I was lucky.
It’s not everyday you get to be a part of a revival launch party of a literary magazine. december in January (as the event was called) proved to be a cold one as it was incredibly bitter to be outside in New York City. Located at Poet’s House not too far from the Hudson River, the wind was not particularly kind to those going to the event. The event took place on January 23rd and although it’s close to a month since I went, I’ve only recently had time to fully read its contents and truly say that it’s back like never before.
At the launch party, three of the poets made an appearance to read their poems, along with one prose reader. I enjoyed the reading as it was great to hear their voices and having purchased a copy of the issue beforehand, I made sure to follow along whenever they read their stuff. The poets included Marvin Bell, Sally Van Doren, and James Tolan. Terese Svoboda was the only fiction reader.
Celebrating it’s revival issue, december (the d is always lower-cased, never capitalized) came out with its first anthology-format release in nearly 30 years. At the helm of its comeback, Gianna Jacobson takes her role as editor after having purchased the magazine.
Fortunately for everyone who cares about the literary world, it’s in safe hands.
Gianna Jacobson received her MFA from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Craving the intimacy that was assured within a writing community, she eagerly sought after her own literary ambitions:
“In October 2012, not quite two years after finishing my MFA, I was missing the embrace a community of writers can provide…I looked around…[and] I might have stewed forever if I hadn’t noticed a classified ad on the Poets & Writers website announcing the sale of december magazine and December Press.”
Within the revival issue, you get the editor’s note – a brief look at its history and the writers it spotted and attracted along the way (Raymond Carver’s first story ever published appeared in december). In addition, much adoration and praise is given to Curt Johnson, former editor and publisher of december, recognizing his “good eye for emerging literary talent”, his own writing (he wrote six novels, 60+ short stories, and six books of non-fiction), and his strong commitment to making december “his community”. The brief notes that were spoken about him in the first few pages really decorated him as a great person and I truly felt it.
When it comes to a revival, december is impressive in many ways but as far as its ambition in displaying its content is concerned – a whopping 57 writers and artists are held tightly within the thick pages of the issue. Mixing past contributors with new ones, this was a literary magazine I made sure not to miss. I hope that you don’t either.
Poetry was up first (the magazine was alphabetized according to the author’s last name – and the poets took most of the beginning section of pages).
As a writer I’ve mainly focused on reading and writing fiction, with a brief stint in writing memoirs (which I really enjoyed!). When it comes to poetry, I’ve always been fascinated by the many ways poems take shape either through language or form and although I take pleasure in reading them, I am by no means an expert in them at all. When I read poems, I like to take time to observe, to focus and to really take in what the poet is trying to say. I for one, like to read them out loud.
As far as my personal favorites, the poems I enjoyed the most came from: Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Douglas Blazek, and Kelly Cherry, Karen Holman, Lawson Fusao Inada, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Michael Lally, David Lunde, William Minor, Jeanne Morel, Linda Pastan, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Brandon Pettit, Vern Rutsala, James Tolan, & Sally Van Doren.
Quite a list, huh?
A quick transition to prose later ensues throughout the magazine starting with Jay Duret‘s nonfiction piece entitled, “Riding Sidecar”. More in my alley way of knowledge and understanding, I felt more confident of reviewing it and giving you my take on it. It was an intriguing piece. I learned a lot as Duret took me along his journey of awareness of a recent phenomenon known as collaborative consumption. I definitely recommend reading his piece for further clarification.
Michael Fedo‘s “At the Stairway to Heaven Elder Care Center” was next and an amazing short fiction piece. Taking place in a senior facility, I found it remarkable how quickly the writer conveys the situation by taking the conflict between two sides and presenting reasonable arguments for both, leaving the readers to judge for themselves which to root for- almost reading like an unbiased news article.
Back to nonfiction, Gary Fincke‘s “During the Biology Year” is another piece to enjoy. Broken into different short sections, each scene presents some of the controversy that the creation v. science argument has to offer. Told in the eyes of a 16-year old boy, we listen to his teacher, Mr. Little make fun of Aristotle and how science proves to be on top and at the same time, we also follow the narrator’s progress with Becky Flynn, a girl he likes and how they’re raised to believe otherwise.
This magazine had a lot of family relationships and each writer had a different take on it in their own writing (prose or poetry). Sean Padraic McCarthy‘s fiction piece, “In Another Time” was just that but so much more. McCarthy chooses a father-daughter story in which the present and future are told back and forth. As a reader, you really feel for the father as the story culminates to it’s ultimate revelation. It was a beautifully told story, to say the least.
But if I had to say my favorite…I would have to definitely choose Sherri Hoffman‘s nonfiction piece, “Seemingly Unrelated Events”. Broken up into six sections with a quote preceding each one, Hoffman strives to not only connect each unique event to each other but also talk how connection moves people to inspire, to communicate, to share, to help, and to do good deeds.
BTW: If you’re reading this before the AWP Conference & Bookfair commences in Seattle (and happen to be going), please do yourself a favor and visit december magazine’s table, B32 in the South Hall of the Bookfair, Level 4 of the Washington State Convention Center. I hear they’re giving not only goodies but a chance to win a free lifetime subscription if you enter their raffle!
How cool is that!