Notes on the Creative Nonfiction Selections

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September 23, 2021 by The Citron Review

In a summer where the world seemed to open up a bit there was a window in which it almost looked as if we might recover our old way of living. Photos popped up here and there of graduation ceremonies and proms, friends on trips, families embracing relatives after more than a year apart—visible relief on everyone’s faces. Perhaps from the outside we looked the same as we picked up where we left off, but like characters in stories that stay with us long after reading, our lives, our center of gravity had irrevocably changed. 

As Editor Charlotte Hamrick and I gathered the creative nonfiction selections for the Fall issue, I noticed a strong corporeal presence in each of them. The way our bodies protect us, give us pleasure, keep us rooted to the earth, betray us. I wonder if it’s because we were cooped up for so long that bodies are now leaping off the page. Also in these selections is the bracing current of women finding strength and interrogating who they are; people grappling with the choices they have made. 

In Gary Finke’s “On Location: A Valentine” a grandfather nurtures his granddaughter’s interest in a sport and acknowledges how his relationship to it and to his own history has shifted with the passage of time. “She wanted to know how hard it was for me to play with a wooden racket, a thing so strange and heavy,” he recalls, “its small sweet spot that must have made tennis more difficult.” He caters to the burgeoning young athlete before him with a bemused patience; attentive to their different points of reference, heavy hearted at their parting.  

In “Here nor There” Kay Ugwuede pulls the reader into the fervor of a blossoming relationship and the dulling of everything else, the world at large no match for the ardor she and her new love share. “Work Desk in May,” she writes, “We kiss. We kiss often afterward. It is slow, buttery, tender. Then it is intense, a desperate gathering of all the months since March, since the last time I kissed or held someone.” Ugwuede suspends us in her rapture, weaves a tale of anticipation even as the affair reaches its fateful conclusion. 

“I’ve loved knowing every spring there will be fertile soil to tend––energy to expend toward beauty,” Whitney Lee writes in “The Garden.” Yet among the lush petals and leaves, dew and dirt, she sees glaring laboratory light and an impending absence. She marvels at what her body can do even as it is close to losing that ability. What, she seems to be asking, is something worth when it no longer has the potential to grow, how can we hold onto that which slips away?

Time and space are frozen and surrender to something larger in “Ourobouros” by Kaidi Stroud. “Spring thaw heaves rocks into surprising new shapes,” she writes. “Walking under impossible overhangs, hikers hold their breath and pat rocks as if willing them to stay.” Water and stone, fragility and strength course through this piece, unfurling and then circling back, ever anchored by the ancient symbol for which it is named.

In “I carry my weight in groceries,” Sophie Nau takes the reader along on a walk home in her new town as she sifts through memories and beliefs she has long held about herself. She notices that “people ask why you carry around what you carry around without knowing anything about it”. As she moves from moment to moment her ruminations transform into something larger while brightly illuminating who she is and who she isn’t.  

Tamping down her body’s response to a painful relationship exacts a toll on Anne Gudger inThe Artist.” “The heat of a long-ago ulcer bleeds,” she writes. “This hole seared in my gut when I was eight, when my words couldn’t unburn Mom’s fire words, when I learned to hold words in my mouth.” Whether she chooses to speak up or carry on, confront or tuck away, she recognizes she will nonetheless feel the impact. Her truth is lodged within her, it “scrapes my pink mouth like a dried-out peach pit,” and she must decide if she will share it.

As we contemplate the shorter days and our separateness once again, a place we’ve been to but not exactly like before, I find myself more and more grateful for the respite of the summer and so pleased to be working with the generous and kind team at The Citron Review. This marks the third issue Charlotte Hamrick and I have been Creative Nonfiction Editors and it’s been an absolute privilege to read submissions. We invite you to submit your essays, memoirs, and nonfiction stories, we read them closely and treat them with care. 

Here’s wishing you a safe and restorative Fall.

Until next time, 

Ronit Plank
Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review

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