My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like the previous issue, I love the art that illustrates each poem and prose piece. Standouts include Mawia Hunter illustrations for the poems “Clarity” by Jason Alford and “Pathetic Fallacy” by Maximilian Heinegg, illustrations in which figures emerges out of colorful and vibrant splatters and drippings of paint. The artists and the writers are from various parts of the world and part of the charm and enjoyment of The Machinery is how writer and artist from different backgrounds are paired together.
I also really enjoy the writing this time. Even poems I found somewhat opaque in meaning were gorgeous in imagery and language. Several made good use of repeating phrases (anaphora), such as “I don’t” in “Reasons to Skip Breakfast” by Larissa Wirstuik, and repeating lines, such as the wishes in “Wish” by Chris Stewart. I particularly love poems that end with a final line or two that takes the poem in a new direction or toward a philosophical moment or a surprise, and several of the poems do so here, such as the surprising use of “penultimate” in the last line of “We Wanted to Write the Poem” by Corey Mesler, the heartbreaking and hopeful possibility at the end of “I Blush for Erza” by Amanda Besserer, and the unexpected recent memory at the end of “Earthbound Words on a Flight of Fancy. ETA Uncertain.” by Sangeetha Balakrishnan. I want my black socks to fly away and return with a gift, too!
My favorite of the short stories is “For Better and Worse” by Yi Han, a wonderful and inventive fairy tale that subverts the cliches of the genre with a magical corner of a room, inclusive characters, and acute longing. This is the second time I’ve read “For Better and Worse” (The Machinery also publishes each piece on their WordPress website and I had read this particular story a few weeks ago) and I think I understood this time how the characters know each other, an understanding that makes the story even better and more poignant.
Some of the stories also have surprises in their last few sentences. The twist at the end of “Gone Riding” by Sue Ann Porter is humorous, but also a little shocking; just why has the character been feeling so intensely throughout the piece!? The funny ending at the end of “The First Plague” by Phil Temples contrasts with the revelation of what is going on.
I think The Machinery improved greatly between the first and second editions, and now I’m really looking forward to the third!