A Young Online Magazine Filled With Enthusiasm
The exclamation marks punctuating the featured interviews in Driftwood Press 2.2 are telling: this is a young review with a lot of enthusiasm. Contributors seem to be mostly twenty somethings without major publications, though there a few more experienced writers among the poets. Some contributors have MFAs, others do not. The quality of the writing is careful and well-felt. The editors’ preferences in both fiction and poetry seem to lean toward character explorations. The review also features visual art and a comic strip. Driftwood Press is an ambitious review that aligns its aesthetic vision with established journals like McSweeney’s and Tin House.
As of this writing, Driftwood Press is not formatted for mobile browsers. The website is clean and shows promise, but feels somewhat “old-school bloggy,” especially in the “news” section. The cover image and its functionality are neat. The submissions process through Submittable looks solid. The review itself is a downloadable pdf, or available in print for $15.99 (shipping included in the US). Driftwood Press 2.2 in its digital format does not come with a file name, a pdf table of contents, or any notes on contributors—all of which would help the reading experience. Interviews are a key feature of each issue and every contributor is offered the opportunity to do one. The interviews are not extensive enough to be interesting by themselves, though certain interviews provide helpful background for approaching or appreciating pieces.
The opening story in 2.2 is by Scott Broker. It’s about a guy working in Mexico who gets hand jobs in his car from prostitutes. One day a prostitute is wearing a skull mask to commemorate her murdered coworkers. The guy freaks out. The prostitute steals his wallet, then leaves her mask with him. The story is called “Girl with the Skull Mask On.”
The next two stories focus on children. “Still Life with Water,” by Kathie Jacobson, is a portrait of a dysfunctional family from the perspective of a young girl. “Rise,” by Kris Whorton, is about a young boy who wants to help his father save their village during a flood. It’s my favorite story in this issue.
“A Goddess Lying Breathless in Carnage,” by Philip Dean Walker, and “Her Eyes, Hexagons,” by Emma Ignaszewski, are the shortest pieces of fiction in 2.2. They’re also the most structurally experimental. The former uses a repeating clause structure to spin out a picture of a lusty husband fixated on his neighbour, while the latter is a synesthetic exploration of a son and his sick mother.
The final piece of fiction, “I will be the Chief,” by Brian Snell, is about a small town character who wants to be mayor. He has a rival. He’s clearly a bit “off." And like Broker’s character, Snell’s character spends time obsessing over prostitutes. If 2.2 is any indication, it seems that fiction writers writing about male protagonists and male issues have the most success placing their work in Driftwood Press.
The poetry in 2.2 is more diverse. Laurin Becker Macios’ “Underside” is a prose poem about memory and perception. Mattie Quesenberry Smith’s “Wainscot Rats” is a political poem in eight-line stanzas. David Gustavsen gives a portrait of “Nate Neilsen” in free verse that follows the syntax of the poet’s sentences. Alan Jernigan sketches a self-portrait in prose with “Inbox(0).” Alice Pettway’s “At Market” captures a moment abroad with effective enjambment. It’s my favorite poem in this issue. Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka’s “Crossing Borders, Pursued by the Feathered Serpent” is a political self-portrait. The poet’s two-line stanzas break into meter at times, such as in “my boarding pass, my name misspelled”.
"The Weatherman,” by Wina Puangco, is a fiction submission printed by the editors as poetry. Its micro arc has poetic qualities. “Post-Electrical Buzz,” by Laurie Kolp, is a found poem taken from Updike, who is a favorite of the founding editors (according to the Driftwood website and Facebook page). “Snake River,” by Alina Stefanescu, is another story-driven poem, the scene observed by the poet given the significance that comes from seeing and feeling something clearly. “Fearing the Neighbors,” by Jason Irwin, flows nicely with well-chosen details. “If I Can Have Five Minutes of Deathbed,” by Ryan Havely, and “Sun Lamps,” by Sara Krueger, are both musings of sorts; the former on death and fishing and the latter on birth in a world that’s not quite our own. The final poem in this issue, “i’m debating whether or not to attend mass, mom,” by Jade Ramsey, is the most structurally stripped down of the bunch with a style reminiscent of e. e. cummings.
Ten pieces of visual art also are printed in 2.2, including the first installment in a comic strip series by Scott R. Smith called “Invasive Studies.” The cover image, by Iryna Lialko, is called “Silver Dreams.” Several writers mention in their interviews being inspired to submit to Driftwood Press based on the art. Despite my quick treatment here, it’s one of the review’s strong features. My favorite image in this issue is Adel Souto’s “My Playground.” The bold colors framing an empty concrete scene suggest a curiously vibrant solipsism. I find myself marvelling at how the hard place in the photo is made for play.
I would recommend emerging North American writers writing in English to submit to Driftwood Press, especially those working with character-driven pieces. I would like to see the editors invest more in their interviews and pay more attention to the readability of their digital downloads. While establishing a new review is a tough business, I would not be surprised to see great things from Driftwood Press in the future.