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Tampa Review 54    Painter Chris Valle brings issues of identity to the forefront on the cover of Tampa Review 54 with a partly rendered figure from his Branded Series. In a world afloat with brand names, trademarks, and corporate identities, the completed individual portrait, or even the self-portrait, can become lost arts. This should make the retrospective and introspective qualities of the literary work collected here all the more compelling. Speakers and narrators review their losses (deaths of siblings, parents, lovers) and their choices (what they have missed; what they have learned) while dimly aware of losing touch with who they are (what they have become).


Paula, a college teacher in Cezarija Abartis’s story “The Legend of Nice Women,” gives classes on “odysseys, successful and failed,” and reassesses her own journeys, the men who briefly traveled with her, beginning three decades before. And later in the issue journalist J. Malcolm Garcia documents the real-life desperate odyssey of former U.S. Marine Cesar Lopez—born in Mexico, but raised in California since the age of five, and in his own eyes, an American—despite multiple “mistakes,” detention, and deportation.  In the end, what identity can these characters in life and in fiction claim for themselves?  What do their struggles tell us about who we are?  And what responsibility should we assume for the title Garcia has given to his piece, “Move to Survive”?


We have a sense today that all of us must “move to survive” as we find ourselves in a world of startlingly rapid and constant change. We continually update our software, change our passwords, and reinvent ourselves while at the same time living under the frightening threat of identity theft. In “Field Trip to the Dead President‘s House,” Intro Awards Winner Emma Hyche points to origins that have been denied: “some slippery identity we can’t find in mirrors or textbooks / or drivers licenses.” Christopher Howell’s poem, “Not Alice,” is a meditation on the precariousness of identity, the loneliness of self-reflection. And in “The Puritans: The Original Cyberbullies,” Caroline Sutton reads the public shaming and isolation of Monica Lewinsky through the lens of The Scarlet Letter, linking Lewinsky’s experience to that of Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne.  She suggests that in the pages of literary print, mass media, and even digital cyber media we find mirrors for ourselves that may be difficult to see, and nearly impossible to own.


In William Snyder Jr.’s “Shoes,” a young boy’s skillful juggling of shoes for sale causes a revolution in the speaker’s view of himself. Like this honest speaker, we find ourselves moving to try to glimpse identity in motion. The speaker in Michael Lavers’s “The Rustle of Hemlock” looks at the waning light of winter when “our earth, / this whole frayed edge of space /seem postscript to a perfect nothingness.” There are the fascinating digital renderings of identity almost seen in Santiago Echeverry’s cybernetic moments of dance and in the undulating motions of Kendall Klymm’s story, “The Belly Dance.” There are profound explorations of international displacement expressed in Nancy Chen Long’s portfolio of poems linking Taiwanese-American, scientific-humanistic, creative identities, and even symbolic-mathematical language in “Dot Product.” Ira Sukrungruang explores Thai-American nonverbal reflections in “The Dog without a Bark,” from his forthcoming book, Buddha’s Dog. And poet Cathryn Essinger provides a way to close the issue, meditative and aware of motion, in “Reading Basho by Fern Light.” Whether in physical, metaphysical, or cybernetic flux—or all of the above—this is us. This constant movement is who we are now.


Fiction by: Cezarija Abartis, Kendall Klym, and Shirley Sullivan

Poetry by: Raymond Philip Asaph, Susanna Brougham, Lauren Camp, Monica Claesson, Maryann Corbett, Ellen Elder, Cathryn Essinger, Christopher Howell, Emma Hyche, Michael Lavers, Mercedes Lawry, Peter Meinke, John Minczeski, Jim Minick, Maria Nazos, Nancy Chen Long, Ann Robinson, Peter Schmitt, William Snyder Jr., Chris Harding Thornton, G. C. Waldrep, Will Wellman, John Sibley Williams

Nonfiction by: J.  Malcolm Garcia, Ira Sukrungruang, Caroline Sutton

Art by: Santiago Echeverry, Kendra Frorup, Lew Harris, Ina Kaur, Jack King, Chris Valle


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