna

Nearly a month from today the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP) and Bookfair opens in the Minneapolis Convention Center and Hilton Minneapolis Hotel. I browsed around their website today, itchy with anticipation. The conference website contains a number of fun and helpful links to things like registration, the Bookfair, and info about twin city entertainment. There’s even a “Walk-To Dining Guide” for guests.

I am, to put it delicately, pumped, particularly to walk around and interact with all the awesome publishers and journals. Today’s web rove showcases a handful of pieces from the many wonderful literary magazines and presses that will have booths at this year’s AWP Bookfair.

Conversation About Water” by Thea Robin Engst (from Sugar House Review)

In this succinct poem Engst explores illogical fears of the open water. The intensity of her descriptions, “filter teeth lined up like barcodes,” add weight to the ominous tone. But at the same time, she gently mocks herself and her conversation companion by repeatedly describing these fears as “ridiculous.” We laugh too, but cannot hold off a shiver.

Orphan Girl” by Naomi Kimbell (from Crazyhorse)

“The sky is coated with scurf the color of tin. Bands of haze hang at the fringe of the valley giving the impression that the mountains have receded into memory. The air is thick and full of grit.” So opens Kimbell’s essay from the current issue of Crazyhorse. Kimbell’s prose is at once crystalline and ambiguous while she discusses coal mining in Montana through its reverberations on her family and the environment.

Do Us Part” by Dawn Dorland (from Green Mountains Review)

Innocuously it begins, “I’ve been wanting to ask you, Do you remember what I said at your wedding?” And from there, in long, image-filled sentences, this simple question complicates. With each rambling line, the tension underwriting the prose tightens. Masterfully, Dorland has us rushing along the story, just as breathless as our narrator until we are left again with another haunting question.

Book Review: Honeydew by Edith Pearlman

Little, Brown and Company 2015

Hardback: $25

Reviewed by Meghann Hart

In late summer, the pale green honeydew becomes sweet, so sweet that many choose to enjoy its flesh in balls or canoe-like slices as a dessert. I opened Honeydew, not in summer, but in winter. This strange, rectangular melon was authored, not by a gardener, but by a contemporary master of the short story: Edith Pearlman. As I sat up in bed reading Pearlman’s latest gaggle of stories, all situated in the fictive Massachusetts city of Godolphin, a thick, nacreous juice began to drip from the pages and ooze down my wrists. Some might call this magic. I call it good writing. If you still don’t want to read this book, you should. Here are five reasons why:


Web Rove: Uncertainty and Narratives of Change, Hope, and Resignation

By Claire Kortyna

February is over and theoretically spring is right around the corner. March will roar it’s lion howl, then pad softly away on lamb’s feet. It’s a transitional time. We are caught in between. Today’s web rove showcases that period of uncertainty, with narratives of change, hope, and resignation.

The Firebird” by Saikat Majumdar (from The Kenyon Review)

“But he was just a baby then, they would tell him later, a baby who hadn’t started at the clash of steel. He hadn’t cried. As if he were really asleep! They had been stunned. But the brave sleep had led to nothing.” In this excerpt the character Ori, examines life and death on stage through his mother and his intense desire to act himself. Firebird Majumdar’s upcoming novel will be published May 2015 by Hachette India.

Stardust” by Colette Tennant (from The Rattle)

In her poem Tennant succinctly and powerfully examines the interplay between scientific terminology and human existence. Somewhat ironically she describes the various objects that comprise the human life while simultaneously proving we are more than our compositions.

Night Watch” by Jeffrey Hammond (from The Gettysburg Review)

“Even a night person will concede that a really dark night, if one can be found, rehearses our future absence. But such a person might counter this gloom with a question: when has so disturbing a lesson ever been conveyed so peacefully and with such beauty?”

Hammond examines the night and how it is perceived through the years and through literature, bringing a contemplative silver lining to our darkest hours.

Book Review: Kings of the F**king Sea

Poems by Dan Boehl

Images by Jonathan Marshall

Birds, LLC $18

Reviewed by Ana Hurtado

Kings of the F**king Sea is an adventure; it is visual art, poetry, and prose. The protagonist, an unnamed American man, enlists as the new crewmember of Kings of the F**king Sea, a pirate ship, and his poems are his preferred method of communication; they are uncanny and extraordinary. Dan Boehl, the author, and Jonathan Marshall, the artist, interweaved English, French, and Latin into a curated literary phenomenon. Through text and images, Kings of the F**king Sea playfully analyzes the roles of pirates in our contemporary world. Aside from poetry, the scattered bits of prose across this book create context. The art portfolio found in the middle of the book acts like gallery show, visually interpreting the book’s themes. As a whole, the book acts like an ongoing reflection of the effects of popular culture and global issues, such as Spiderman films and human trafficking, on what could be interpreted as a dystopian universe. Here are five reasons why I could not put this poetry/art book down: (more…)

Web Rove: Ekphrasis: Exploring the Interplay of Art and Poetry

by Camille Meyers

Of all the written genres, I feel that poetry is closest to visual art. A poet must consider not only the sounds and meanings of their words, but also how they look on the page. The form of a poem can create motion, separation, or sometimes even take on the shape of its subject by creating a literal picture with words.

It’s not surprising then that poetry has inspired great works of art. Scholars suggest Vincent Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night was inspired by section 21 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

“Press close bare-bosom’d night – press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds – night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night – mad naked summer night.”

Starry Night

Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh (from Museum of Modern Art, New York City)

However, the door of inspiration swings both ways and many great poets have been inspired by the visual arts. For example, William Carlos Williams “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” is a direct description of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting of the same name and muses on the artist’s intentions. (more…)

Book Review: Duplex by Kathryn Davis


by Kathryn Davis

Graywolf Press

Paperback: $16

Reviewed by Renee LeClaire

Let me just start by saying that I have no idea how this book ends. I have my theories. But the ending of Duplex is like waking up and realizing that the dream-logic you’ve been following all night, which seemed so solid and certain while you were in the middle of it, falls apart like handfuls of wet sand. You can go back and try to piece together the trail you thought you were following, the signs you thought pointed the way — and some of them are there. But this is not a story told neatly in chronological order, and the sentences scattered like clues throughout the book only led me to what I realize is my own perception of the narrative. Kathryn Davis has created a choose-your-own-adventure novel where everyone reads the same pages in the same order, and everyone ends up in a different place in the end.

So here is my advice for you, if you read Duplex (and you should): Trust Kathryn Davis. Also, pay attention.

Trying to describe the overall plot of the novel not only makes your friends think you’ve done a lot of drugs before texting them passages (as I can personally attest), but also ruins the experience. So rather than attempting any sort of linear, coherent description or interpretation, here are five of my favorite quotes (clues) from the book. (more…)

Web Rove: For the Love of Television: When Fiction reflects Reality

by Erin Schmiel

I love television for both the long story and loyalty to the characters. Television is also able to help us discover something new about our lives and the state of our culture, from the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima to the aftermath of September 11. In the links below, commentators discuss shows by Aaron Sorkin that blend reality and fiction in ways that are poignant, heart-breaking and beautiful. Similarly, in an interview about the new series Fresh off the Boat, Eddie Huang discusses his struggle to watch a sitcom based on his life and memoir of the same name. What happens when life and art collide?

The West Wing: Isaac and Ishmael” by Steven Heisler (AV Club)

While author Steve Heisler didn’t care so much for this episode, “Isaac and Ishmael,” it’s still important to note when it aired: “Less than a month after September 11th 2001.” According to Heisler, this special episode occurred as a type of play between the intense end of the first season and before season two began. It isn’t as well-crafted as other episodes, but it was an opportunity for television to respond to tragedy.

The Best Moments From ‘The Newsroom’ Season One” by Julian Ring (Rolling Stone)

This article is an overview of season one of News Room, giving video highlights for those unfamiliar with the show. Episode Six is the one to pay attention to: “Bullies,” where character Sloan Sabbith reports on the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima. This episode dramatized the idea: What would it be like to report on a moment like this?

Invisible and Insidious”  by William T Vollman (Harper’s)

We are still living with the fallout of the Fukushima disaster, as seen in this “Letters From Japan” feature in Harper’s. The most startling image, and there are many, is of the seemingly endless pile of orange persimmons laid out along a lake; they were deemed too radioactive to eat.

ABC Tones Down Author’s ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ for Sitcom Audience” by Eric Deggans (NPR)

The new ABC sitcom, “Fresh off the Boat” is responding to real events in a different way. Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh off the Boat was adapted for ABC and as this NPR interview shows, he struggles with this adaptation.