April 4, 2016 by The Citron Review
The Citron Review would like to thank our guest editors for helping to make this issue so full of beautiful writing. We are grateful they have shared some thoughts with us, which we pass on to you!
“You Ride the Bus” by Jeffrey Ricker
It was an honor to judge this queer edition of The Citron Review, and I’m so grateful to the editors for asking me to do so. In the end, it was a very tough call; some pieces captured the complexity of sexuality in striking ways, something I’m very interested in. Some stories were remarkably simple, but in doing so, they captured something universal. Ultimately, I surprised myself by choosing the latter. “You Ride the Bus” is such a perfect example of how a simple story can be the most beautiful and the most engaging. In not trying to be overtly political, it ended up being the most politically powerful piece of the lot. In not trying to do more than demonstrate human desperation and attraction, it represented the queer experience with remarkable honesty and truth. I learned a lot from this piece—and all the pieces I read—and I’m proud to choose “You Ride the Bus” as the winner and all four of these pieces for publication.
Shannon Barber and Milcah Orbacedo
“My Breath Catches in My Skull” by Ariel Gore
My thoughts after my first round of reading the finalists was, damn these are all so good. I’m not going to be able to choose, and I kept coming back to this piece. When I first read this piece, I had to stop reading in a few places to collect myself. It took me about twenty minutes to read through and read through again, normally I am a greedy voracious reader and devour things like I’m starving. I couldn’t with this piece; I found myself lingering and sitting back to let it sink in.
Honestly that piece just fucked me all the way up in the best way. I still can’t stop thinking about it. This is the sort of Queer nonfiction that caught my heart in the 90s and has never let go. This essay grabbed me and hasn’t let go. I am so honored and thankful for reading the wonderful work and you all, you all grabbed me. Ariel’s piece held on the tightest. Thank you so much for allowing me to be in this difficult and terrifying position, I am better for having read your work.
“The Things You’ve Learned” by Ayla-Monic McKay
“The Things You’ve Learned” perfectly captures the pas de deux of unmarked and unlabeled sexual yearnings and awakening. I love how the indentations indicate a second kind of mind, a doubled-over thinking. The poem has a formalist’s grace—the repetition of words wearing away at the topic, and its liminality. The sharing of power between the speaker and the friend in the narrative is very well-done—both women have motives and take action, but we, as readers, like the speaker, cannot resolve our information about the friend into any kind of certainty. I thought the twisting use of the phrase “cruel heart” felt ripe with the ambivalence of early, unmarked desiring. But what made me pick this poem above the excellent others were the final five lines. My head flipped at the expanding of the body into an electric, pre-lightning sky. And then my stomach sank as our speaker made the choice, and invited her friend into that cold sea. This was a powerful and liquid experience.
Each of the other poems had me on the hook as well. “The Traveler” is a sophisticated, bilingual story of intimacy and othering. “It Gets Better” is formally inventive, iconic, and valedictory, with the rightness of inevitability, as if the poem ought always to have been. “Cardboard Jeff” speaks directly to my own experience with slipping outside containment. But I was also seduced by a moment of misconnection, the insufficiency of aloneness, and the strangeness of frogs in other poems from the final group.
Kudos to The Citron Review staff and the many poets who submitted work for a terrific selection. It was hard to pick a winner. And every finalist, including those who did not become runners up, had jaw-dropping good lines!