By Mindy Cameron
“The Limberlost Review: A Literary Anthology of the Mountain West” is a stylish collection that more than lives up to its creators’ ambitions. Rick and Rosemary Ardinger first published a literary journal called “Limberlost Review” in 1976. After Rick’s recent as retirement as head of the Idaho Humanities Council, the couple brought their past into the present. The result is a rich sampling of poetry and prose by names familiar to those who treasure writers that so ably mine themes of Western life and landscapes, as well as an introduction to less-known writers.
Up front are previously unpublished poems by William Studebaker, an Idaho poet and avid kayaker of Idaho’s rivers, who died in 2008 while kayaking. An excerpt from Mary Clearman Blew’s forthcoming novel “Will There Be Horses,” is an enticing short section of memory, people and horses that left me eager to read the book by the Moscow author. A short story by Peter Anderson of Driggs, Idaho, is a terrifying tale of escaping flooded fields in a canoe.
Chuck Guilford, a Boise writer with many awards to his credit, revisits Willa Cather’s “My Ántonia,” the classic story of pioneer life on often-brutal prairies. In his essay, he discovers anew “Cather’s ability to evoke and even transport” the reader to another time and place. A must-read for all who have loved and reread “My Ántonia” over the years.
The centerpiece of the anthology is an engaging interview with Clay Morgan, an Idaho writer with four novels, dozens of NPR commentaries and a long resume of service to writers of Idaho. Morgan believes in the power of story, and this interview reveals his journey to that understanding, an ethic that powers so much of great literature.
“The Music of Sense,” an essay by Robert Wrigley, distinguished professor emeritus at University of Idaho, is a master class in understanding how a poet employs the sound and rhythm of language. He analyzes a Richard Hugo poem “Trout,” taking the reader line by line through the poem to show how “Hugo never stops considering all the musical possibilities – meter, rhyme, assonance, alliteration” to be effective over “the grid of line and syntax.” The essay is from Wrigley’s forthcoming collection of essays.
This is but a small sampling of an anthology that is a feast of words and wisdom. It is also a fine picture book. The Ardingers have enhanced the written word with captivating art by Dennis and Jinny DeFoggi of Boise, Jackie Elo, a graphic designer, also from Boise, and Greg Keeler, a poet, memoirist and painter from Bozeman, Mont.
They also included covers of early editions of “The Limberlost Review” from the ’70s and ’80’s, which raises the question: Why Limberlost? It’s a lovely word and can be traced back to a 1910 novel, “The Girl of the Limberlost.” Nope, said Ardinger when I asked. Here’s his story:
“The name Limberlost was the name of a cottage in a small park of cheap cottages where we lived called Rock Falls Park outside Slippery Rock State College, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, now Slippery Rock University.” It was the early 1970s, and the cottages were vintage 1930s, built for summer family getaways. “Not meant for year-round-living” said Ardinger. “But we did.”
A few years later, they decided to start “a little literary magazine” and called it “Limberlost Review.” “The name stuck,” Ardinger said, noting there also is a famous place in Indiana called the Limberlost swamp. “But we had never heard of the swamp or the book until years after we started our Limberlost Press.”
Chalk it up to the lingering power of words. A truth so aptly realized in the 2019 version of the “Limberlost Review.” The book is available through Limberlost Press (www.limberlostpress.com), regional bookstores and online retailers.
Cameron is a retired editor (Lewiston Tribune and Seattle Times) now enjoying retirement in Sandpoint, Idaho.