This 10th-anniversary edition of a literary journal features award-winning work in multiple genres by members of the South Carolina Writers’ Association.
The SCWA’s founder and board member, Carrie Allen McCray, contributed to a flush of literary activity in South Carolina before her death in 2008 at age 94. Her own interest in Southern subjects fits with the first award-winning entry here, Skip Shockley’s “Samuels’ Gold,” the lead chapter of a novel that focuses on a post–Civil War heist. Although the period details of the 1865-set narrative bring readers believably to the coast of Florida, setting them down in the midst of a murder plot, the pacing requires some patience. (Perhaps life and fiction move more quickly now.) The more contemporary stories, however, conjure vivid scenes and lessons. In Kasie Whitener’s “Cover Up,” a middle-aged woman gets her old tattoo touched up and feels a desire for the tattoo artist but ultimately finds a relationship with her wilder, vulnerable 19-year-old self. In Jayne Bowers’ “Come On, Sweet Boy,” a grandmother tells about her daughter’s experience with a difficult birth in a tale that squeezes the heart without recourse to sentiment or exaggeration. A clear bit of memoir, Bob Strother’s “Friends in the Wind,” concludes that it would be nice to hear the voice of an old friend, who would understand “that our wilting body is a joke of recent vintage, and not everything we have ever been.” However, the present day doesn’t escape scrutiny. The poem “Chatter through the Ether” by Michael Crowley, for example, worries about the cellphone generation with their “plastic talismans”; missing out on the beauty of the world, they appear crazed: “Our captains of the ether sail on / certain that constant chatter equals living. / In earlier generations only / the deranged walked helter-skelter down streets // shouting into the ether.” Many of the other entries also portray persuasive narrators and engaging revelations. Adrienne Mathues’ “The Waltz,” for example, a charming nonfiction piece on the struggle of learning the tango, dances toward a quiet but powerful exhilaration.
An impressive, wide-ranging collection of a region’s creative voices.