Apt is forwarded by an editors’ note, advising us that rather than dividing their magazine into prose and poetry as some journals do, they have arranged it thematically, “with one piece building on the last and complementing the next”. This is not especially unusual, but highlighting it does beg the question: have the pieces been chosen on their own merits or because they fit with other pieces in the magazine? Reading Apt I don’t get a sense that work has been shoehorned in–some pieces are weaker than others, but this is the case with any magazine–but many pieces do share a similar tone. The first half of the magazine, in particular, is dominated by colloquial voices describing offbeat characters. Nothing particularly stands out one way or the other.
There are two outstanding pieces towards the end of the magazine, Robert Aquinas McNally’s “Meditatio De Merda Canaria” and “ Monster” by Clayton Michaels. Both are difficult to categorise. “Meditatio De Merda Canaria”, the narrator assures us, is Latin for “thinking about coyote shit“. The piece is five paragraphs of prose that do just that: think about Coyote shit. It is not linear enough to be a conventional essay, but it doesn’t fit any other category either. This is consistent with the editors’ expressed desire for “essays that are also poems”. Here, “coyote shit” provides the focal point for an oblique meditation about the relationship between humanity and the environment that avoids the pitfalls of over-earnestness and hippy-vagueness.
Clayton Michaels’ piece is harder to categorise. It appears to be a mock encyclopaedia entry, complete with footnotes, footnotes to the footnotes, footnotes to the footnotes’ footnotes and occasionally even a fourth level of footnote. The resemblance to any kind of academic or scholarly discourse ends there. The footnotes are artfully arranged on the page, and the appearance contributes to the effect as much as the words. The content of the piece, meanwhile, avoids coherent narrative in favour of a loose collection of language and images. The line “and you smell just like a Tom Waits song” sums the piece up, bypassing logic to present a richer description.
Other pieces worth a mention include “Not Quite Stars” by Julie Baber, “About The Grandparents” by Gillian Devereux, and “Fertile” by Nate House. These are more conventional pieces. “Not Quite Stars” is a poem that combines rich imagery with a loose rhythm and rhyme scheme. “About The Grandparents” is a single-paragraph meditation about grandparents. “Fertile”, a short story that begins at the funeral of a fertility doctor, is the most conventional narrative in the magazine. Surrounded by self-conscious attempts to defy convention, it benefits from its directness.
This magazine probably isn’t for everyone: readers with a taste for realist narratives and traditional poetry are probably best avoiding it. Any reader with the slightest inclination to explore beyond familiar genres ought to find several pieces that are at least interesting and hopefully a couple of pieces that are worth re-reading.
Having spent most of his twenties trying to be a musician Jason Jawando was finally forced to give up and get a proper job. He began writing fiction and poetry in his early thirties and has been published in a number of print and online publications.