“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed…it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in her essay “On Being Ill.”
The number of submissions to the Bellevue Literary Review validates Woolf ’s notion. They have quadrupled from our onset to almost 3,000 each year. This issue contains a selection of these submissions, including work entered into our annual contest. We want to thank the judges—Rosellen Brown for fiction, Natalie Angier for nonfiction, and Naomi Shihab Nye for poetry—as well as all our reviewers, for their generous time and attention.
In “Made of Metal and Constructed With Fire” by Katherine Ellis, the winner of the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, a young woman with breast cancer and a slim chance of living long takes a welding class. This superbly wrought story traces the healing power of the creative process, as the narrator undergoes a metamorphosis from wanting certainty to embracing the instability of materials.
Buffy Cram’s “Mineral by Mineral,” which won Honorable Mention, is a rant aiming scattershot at the character’s main targets, until eventually she is driven to extreme measures to ground herself. In “White Space,” Amanda McCormick masterfully renders the stunned numbness of shock.
Several stories are written from a teenager’s point of view. In “Baba,” a 16-year-old must “baba-sit” her once renowned Indian grandfather on his annual summer visit to New Jersey. In “The Egg Bowl,” a Louisiana freshman negotiates his father’s cancer and his own romantic life through his family’s language of football. A lively hospice-bound teenager narrates “SUTHY Syndrome,” a tale of how he and a girl his age make last stands to do what teenagers do—pulling off antics, sexuality—while gaming with death.
For our nonfiction, we are pleased and grateful to announce that Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper have transferred an award originally given through The Ontario Review, now defunct after the death of its editor, Raymond J. Smith, to the Bellevue Literary Review. The Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize for Nonfiction is intended as an ongoing legacy in the name of Gloria Vanderbilt’s son and Anderson Cooper’s brother Carter, an idealistic and promising young thinker and writer at the time of his tragic death in 1988.
The winning essay, “Presence of Another” by Amanda Leskovac, is an account of a 21-year-old discovering her paralysis after a car accident, her life cataclysmically altered. Honorable Mention goes to “Close to the Bones” by Amy Nolan, a piece about recovering from anorexia.
We are proud to announce that The Vilcek Foundation is endowing the BLR poetry prize, now known as the Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry. The Vilceks have been good friends of the BLR and we are grateful for their ongoing support. The prize winner is “Moon-face” by Celeste Lipkes, a poem in rhymed couplets about the decision to suffer through illness and medicine’s side effects, to persist “on the night’s thin skin.” Two Honorable Mentions also address courage. Missy-Marie Montgomery writes in “Edges” about the “struggle to make my way back to the body.” In “Patient Belongings” John Willson muses on the held-breath rhythm of a beloved’s recovery.
We strive to leaven our somber subjects by including imaginative, humorous pieces. In this issue, some also range to the far edges of our themes. In “Love Sick,” a student, like, tells about an impossible crush on his much older teacher, and in “Eruv,” the collective “we” relates what happens when an enclave of practicing Jews in a Christian suburban Denver neighborhood expand their community.
We have enjoyed working on this issue, and have found ourselves at times unusually at odds in our responses, which served to remind us of how singular the acts of writing and of reading are, and therefore how valuable in validating our individual souls. We hope that this issue is equally evocative for you.