A Symphony of Poetry & Prose by Rebecca Zornow

Books & Literature May 20, 2021

Michigan Quarterly Review

Editor: Khaled Mattawa

In celebration of 60 years, the Michigan Quarterly Review released two installments of their 60th volume this spring. The first installment focused on six decades of literary history while the second highlighted emerging writers.

In the forward for this second installment, Editor Khaled Mattawa references the climate the publication was released into: one of a global health crisis dotted with political dissension. Voicing his hope, Mattawa reflects on the power of literature during trying times, as demonstrated by the solace W. H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” offered America in the wake of September 11th. Similarly, he highlights Amanda Gorman’s eloquent performance at the 2021 inauguration by writing, “And a young poet, rising to the occasion, spoke, deftly showing us, because we have not been here before, how to handle celebration and forbearance at the same time.”

It is clear the editorial staff of the 60th volume of the Michigan Quarterly Review seeks to draw upon the reflective and restorative powers of poetry and prose. The volume adroitly expresses the weight and fragile optimism of current times through literature from 32 poets and writers.

In “The Year I was a Boy”, Mette Harrison recounts how her neurodivergence made gender an opaque subject, one everyone seemed to understand except her. Through a series of small incidents, including the acquisition of “durable” boy-like clothing picked out by her mother while back-to-school shopping and a random clerical error at school, Harrison spent a year of primary school discovering what it was like to be a boy in her community.

“Everybody Wins” by Samantha Barron and “Couplets by Ghalib” by Anitha Ahmed are two fictional stories set in a Los Angeles neighborhood and in West Pakistan respectively. Both stories reflect upon the experience of students in poverty vaulted into the lavish homes of their peers.

A collection of pieces on the topic of motherhood and loss spill across poetry and nonfiction, white and Black experiences, from the perspective of a parent and from that of a child.

Tractor crashes, the Cold War, even Billie Eilish, make appearances in these pages.

The Michigan Quarterly Review curates literature that is at once universal and niche. It allows readers to connect to the pulsing life blood of American culture—not just one’s own echo chamber or preferred bubble, but to a symphony of voices.

Michigan Quarterly Review Vol. 60 No. 2 Spring 2021


Rebecca Zornow

Rebecca Zornow is a writer and book coach. She is the 2020 winner of the Hal Prize in nonfiction. Find her at ConquerBooks.com.