From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
This issue we're excited to name Scott Gould as our Spotlight Author for his richly layered story, "Hammer, Anvil, and Stirrup," with runner-up recognition going to poet Sharon Fagan McDermott and nonfiction author Andrew Bertaina. Besides bragging rights, Scott, Sharon, and Andrew will also be receiving nominal cash prizes.
As I've done a couple times already, I borrowed some striking images from the British Library's Photostream to adorn this issue. I love salvaging and re-purposing all kinds of things, and artwork in the public domain for Eclectica is one of my favorites. If anyone has any leads or ideas for other sources of art and images, please drop me an email.
It's been a busy and fruitful winter/spring. Besides putting together this issue, we've also been hard at work assembling four print anthologies to celebrate our 20th year online. I'm happy to report our Kickstarter campaign was a success, the teeshirts came out great, and all four volumes are getting close to being complete. Many of our readers are no strangers to the publishing business, so they won't be surprised to hear me say it's all taking some major effort. Just tracking down over 200 authors, getting permissions and contracts and bios, is no small undertaking. I'm very happy with how the books are coming out, though, and can't wait to get the finished product out there and into peoples' hands.
If you missed the chance to participate in our Kickstarter campaign, there will be another opportunity later this spring/summer to pre-order books and teeshirts.
Awhile back I started trying to capture some context in my editor notes—these issues serving as benchmarks or time capsules in my life and perhaps some of yours—so I'd have to say the biggest thing going on here in April of 2016 has to be the upcoming presidential elections. The saga of this campaign season has pretty much dominated all forms of media, be it social, mainstream, talk radio, late-night comedy... At this juncture, it's still anybody's guess as to who will win the Democratic and Republican nominations, let alone the Presidency of the United States. Of course, we have two Houses of Congress and a Supreme Court hanging in the balance as well, and state and local elections may not be capturing our attentions and imaginations, but the outcomes at those levels will probably affect each of us more profoundly than the person we pick to occupy the Oval Office.
At any rate, this year it's been all politics, all the time. Just yesterday, my fellow Alaskan Sarah Palin was in the news again, decrying Bill Nye as just "a kids' show actor... not a scientist." It's hard not to be snarky and view her comment as understandable, since people are often mistaking her for a bad reality tv star rather than a world statesman.
Very hard to resist snarkiness and partisan boorishness, those being the coins of the realm these days. Better to focus on the remarkable range of authors in this issue. On that front, we have the usual variety of long-time contributors, including David Mathews (appearing in his 10th issue!), Marjorie Mir (16th!), Jascha Kessler (21st!), Ray Templeton (25th!), Bob Bradshaw (29th!), Barbara De Franceschi (36th!) and Thomas Hubschman (38th!), along with authors appearing in our pages for the first time: the aforementioned Scott Gould and Andrew Bertaina, Michael Mungiello, Jennifer Hanno, John McMahon, Chris Tannlund, T.L. Cummings, Paul Crenshaw, Paul Handley, and Thomas Ferraro. That's more newcomers than we usually have in a given issue, which makes me very happy for the future, hoping many or all of them will continue to send work our way. In fact, we have a number of authors in this issue (the aforementioned Sharon McDermott, Garrett Socol, Erica Goss, Mark Magoon, Gina O'Neill, Terry Ofner, Joe Bardin, and Paul Holler) who are doing just that, becoming returning contributors. I'll hold off naming everyone in the issue, but it's a testament to the feeling of community we have that there are a bunch of folks not mentioned above who are back for their third, fourth, or fifth appearances.
Before I sign off, I want to mention some great news about a few Eclectica alums. Siel Ju just won the Red Hen Press Fiction Manuscript Award for her novel-in-stories, Cake Time, which contains "Holiday Love Scarf," which appeared in our Jul/Aug 2014 issue. Congrats, Siel! Kudos, also, to Dolan Morgan, whose second collection of stories, Insignificana, was just released by CCM. Meanwhile, Main Street Rag Publishing Co. is publishing Michael Catherwood's second book of poems, If You Turned Around Quickly, this summer. And finally, check out Stephen Bett's new book from Blazevox: Those Godawful Streets of Man: A Book of Raw Wire in the City. Richard Stevenson of Pacific Rim Review of Books said, "Line for line, strophe for strophe, image for image, Stephen Bett's latest delivers the news, along with the tart tast of jazz and blues." Hey, any time one inspires a reviewer to produce a rhyming blurb, I'd say you've achieved some level of poetic success! I look forward to hearing about more successes in the coming years, no doubt involving some of the authors appearing here in this very issue.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Happy National Poetry Month to all! I'm always looking for more ways to celebrate poetry during April, and having a good-sized poetry section seems like one of the best! This issue features a Word Poem Special Feature that, with 13 poems, is only one poem shorter than the regular poetry section. I hope you'll spend some time this Poetry Month browsing around both sections!
I've written about the Word Poem Special Feature here before, but I'd like to give it another plug. My first association with reading (and writing) word poems came in the April/May issue of 2001, when then-poetry editor Julie King asked me and a few other poets to write poems containing four particular words. This was the launch of the Word Poem Special Feature, and 16 years later, it just keeps gaining momentum. My favorite reason for recommending it is from my own experience that responding to the four words provides an opportunity to write something I wouldn't otherwise have written. So take a look at the four new words—maze, parade, loom, and recognize—and see what otherwise hidden poems you're able to create!
Our Spotlight Runner-Up, Sharon Fagan McDermott, is a previous contributor for her poem "Crows: The Yard" in the April/May issue of 2010, and her second appearance in Eclectica is these four wonderful poems. To me, all four say something about intangibles, like memory, and making those intangibles more tactile—and of course, by doing that, making them easier to grasp. In "Prayer to Dylan Thomas," McDermott asks "What is art's job?" and art here is the intangible something that is being given physicality as the speaker asks for "your silence before song, your / cats in the shadows, your mornings / when the moon still holds sway." "In the Winter Room" is an ekphrastic poem in dialogue with Andrew Wyeth's Groundhog Day, 1959, and both "Summer Prayer: Pennsylvania" and "Springtime, New Jersey" look at what is past and people and places that are gone. To me, the last lines of "Summer Prayer: Pennsylvania" resonate most strongly: "Words cannot bring you back. /But, if words can do anything, / let constellations swirl with your memory, / let them hold you as I can't. / Let them bless this ink with stars."
As Tom Dooley mentions in his note, this issue is filled with both familiar voices and voices new to Eclectica. If one of these poets' work really speaks to you here, take a look at our vast archives—it's certainly possible you might find more to read! And if this is a poet's first appearance—as it is for Terry Ofner (who has previous humor published in Eclectica), Chris Tannlund, and T.L. Cummings, —we hope you'll soon see more work from them in the archives!
And again, happy reading! I hope you continue to celebrate poetry in April and all throughout the year!
From Gilbert Wesley Purdy, Review Editor
Thanks to Ann Skea for continuing to send us reviews in this, her 18th year of doing so.
Unfortunately, once again there was not enough time to do the Indy eBook review column in this issue. I still hope to return to it for the next. I also still intend to do a column of short eBook reviews each issue along with some insight and commentary about aspects of the electronic publishing world.
I'm happy to present an interview of Tania Hershman by Paul Hollar. Paul has already done fine work with Eclectica. Tania's books include My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books) and Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open (Southword Editions).
I would like to invite anyone who might read this to send along reviews of books, art, music, cultural organizations, companies and events—local, regional, national, and international—and cultural crit pieces on the same. Feel free to do so as a one-off or more or less regularly as works for you. I look forward to continue to expand the Review/Interview Section during the months ahead, to include a wide range of lively, insightful (even quirky) cultural crit. I hope you will stop by to read and/or submit.