The Bending Genres Anthology – 2018/2019
2020 Bending Genres Press 231 pages
Editors: Robert Vaughan (EIC), Meg Tuite (Fiction Editor), Len Kuntz (Fiction Editor), Jessica Mehta (poetry Editor); Adam Robinson (Book Design and Cover Painting
When I was an teen age aspiring guitar player, my best friend turned me onto an anthology of blues songs called The Blues Project. (Not to be confused with the band by the same name) It’s a collection a dozen or more artists covering Delta and Country Blues classics. It was a life changing, paradigm shift for me, and introduced me to a wide variety of blues singers in one single volume whom I may not have otherwise discovered individually. That led me to collect several other music anthologies over the years, and accounts in part for my eclectic taste in music. It also had a profound influence on my reading habits as well.
Over the years, I have many literary anthologies in my personal library, including volumes of short stories, political essays, mountaineering, martial arts, science fiction, fine arts and a wide variety of poetry anthologies. In fact, anthologies have served as a gateway for me to discover a large number of my favorite writers and poets.
The Bending Genres Anthology – 2018/2019, published earlier this year, is an artfully curated collection and a beautifully produced book that celebrates some of the best in their first two years as a journal. It’s a wonderful mixed bag of poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction consisting of 231 pages of writing from over 100 authors. Since this anthology is not written by a single author, nor is it a collaboration between a couple, or even a few artists, but a book with 115 contributors, put together by 4 editors and a book designer, it’s probably best approached holistically. While I highlight some specific pieces and authors, it isn’t possible to review each one individually within the constraints of this short review.
The first and last pieces serve as bookends to the collection. The anthology opens with an engaging piece of creative nonfiction by Claire Polders. Overdue Elegy is a poignant, tender meditation on a friend who has passed, reflecting upon shared experiences and regretting missed opportunities to say goodbye. The book closes with piece of innovative short fiction. Jen Todhunter’s When There’s Nothing Left To Burn is presented in ten short segments, each one a little story in its own rite and provides a satisfying conclusion to the anthology. In between these first and last pieces is a dizzying selection of creative writing that twists, turns, changes pace and switches directions in unexpected ways that keep the reader moving.
Sara Comito’s The Germ Suspended is a complex and evocative piece of prose poetry, surreal metaphor and lush, elegant word craft. Sara Comito reads The Germ Suspended on the Bending Genres Blog
Hillary Leftwich’s The Women is a haunting piece of prose about a women’s homeless shelter. The imagery is stark but rich and the power of the piece lies in its brevity. Howie Good’s Self Portrait, Shrugging is another very short but powerful reflection about his father’s attempts at suicide that hits the reader like a gut punch. I think Jonathan Riccio’s Confessions of a UFO Tracking Station Employee could arguably be called sound poetry. This scintillating piece of experimental writing, full of jarring juxtapositions and forays into language and the way words sound when strung together begs to be read aloud.
Jayne Martin’s mysterious short fiction One Of A Kind is truly one of a kind. A vividly descriptive piece about a severed foot found in melting ice is evocative, spellbinding and truly creepy. Jayne Martin reads One Of A Kind on the Bending Genres Blog
Jules Archer’s Poke Her is a compelling piece of flash fiction about a poker hustler who gets caught cheating and the consequence that follow. The story is presented as loosely structured, back and forth dialogue between two people. I think the power lies in it’s stark minimalism and it’s implicit invitation for the reader to fill in the blanks. Woody Woodger’s Tinder Profile is an audacious, freewheeling romp. Ignoring conventional formatting, it’s presented as one unbroken stream-of-consciousness prose paragraph. Peppered with irreverent, hilarious, cultural references, tropes and surreal imagery, it reads well off the page but would be very much at home at a slam poetry recital.
I don’t know if I should categorize Tara Campell’s poem The Fish as surrealism or magic realism. I don’t know if a category even really matters. I just find her poem with it’s musical cadence strangely spellbinding and beautiful. Tara Campbell reads her poem The Fish on the Bending Genres Blog.
The Bending Genres Anthology is rich survey of some of the best examples of cutting edge hybrid writing being done today. I think it would be an excellent teaching tool for creative writing teachers. It is a unique and challenging book to review, given the sheer number of contributors and the collaborative efforts of the entire editorial team, all of whom deserve to be acknowledged and recognized. The quality and quantity of this ambitious, collaborative project and the perfection of the physical book itself is impressive.
Kudos to the editorial team listed above and special shout outs to Robert Vaughan – Editor In Chief, who brought this ambitious project to fruition and to Adam Robinson for his book design and cover painting. Editor Jonathan Cardew is posting the writers reading their works on The Bending Genres Blog. I have included a few of them here and more are forthcoming. I think it adds an invaluable dimension to see writers reading their works and to actually hear the cadence of the language. In case these links don’t work go to the Bending Genres website https://bendinggenres.com/ and go to the Blog and scroll down.
Michael Gillan Maxwell is a teacher, writer, musician and visual artist in the Finger Lakes Region of New York state. He is the author of The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction For Beginners, published by Unknown Press. Maxwell writes short fiction, poetry, songs, reviews, essays, lists, recipes and irate letters to his legislators.