25 is alive!

Dear friends,

The 25th volume of our Clackamas Literary Review has arrived! 

Our thanks to Brook Johnson for gifting us Cloud Nine for this year’s cover!

And thanks to our incredible assistant editors for their tireless work and commitment to publish another issue of our beloved literary journal! Thanks also to the CCC English faculty, staff, and publishing alumni who volunteered their time as associate editors.

Our thanks especially to the writers and poets for sharing your remarkable work with us—this year, especially, your words keep us going. Contributors include:

Ken Autrey, Diane Averill, Devon Balwit, Nathan Bas, Trent Busch, William J. Cobb, Nicole Cortino, Riley Danvers, Hannah Davis, Susanne Davis, Adam Day, Linda Drach, Bernard W. Duffy, Meli Broderick Eaton, Andrew Rader Hanson, William Heath, Madronna Holden, Wynne Hungerford, Marc Jampole, M. Jennings, Jeffrey Kingman, Robert Krut, Jeffrey Letterly, Mary Makofske, Steven Mayer, Melissa McKinstry, Colton Merris, Cecil Morris, Scott F. Parker, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Barry Peters, Daniel Pié, Geoff Polk, Vivienne Popperl, Bruce Pratt, Levi Rogers, Mary Rohrer-Dann, Karen Sandberg, Mark Simpson, Geo. Staley, Jeanine Stevens, Robert Stone, Stephanie Striffler, Anannya Uberoi, Peter Vertacnik, John Walser, Francis Walsh, Alanna Weissman, and Darlene Young.

Finally, and as always, thank you to our readers. The 2021 issue of the Clackamas Literary Review is our gift to you. Enjoy!

Our 2020 issue is here!


Please help us say hello to the 24th volume of our Clackamas Literary Review! CLR.2020..indd

Our cover artist is Sophie Estrada. Thank you, Sophie, for Healing Hands—it makes for a beautiful cover!

Thanks to our student editors—your hard work and exuberance is why this book exists in the world! Thanks also to the CCC English faculty, staff, and publishing alumni who volunteered their time as associate editors on this incredible issue.

And thanks especially to our authors: the writers and poets who, year after year, trust us with their wonderful words—your work is what drives our commitment to publish. This year’s contributors include:

Chris Anderson, Jacob M. Appel, Rachel Arteaga, Bruce Barrow, Rachel Barton, Nathan Bas, Ace Boggess, Andrea Campbell, S.W. Campbell, Geoff Cannard, Marisa P. Clark, Thomas Cooper, Brian Cronwall, Riley Danvers, Michelle DeLiso, Judith DeVilliers, Erin Doyle, Birch Dwyer, Jack Eikrem, Sharon Goldberg, John Grey, Hilary Harper, Joseph Harris, Suzy Harris, Lisa Higgs, Romana Iorga, Marc Jampole, John P. Kristofco, David Langlinais, Jeffrey Letterly, Sherri Levine, Jennifer Lothrigel, Michael Milburn, Susannah B. Mintz, Cecil Morris, Greg Nicholl, James B. Nicola, Nancy Nowak, Simon Perchik, Paulann Petersen, Vivienne Popperl, Corey S. Pressman, Joel Savishinsky, Alicia Schmidt, Dave Seter, Chet Skibinski, Darcy Smith, David Spiering, Matthew J. Spireng, Elizabeth Stoessl, John Struloeff, Adam Tavel, Jacob D. Thompson, Marty Walsh, John Sibley Williams, and Henry Wise.

Finally, thanks to our readers—simply: you are why we publish.

So, once more, say hello to the 2020 issue of the Clackamas Literary Review! It’s a book made just for you. For just right now.

Open for 2020 Submissions!

Our submission window for the XXIV volume of the award-winning Clackamas Literary Review is now open! From September 1st through December 31st we’re accepting prose, poetry, and possibility texts. Check out our submissions page for guidelines.

We can’t wait to read new work from the incredible poets and writers who trust us with their words!

2019 Edition Now Available

The 23rd volume of the Clackamas Literary Review is available for purchase!

Links to purchase online:


Barnes & Noble


CLR.2019.Cover.BOWKER (1)

Editors Note:

“Few things bridge distance quite like the written word. Writing can carry ideas beyond cultures, generations, and borders. For writers, those impossible optimists, this journey involves ideas too stubborn to relinquish, shaped by long nights before page or screen-smudged ink, sweaty keystrokes, picky edits, fleeting inspiration, quiet doubts, and even quieter resolve-all to get ideas out to the world.

Some of the writers’ ideas have made their way to us, the editors of Clackamas Literary Review. For the past several months we have come together to read and re-read, discuss, debate, and wrestle through each submission, spending hours dissecting pieces we were unsure about and fighting for the stories and poems we loved. Our discussions stirred deeper thought, challenging us in unexpected ways as we reconciled differing perspectives. Often this allowed us to see things in a new light, as beloved pieces were turned away and ones we did not first appreciate became favorites. Slowly, something that began as many individual efforts became a collaborative experience, reminding us that dissonance and diversity are part of a written work’s journey.

In this world that feels increasingly disconnected and isolated, each piece you are about to read was created by a soul seeking connection. A connection to someone like you. Countless hours have been spent in service of the book you now hold in your hands and the connection is creates. Enjoy the variety of works in this volume; let them sink in and become a part of who you are-part of your journey through the messy, chaotic, wonderful world we live in. And may the experience lead you to find something new of yourself along the way.”

Our published authors this year include:

Jeffery Alfier

Dianne Averill

Simon Anton Niño Baena

Chad Barlett

Larry Beckett

Ace Boggess

Jeffery S. Chapman

Douglas Cole

Nick Conrad

Holly Day

Christine DeSimone

Will Donnelly

Nancy Flynn

Taylor Gaede

Jesse Gardner

Tim Gillespie

LaVonne Griffin-Valade

Suzy Harris

Marie Hartung

Madronna Holden

James Croal Jackson

John P. Kristofco

David Mihalyov

Cecil Morris

Linda Neal

Daniel J. Nickolas

Francis Opila

Ty Phelps

Corey S. Pressman

Will Radke

Susan Bruns Rowe

Mark Rubin

Peter Serchuk

Tara K. Shepersky

Ben Slotky

Matthew J. Spireng

Hollyn Taylor

Chelsea Thiel

Evan Morgan Williams

John Sibley Williams

CLR contributor wins poetry prize!

Two-time contributor Danielle Hanson’s new book, Fraying Edge of Sky, just won the Codhill Poetry Award! Included in the book is her poem “Saints,” which first appeared in our 2012 volume. Congratulations Danielle!!



Between the destruction of angels, creation of philosophers, and use of mythological creatures, Fraying Edge of Sky captures a side of the other-world humans don’t see into very often: “A walking stampede, slow and terrible. / The hospital for nonexistent children. / A mountain devouring clouds.” Hanson’s beautiful lyricism and shocking imagery coalesce in wonderment, in poems that play with the power of light and dark, ultimately haunting the pages that make up her magical book, reminding us over and over of how “We are giants over the fallen.”

A Review from our Review

From Volume XXII, 2018

Lives in the Balance: A Review of Rafael Alvarez’s Basilio Boullosa Stars in the Fountain of Highlandtown

by Sue Mach

“How many sins could you commit in one day and still tell yourself you were a good man?” After skipping a traditional Christmas Eve dinner and screwing up an untraditional one he was supposed to be having with his girlfriend, the character of Wigmann contemplates this question as he downs a liver and onion dinner at a Baltimore harbor-side bar while thumbing through passages of The Diary of Anne Frank, deciding whether or not he will go to the pier, upon his mother’s request, to pick up a visiting Spaniard from the Old Country. All of the themes of Rafael Alvarez’s evocative collection of short stories, Basilio Boullosa Stars in the Fountain of Highlandtown, coalesce in this moment. The question of goodness and the search for beauty are underlying currents throughout these stories.

Wigmann is a featured player in the first story, “I Know Why I Was Born,” which begins on the day that our star, Basilio, (age eight) wakes up and realizes he was “[b]orn to paint the pictures in his head, to sketch the kitchen in the basement, to capture the clouds as the wind drove them past the bottle cap factory down by the railroad tracks, to capture the air that swirled across the tarred rooftops.” The stories are roughly chronological and follow Basilio from his artistic awakening to his free-fall from a scaffold while painting a mural, “a plunging pint of Hellenic blue about to mix with the thin blood of an 86-year-old artist who’d never received his due.”

While Baltimore is his canvas, Basilio’s chorography is the soul. The book was published on the twentieth anniversary of Alvarez’s first short story collection, The Fountain of Highlandtown, and the short story from which the collection bears its name appears in both books. Reading the story a second time in a different context is a unique experience because now we know Basilio as a middle-aged man who, in both his paintings and his life, is simply trying to get things right. Divorced and out of a “real job,” he moves from the suburbs to Macon Street to live with his Spanish grandfather. “Why are you here?” the old man asks almost daily. It’s a question that never escapes the artist.

Art, for Basilio, is a way to capture the past and still the motion of constant change in which rituals and traditions are turned upside down. For instance, not long after his divorce, Basilio fake-marries a woman in an Elvis bar where they fish their rings from a tank of abandoned wedding bands. The truest moment of the story is when the woman, Roxanne, literally bears her breasts and asks him to paint her.

Basilio’s great obsession is his distant cousin, Nieves, “…both kin and stranger, all of nineteen years old,” who arrives unannounced from Spain to live with him and his grandfather in an attempt to escape a drug addiction. For Basilio, Nieves brings “[a] sense of being in Spain though he’d never been, a transcendence of time and place he tried to understand but never felt from the stories he’d heard from Grandpop all his life, the stories he’d begun to paint after moving in.” Basilio abandons all common sense; instead he tries to discover Nieves by painting and sketching her. In the end, not unlike the genetic memory of a past he will never know, she becomes lost to him—both literally and figuratively, after she’s arrested for shooting heroin. She leaves the house and folds into the city. Neither Basilio nor this American Jerusalem can save her.

Alvarez is a kind of urban Proust, favoring pickled pig’s feet over madeleines, and baseball stadiums in lieu of French drawing rooms, all underscored by a rock and roll soundtrack. Things fall apart. A sober Basilio arrives too late in the eighth inning of an Orioles game in an attempt to reconcile with his wife. Expressways plow through immigrant neighborhoods. In order to get his daughter access to private Catholic education, Basilio makes a deal with a beer drinking nun to restore paintings in a church and school that will vanish the following year. Still, from the rubble comes some kind of rebirth, and the artists—both Basilio and Alvarez—bear witness. These stories strike a profound balance between motion and stillness, the sacred and the profane—the tension of which achieves the beauty they seek.


Rafael Alvarez’s short story, “The Road to Hibbing,” was featured in the 2015 volume of the Clackamas Literary Review. Basilio Boullosa Stars in the Fountain of Highlandtown is published in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his collection of short stories titled The Fountain of Highlandtown.