Online Magazine is a Carefully Curated Collective of Diversity
Review of Diverse Voices Quarterly, Fall 2014 by Laura Jean Schneider
Diverse Voices Quarterly, now in its fifth year of online publication, was founded on a type of diversity that’s refreshing: it’s open to “every age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious background. This journal, in essence, celebrates and unifies diversity.” (I pulled this from the About DVQ tab on their easy to navigate, well-designed website.) Rest assured: you already fit into that broad (and welcoming) category, and should consider sending your work its way.
I’m a pretty traditional hard-copy reader but I downloaded the PDF of Volume 6, Issue 22, with high hopes. DVQ introduces their writers first thing, a placement I appreciated. Overall, this seemed to be a mature group of submitters with some life experience. (Perhaps poet Peggy Alysworth, at 93 years of age, claims seniority for this issue.) There are twice as many female submitters, and a broad range of backgrounds: degrees from MS to MD, several Pushcart nominees, the owner of an indie press, a man with terminal cancer, a long-distance walker, a retired attorney, and a mother with four children under eight years of age. Almost everyone noted prior publication credits.
In 29 pages, (okay, there’s 37 but that counts the Bios and such) there are 14 carefully selected, mostly free verse poems, ranging in topic from memory and loss to relationships. I particularly liked “Scar,” by Sarah O’Sullivan, which opens, “We inhabit separate hemispheres / now, never again to share a season.” “Our Temporary Universe,” by Diana Raab, follows a similar theme: “I feel our universes woven / beneath my skirt and sunken into the world.” Even while the narrator, in Michael Mark’s poem “Thinking About That Bite of Bagel,” grieves the loss of a beloved canine companion, he too follows a cosmic pull: “But you turn back to your page / your place in the universe.” The tension between place and space, where we fit and how and why we belong in the world, is something DVQ grapples with in this issue.
I appreciated the strategic positioning of the poems. They act as introductions, preparing us for the theme of the following work. Marc Tretin’s poem “Sunday Showers” deals with sex and cancer; in David Bennett’s story, “A Lover’s Legacy,” a gay man deals with losing his partner and a confusing sexual encounter. Tretin’s “Pithed,” is a fragmented beauty about lost love, a perfect companion for “Smiling Jenny,” Nina Rota’s surprising short story where a man finds having sex with dolls more meaningful than with humans. “Fucking Against the Bookcase,” by Zarah C. Moeggenberg, opens for Rae King’s piece “Confessions of a Reluctant Adulterer,” with little explanation needed.
The sole piece of interior art, a photograph by A.J. Huffman called “Waiting,” features birds perched in a silhouette-tree. It’s the perfect image to proceed the following poem, “Never The Breeze,” where “…a downy bird perched / on a tall tower, in motion with the river’s / deep music and rippling reeds.” (That said, I would have liked to see more art throughout, especially since the cover of this issue implies that bent with a photograph of a sign that actually spells “Art.”)
D. Jeanne Wilson’s poem, “Broken Child,” includes the lines “I’ll always love you. / No one else / applies for the job,” a well-matched frame for Kate McCorkle’s lovely essay, “Breviary.” McCorkle describes the struggle between finding time for herself and her work, and motherhood. Her revelations are often self-aware and poignant, like this one:
As I lamented his [her young son’s] lack of sleep, though, the thought came that maybe he needs this time too. We’re never alone together. There’s always another kid around. Maybe he keeps waking up early because he needs me.
Further on she confesses, “I need to protect the creative space.” McCorkle’s desire to navigate toward a place where her various roles meld echoes the recurring theme of seeking and reconciling ourselves to where and what we are. It’s a strong addition to this issue of DVQ and it was refreshing to see non-fiction included.
My major complaint is that the fiction selections aren’t as strong or as satisfying as the poetry and non-fiction. For one, they’re all sex-themed: gay sex, doll sex, and adultery sex. Sex is good, but so are lots of other things. While the mature content throughout shows that DVQ isn’t afraid to be daring, it felt perhaps the selected stories were included more for their explicit content or shock value than because of how the writer handled their material. Some of the situations feel cliché, the dialogue isn’t always convincing, and I found the rather open endings frustrating.
Overall, the cohesion of Diverse Voices Quarterly is impressive. It’s carefully curated, well-edited, and certainly not shy. I imagine DVQ’s ideal reader as a mature, reflective individual with some life experience of their own, open to new interpretations and bold work. I’m giving this publication four stars, since I’d like to see the fiction selections parallel the top quality of this online publication.