Syracuse Lit Mag is a Work of Art
Having now had the opportunity to review more than one issue of Salt Hill, I can say that this publication does many things well, but notable among these things is design. Both visually and in terms of content, SH is one literary journal that takes to heart the idea that a publication should be a work of art. Certainly, each written piece reflects well off the others in this issue, but these pieces are also played up with delightful visual artwork, a smart layout, and quality print material. It’s an issue that is as fun to hold in your hands as it is to read. Its satisfying heft of 160 pages, between covers featuring Hans Op de Beek’s painting “Fountain,” a watercolor on arches paper, is filled with poetry, prose, and other visual pieces that excite and give pause. Contributors ruminate on glass cities, hyperrealities, self-perpetuating myths, and “at least twelve assholes reading On the Road.”
Other of Op de Beek’s arches paper paintings are scattered throughout this issue and are as pleasing as the cover art. His are not the only visually stimulating pieces included in SH 37. Hyper-minimal work is also showcased in these pages by Gina Hunt, whose suite of pieces titled “This Has Been” is abstract work on rice paper in which structure, indexicality, and pattern are conceptual platforms. Two of Amy Jo Trier-Walker’s visual poems also make an appearance here, featuring cut-out words and vintage postcard images.
Issue 27 of Salt Hill is heavy on poetry. Stand-out pieces for this reader include Jacob Sunderlin’s “Occult Prayer,” an unconventional “frame” poem, obsessed with the sexual and esoteric symbology of snakes and unfulfilled wishes, Ivy Grimes poem, “Marrying the Bear,” a re-telling of a Nez Perce story about a man and a bear, pivoting on a feminist critique of voice and agency, and Peter Laberge’s “Petrichor,” a meditation on a woman murdered in a garden. From Laberge: “Your name, careful/climate across exhale/of land, scatterplot/of purpose and sepia/decay.” Among many other pieces, Lizzie Davis’ translations of excepts from Pilar Fraile Amador’s “Mark” and “Separation” are also notable. Davis expertly translates from the Spanish bringing out Amdador’s poignant images of the “bitter sticky” walls and the rooftop despairings of a rural community.
Nick Greer’s “Glass City,” a literary project Greer says is ever growing, is a series of vignettes that describe a fantastic and hyper-real city that is a microcosm of human history. In these vignettes one encounters nearly all possible versions of humanity, every possible sorrow, every possible reconciliation. Greer offers mythology like a shim for the reader to wear to fit himself to the shape of this fictional and not fictional place made of glass, constantly reflecting its inhabitants (On the Road in tow!) and their distortions.
In the non-fiction category, Salt Hill’s interview with novelist Jenny Offil was a breath of fresh air. Offil capitalizes on the fact that some of the best writers are those who are hyper-vigilant and without a “back-up plan.” These writers, she offers, have learned to embrace the uncertainty in the writing process. It was an extremely honest and endearingly humble interview and made this reader want to explore Offil’s published work.
Robert S. Brunk’s long form essay “Wade Gutherie and I Bury a Mule,” is a poignant reflection of a by-gone way of life and a man that belonged to it. It’s an essay about the power of shared experience, comradery, and the mutability of verbal storytelling. Brunks voice is honest and tinged with a little sadness.
Salt Hill 37 highlights artists with diverse sensibilities, but all present their art with a confidence and aplomb that makes this issue a truly special and truly artful installation for this publication. I am happy to slide this issue in next to another long-past issue of Salt Hill currently on my bookshelf and will consider subscribing.