Found: in ABQ – studio art jewelry by Jessica deGruyter
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
The artwork for this issue comes to us courtesy of Jessica deGruyter, a self-taught artist and metal smith who creates jewelry from things she finds while hiking in the deserts and mountains of New Mexico: leaves and seeds, molted bird feathers, insect wings, and raw and uncut stones like Luna druzy, Pecos diamond, and Sandia granite. Her grandparents were teeth-makers, jewelers, and watchmakers, and it's easy to imagine their vocations influencing the work Jessica produces. I'm thrilled at how striking these images are, both individually and collectively.
Speaking of thrills of an artistic, literary nature, we have a tremendous trio of Spotlight authors this issue. Runners-Up honors go to Gian-Paul Bergeron for his short story, "Protagonist," and Annie Stenzel for her three accomplished poems "The messengers speak, in passing," "A breach in the barrier against nostalgia," and "spectrum"; while Dyna Kassir earns the top prize for her moving and beautifully written memoir, "The Children of So Many Tears."
On the fiction front, I'm psyched to present work by former Spotlight author John Palcewski, former contributor Linda Griffin, the aforementioned Bergeron, and three newcomers to our pages: Vivian Zenari, Seth Rogoff, and the mononymous Provost.
This is no easy batch of stories. Each of them presents their own challenges to the reader, and each presents distinctive rewards. Palcewski's "Can of Worms" gives you a protagonist who's not all that easy to like, but both the protagonist and the author are refreshingly unapologetic in a world where boors and "snowflakes" still, and must, coexist.
Griffin's "Rumpelstiltskin" is automatically the most challenging story of the batch because of its subject matter—think the 2015 Brie Larson film Room, but more awful—and it rewards with undeniable tension and female characters who, along with the author, refuse to let the dehumanizing situation rob them of their humanity.
How is Provost's "Wigger Boy, Spit" a challenge? It's a story about a wigger, for one thing, being narrated by said wigger. Not too many folks are down with wiggers. It's also got footnotes. All of which is what makes this a highly entertaining story to read, and while the world of hip hop and "grime" doesn't always treat women with utmost respect, "Wigger" and its narrator are, well, trying.
Rogoff's "Lecture #3: Jackie K.'s 'Dress Shop Window'" quite literally is a story within a story, not to mention a story about a story, all couched within a lit class lecture a bit more edgy than most universities these days would allow. For all the smarty-pants intellectual flourishes, though, a central idea at the heart of this piece is that women are not just defined by their roles in male-centric narratives.
The idea that women have agency is quietly and beautifully illustrated by Zenari's "Lamps Light the World," where the main characters are women who do and think for themselves, or in the case of one character, might fail in those departments regularly but still have the capacity to light something on fire.
The idea of feminine agency is hammered home, anything but quietly, in "Protagonist," where Bergeron manages to pull off something rare: putting the reader in a devastatingly sad place while also being wildly inventive and throwing down a wide swath of social satirical commentary right on point in the year of "Me Too."
Overall, I'm really happy with the way these stories came together. They're part of another full issue, rich with colors and textures, populated with writing as solidly crafted and gorgeous as deGruyter's jewelry. Thanks as always to Gil, Jen, and David for doing a great job with their respective sections, and to our regular contributors Thomas J. Hubschman, Stanley Jenkins, and Ann Skea, and to former Interview Editor Elizabeth P. Glixman, who returned to give us a review of Natalie Diaz's When My Brother Was An Aztec. It's great to hear from Betty again and to have another issue hitting the Web.
Happy reading, and happy Spring!
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
I'm delighted to welcome Elizabeth P. Glixman, who was previously Interview Editor here at Eclectica, back to the Review Section again. For this issue she has reviewed When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz. Thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for her raft of insightful reviews. Her review of the unabridged edition of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, in particular, gives the reader plenty of interesting insights.
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 expanding 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.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Happy Spring and happy Poetry Month to all! April is one of my favorite months for both of those reasons, and while spring seems very slow to arrive in Chicago, I'm encouraged by more and more flowers appearing every day. I also love April because there always seems to be a bountiful poetry section that coincides nicely with National Poetry Month. This issue is certainly no exception, and what I want to do here is give you a few highlights as you prepare to dive in yourself.
As I said, there is a real embarrassment of riches here. Lots of poems by both new voices and regular contributors, and a Word Poem Special Feature that must be one of our largest. In particular, I want to call your attention to "The Moon Has Nothing to Be Sad About: A Golden Shovel" by Devon Balwit. This poem makes use of the golden shovel form and incorporates the four words as well, and it made me realize how seldom the Word Poem section features poems that are following other constraints as well as ours. I love this poem—and the form. Balwit's poem uses a beautiful line from Sylvia Plath and adds so much more to it. Look for how the four words are used as well! Truly a lovely accomplishment. In addition to Balwit, other new voices in the Word Poem Special Feature are Jessica G. de Koninck, Ann Malaspina, Andrew Shattuck McBride, Christine Taylor, Bryan Prasifka (who also has a poem in the "regular" poetry section), Jenny Wong, Rachel Sprague, and Evan Richards: I would have to double check, but this might be the most new Word Poem contributors ever! We are always grateful for our returners, and this issue we have Bob Bradshaw, Sheikha A., Antonia Clark, Greta Bolger, David Mathews, and a second poem collaboratively written by Mathews and his mother, Sharon Mathews.
Regarding the "regular" poetry section (which, as usual, has nothing regular about it), I want to say a few things about Karlo Sevilla's two poems, "Shadow Play" and "Nocturnal, Almost." Sevilla is new to Eclectica, and we hope we'll hear more from him (as well as from our other first-time contributors!), and these poems, though brief, give the reader a vivid glimpse of shared moments that bring us into a life's intimacy. I've revisited them several times and hope you'll spend time with them too, as well as with the other wonders that this issue holds. Other new voices in the Poetry Section are Carole Mertz, Priyam Goswami Choudhury, Patrick T. Reardon, Aditi Rao, Matthew Bruce Harrison, and Leigh McDonald, while returners include Rich Ives, Lisa McMonagle, Darren C. Demaree, Kenneth Pobo, John Sweet, Marjorie Mir, and Steven Deutsch.
Annie Stenzel is a Spotlight Author Runner-Up for her three poems, "The messengers speak, in passing," "A breach in the barrier against nostalgia," and "spectrum." This is Stenzel's second appearance in our virtual pages, the first being our Jan/Feb 2017 issue. These three poems are a great place to start reading this issue's poetry section, and I particularly find myself thinking about how they address the tension between past and present, as well as geography and seasonal change. In "spectrum," it is the winter solstice, and "all things are held / in one breath: the sky spilling / its darkness into the adjacent / latitude; colors almost too pale to name / seep back first." I know you'll enjoy the time you spend with these lovely poems!
Happy reading, all! And if you're looking for more after you finish these poems, I always like to call attention to our very extensive archives! Many good wishes for a new season of the year!