Elevate Difference

Calyx (Summer 2010, Issue Vol. 26 No. 1)

Serving as a forum for women’s creative work, Calyx, a literary journal of art and literature, has been publishing new, emerging and established female writers and artists for the last thirty-four years. The seventy-fifth issue celebrates Calyx’s success and progress, while showcasing the journal’s continued commitment to providing readers with an eclectic mix of poetry, short stories, photography, and other work.

All of the art and literature in Calyx is written or created by women and speaks to themes and issues relevant to the female sex. Be it a photograph, a ceramic sculpture, a nonfiction story or a poem, readers can identify with the issues of loss and hope that permeate the pieces in this journal.

Perhaps the most striking and provocative work in the seventy-fifth issue of Calyx is the art. RoCa Rodriguez Calero’s Virgen Maria collage offers a twenty-first century depiction of Jesus’ mother. The artist’s statement reads: “Instead of the traditional passive woman in blue who looks demurely down… the icon of the Virgen Maria has been contemporized and made more identifiable as a strong, intelligent, striking, and, yes, ‘hot-looking’ woman.” Deep reds and pastel purples and blues combine to reveal a fierce-eyed Virgin Mary. We see a Mary who is confident and proud—which is much different than the typical image.

Kate McCauley’s photographs Pelo and Inward concentrate on the present. Inward features an older woman deep in thought, while Pelo shows the face of a younger girl—the only one in the group of children to turn and look at the camera. Both images evoke a sense of mystery and beckon the viewer to ask questions and look at the photograph again and again.

While all of the stories in the Summer 2010 issue are intriguing and grabbed my attention, Amanda Leskovac’s nonfiction piece Where to Put a Period stood out. Leskovac tells her story of heartbreak and abortion while dealing with life as a quadriplegic. She broaches sex, society and men with wit and the full mastery of her craft.

The majority of the poems in Calyx also are engaging and fresh. Susan Lilley’s "Home Free," Michelle Brittan’s "I Go Back to May 1983," and Julie Moore’s "Intersection" were my favorites as all three poems deal with loss eloquently. Lilley writes “for a minute I feel home free/both parents safely dead, and/my children before daybreak/breathing in the same house.” Here, she captures the bittersweet moment of the death of the speaker’s parents and the return of her children. Moore’s “the day your organs, packed/in ice, were carried in coolers/across Ohio” give rhythm to an accident and depict the speaker’s inability to forget it.

"I Go Back to May 1983," which is after a Sharon Olds poem, recounts the meeting of the speaker’s parents who were once only pen pals. The ill-fated relationship leaves the speaker questioning her existence. She describes how her mother loses her identity in the process of living in America and having a child with a man she can’t relate to: “An accidental commitment to a whole continent, an embodiment/of one life closing and another unfolding, her food/becoming my food, my bones replacing her bones.” It’s a beautiful piece that speaks of multiculturalism, severed families and the creation of life at the cost of dramatically altering another’s.

Without naming names, some of the poems leave something to be desired in terms of mastery of craft. These works seem to have been chosen solely for the messages they attempt to convey. While they do cover pertinent topics, the diction and poetic structure in some of them doesn’t compare to the level of craft in the other works.

Aside from this one flaw, Calyx’s seventy-fifth issue is a refreshing read, complete in its variety of art and literature that relate to and inspire women.

Written by: Michelle Tooker, October 25th 2010