A Tour Through Big Muddy
by Lynn WatsonPosted on February 1st, 2008 at 10:56 pm
I adore little magazines, but so many come across my desk that I rarely have time to read any of them cover to cover. One exception I always make is Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley. The journal combines the usual literary fiction, poetry, reviews, and essays with work from other disciplines, including history, the sciences, and business.
A trip through Big Muddy is much like a float down its namesake. The magazine’s concentration on the Mississippi River and the ten states that border it provides a natural cohesion to each issue while celebrating the variety of flavors found along the way, from the toughness of the bison jerky famous in Minnesota, to the spice of New Orleans gumbo.
Most recently out is Big Muddy 7.1. It opens with an excerpt from Murder on Rose Hill, Alan Terry Wright’s new historical docudrama, set in 1920s Missouri. Other fiction includes C. D. Mitchell’s short story “Ferdinand C. Posey.” This heartrending but humorous piece is told from the point of view of a young waitress, who’s serving the title character—a man once known as Handsome Kenny King, the King of Memphis wrestling. Also, Louis E. Bourgeois of Mississippi provides two short pieces, “Crabs” and “Pirogue Races,” the latter about racing pirogues into Lake Ponchartrain.
“Down the Great River with Old Bones: a dream song with Mr. Berryman,” a poem by Arizonian Richard Sederstrom, is a must-read, as is “Rivers,” by David Radavich. “Rivers” captures the spirit of the magazine, urging the reader to “carry me with you, / paddle or steam, raft / or river-boat, / down to the Mouth / where everyone celebrates / and opens / like tomorrow.”
In the reviews section, be sure to check out Missouri native Jason Brown’s reading of the “subtly tragic” Amy Hempel collection The Dog of the Marriage. And no river trip is complete with encountering bridges; Gerry Mandel’s photographs of Eads Bridges are scattered throughout the issue.
Past and current issues can be ordered from Southeast Missouri State University Press. Big Muddy 6.2 features a J. T. Ledbetter poem, “Mississippi Headwaters,” and Mary Cantrell’s short story, “Gifts.” Favorites from issue 6.1 are Daniel Crocker’s poem “Camping in Missouri” and C. D. Mitchell’s short story “Memphis.”
Big Muddy 5.2 includes Ryan G. Van Cleave’s poems “The Kudzu Queen” and “Confession #32,” and the issue closes with Philip C. Kolin’s Katrina poem, “The Last Transfers.” Joseph Spring’s essay, “Falling River: The Weight of the Mississippi at Winona” in Big Muddy 5.1, captures the river’s “powerful forces, hidden beneath its calm, pleasing surface” as seen from a Minnesota bluff.
Big Muddy, subtitled “A Unique Collection of Issues, Events, & Images from the Great River Road” was launched in 2001 by editor Dr. Susan Swartwout, who also founded and runs the award-winning Southeast Missouri State University Press.
The magazine’s upcoming issue, 7.2, will feature Big Muddy’s first contest winners. Pat Landreth Keller’s “The Magician’s Assistant” is the winner of the Mighty River Short Story Award. “Shimmering City,” by Lauren Savit, won the Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Award. Mandy Henley, long-time Assistant Editor, promises that Tim Bass’ short story “Home Remedies” is laugh-out-loud funny.
Each wind of the Mississippi River leads its travelers to a new and unique perspective. Like its namesake, Big Muddy encompasses a variety of focuses, ideas, and styles, which sets this little magazine apart from others.