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  • Writer's pictureThe Iris Review

The Timberline Review

The Timberline Review is a journal run, according to a letter from the editor, completely by volunteers. The Willamette Writers is the company behind the publication, and on their tenth issue, decided to title it “Time Capsule,” in order to capture the essence of the year 2020 in its fullness, confusion, desperation, and loss all rolled into one. The issue is divided into three parts, each interspersed with poems, fiction, and nonfiction.

Upon first examination of the journal, I decided to look closely at the first piece featured. I wanted to see how it opened up the larger narrative of the journal as a cohesive unit. The piece is a poem entitled, “An Inch of Time Is An Inch of Gold” by Jiahui Wu. It is the prologue of the journal. The formatting takes up most of the page and the lines are primarily non end stop lines. It serves as a sort of stream of consciousness poem that the editors thought would set the tone for the rest of the magazine. The speaker is reminiscing about her mother and their dynamic, which seems fraught with tension. There’s a push and pull between the speaker desiring closeness with her mother and some past animosity, which as she has grown older, she has learned to let go of, “now talking to my mother I do not take offense I do not / expound on my take on life / and she does not expound on hers / Mother’s time is limited mine too is / why quibble over what was lost?” Wu writes. The speaker has an ambivalent perspective here that I find interesting. She recognizes that the need to have her mother around and be on good terms with her overrides the questionable attitude she may have had towards her in the past.

As I progressed through the journal, I tested out the theory we have often spoke of in class: reading the first piece that jumped out at me based on the title alone. I chose “Dream As Gypsy Moth” by Ace Englehart. This poem proved to be even more interesting as I read it. It is the only piece in here to have a visual aid. The format is also one I’m not familiar with. The poem is broken up into four parts, all numbered. They all have headings to capture moments in time. The first section, set in Shenandoah, 1991, is about two people meeting for the first time as gypsy moths are becoming an invasive species in the national park. The second section seems to be these two people engaged and getting to know each other. The third part is only the visual aid, a picture of a gate with a ghostly image transposed over it of two people, features unknown. Finally, the fourth part is “a dream, suspended.” The style here is italicized lines with line breaks written in in the form of forward slashes. The poem as a whole seems to be comparing this relationship between the two main characters to this gypsy moth invasion in the Shenandoah national park, “the female’s ability to fly and defoliate, if repeated, / can lead to the death of forests—she will be a forest,” This is referring to the child the two of them are having together. The narrator of sorts in this poem is pinpointing the combination of these two people together as the reason this “death of forests” is born. I take this poem to be autobiographical. The author’s view of her own family creating the unstable child (her) is very telling, especially comparing her origin story to the destruction of an entire forest system.

The Timberline Review compiled an evocative collection of time oriented works, but didn’t tire me out with mention of the pandemic. Although inspired by quarantine and its uncertainty, the main focus of the issue is the passage of time in general. Time is fraught with tension and realization. As a reader, one can get a clear sense of the contributors’ feelings and ideas about how time affects them or the characters they choose to share with us. The journal’s novel-like format makes for an easy read, and the pieces flow between parts very well. At only their tenth issue, the Willamette Writers clearly know how to put together an effective collection of writing.

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