Cover image of The Tishman Review depicting a busy street with cars next to a large building.

Journal Takes You into the Dark Well of the Soul and Delivers Truth

Review of The Tishman Review, Fall 2018 by Matt Koehler


The Tishman Review is not for the faint of heart but that's not to say it shouldn't be read by anyone and everyone. True, it's unapologetically cruel to happy emotions but the assault is necessary to the mission of the journal. Art, here, mimics life and there is no guarantee of happiness or resolution found in Tishman. Rays of hope and humor are found across the electronic pages prose, poetry, artwork, and photography but one shouldn't expect it. Instead, the writing weaves its way through life's infinite number of variables, imperfections, and capriciousness to paint an honest picture.

This issue of TTR is their TOSSA issue, or Tillie Olsen Short Story Award contest. Many of the stories, both fiction and nonfiction, focus around the relationship between parents and children—exposing the structural guts of those oftentimes fraught relationships. There are also stories of broken relationships but the main focus is on loss, the act of moving on, and more importantly, how we move on. 

What you basically get in The Tishman Review is phenomenal stories. Did I personally read a bad story in this journal? No, I did not. Some were good, others were better, but the caliber is high enough that you're not going to be disappointed with any piece of writing. 

Starting out with the Tillie Olsen short story award winner, "An Altar of Skins" by Jeremy Schotala, we are thrust into a story that merges elements of "The Office"and a much darker "Office Space". Disaffected with reality, Paul sucks readers into his hyper-focused and socially anxious view of reality:

When I was six, I watched two roosters fuck behind our chicken coop. I watched it alone, all the way to the end when the roosters pushed away at each other with their sharp feet and a flurry of wings, bounding off in different directions like they’d done nothing more than eat off the same corncob.

And:

Our marriage yielded little more than comfort at social functions like these, so today I would miss her a little.

One cannot come away from Skins without having a better understanding of severe social anxiety, and the perspectives it offers.

Marianne Rogoff's "Attention", a semi-finalist in the fiction category, explores how past trauma haunts us and can leave us unfinished or left waiting, in need of resolution in order to move on. Without resolution, Will, the main character becomes fixated on what stops him from leaving his past behind and being a good father. Rogoff also explores the nervous tension between a growing young boy and his imperfect dad.

The nonfiction in Tishman is more than just well-written journal entries. Each selection focuses on a specific trauma that is woven into a compelling and often painful to read narrative. Through tragedy many of the writers expose something real and true that is universal in all of us and shines a light on thoughts we don't often want to explore.

"Starlight Through Five Apertures" by Glynda Francis bends the concept of its genre with a dreamy atmospheric quality, backdropped by deep melancholy. A clever title, "Starlight" goes through five shorts built upon the language of colors with word combinations that evoke the exact images they're trying to describe and emergent sounds in prose: "They glint like chips of light—struck ice, fresh and cold in the skyscape." The sky and heavens beyond remain a lodestar through each 'aperture'.

Another notable selection is Jewel Beth Davis's "The Corners of My Mind" where she discusses the devastating effects of clinical depression and a last ditch effort to rid herself of it through electroconvulsive therapy. Kyler Marzano, in "Where the Rocks Were: One Island’s Fixation on Regeneration, When No Man Is an Island", speaks to the truth of depression and its persistence despite how we can outwardly seem okay:

I remember being fourteen years old, first naming the thing that had been plaguing me through adolescence, nebulous and draining: Depressed. Depression. Clinical depression. Like the ringing of a bell, like a summons. I called to it and it called me.

Poetry for me is more of a feeling than an intellectual pursuit, not that the latter isn't part of the process. Good poetry, though, evokes strong feelings in us. Like the fiction and nonfiction, the poetry in TTR is handled by deft writers—poets—who know how to pick at our emotions. Joannie Stangeland's "Wind Loads" put words together is such a way:

I was the tremor, leaf in October, shift

and shiver.

Some of the poems, like "Giant" by Linette Marie Allen, are a bit abstract and difficult to grasp but still had some fun lines to read: 

shot with all that Nero brings in morning— denting dawn, slitting wrists with yellow,

yellow sticking like porcupine fruit— giant clouds milking giant knees.

Eileen Toomey gives us the type of poetry our unspoken thoughts can easily identify with in "You're Always Hungry, too":

It’s you too, streak of lesbian, I could hit that, you think

like a dude.

And, "Porch Song[s]" 1-3 are just great poems, fun to read, accessible, and evocative of their titles:

Time licks the skin

from your fingers

at whatever speed it wants

You can almost imagine sitting on an old rocking chair/swing.

The selection of artwork is also compelling and sends a message, sometimes literally, as some of it is in comic style.

The perfect distillation of this literary journal is this a quote from "The Man Who Thought He Loved a Woman" by Andrew Brilliant:

It comes down to this: If you cannot believe that all of your thoughts and emotions and history can be, uh, distilled down to what you can do to, or onto, a flat canvas then you should not be in this class.

So, bring your best work because The Tishman is not for novices.

The Tishman Review is a biannual journal of poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, and artwork. Published April and October 30th each year. Their next issue will focus on poetry with the Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry award with another TOSSA issue coming next October. They do pay modest compensation for accepted work and offer fee-free reading sessions, which they announce via the newsletter.