The Rhode Island Writers’ Circle Anthology
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” an observant novelist once noted. Since its founding in 1993, the Writers’ Circle has been doing something about that. The organization offers workshops, coaxing aspiring and emerging writers out of their garrets to interact and let their work see the light of day.
ALL TOGETHER NOW: The 2007 edition.
The Rhode Island Writers’ Circle Anthology — 2007 has just been published by the Providence-based the Poets’ Press, presenting fiction, memoirs, essays, poetry, and playscripts by 40 writers. As the date in the title indicates, there will be an annual anthology from now on. The first one, on the occasion of their 10th anniversary, appeared four years ago and is being reissued on this occasion.
Brief introductory notes to sections on drama, fiction, and poetry are given by Trinity Rep artistic director Curt Columbus, novelist Robert Leuci, and former poet laureate of Rhode Island Tom Chandler. The non-fiction introduction is given by Rose Pearson, the Writers’ Circle founder, creative director, and primary editor of the volume.
The eight fiction pieces range from a 1-1/2-page vignette about a memento mori, Niki Toler’s “Yard Sale,” to lengthy short stories, such as the deft family portrait “Secret Madness,” by Carol A. DiFabio. The latter describes an Easter dinner from the point of view of a nine-year-old girl who gets a chance to sit at the grown-ups’ table. The collective portrait is full of amusing specifics, and even a grandmother’s empty bedroom is described imaginatively, as having “that kind of quiet that whooshes around you, as though a pipe somewhere pulled out all the noises.” In a contrasting setting of corporate Manhattan, Christina Gom¬bar’s “The Black Box” traces the footsteps of a potential office romance/dalli¬ance/betrayal, providing subtle psychological suspense rather than a more facile, plot-oriented arc.
The stories are all in the tradition of literary realism, going for Cheever rather than Coover. For metafiction, head for the drama section and the longest of the three plays there, Pearson’s HeShe. There’s a reason that we don’t see more playscripts in literary journals: it takes much more than words to bring them to life. In this one, long passages of poetic language are framed by two actors speaking conversationally, and what might be made lyrical on stage reads as precious on the page.
Again in the realistic mode, the poetry here tends to go for clarity while not neglecting insight. For example, two poems by Louise Giguere take on the difficult matter of solidifying abstractions; “Matthew’s Meaning” conveys the spirit and intelligence of someone who is probably a child but who is further respected by not being specifically identified as such. Brett Rutherford’s “Tillie” describes a bag lady recalled from childhood, ending with an inspired burst of magic realism:
On side streets,
her shadow shambles without her,
frail as a moth wing,
picked apart by moonlight,
scattered by cicadas,
waiting to reassemble
if she returns
to her appointed rounds.
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