Artwork by Karen Fox Tarlton
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
This issue features Karen Fox Tarlton's and Marie Massey's colorful, highly textured paintings. A big thanks to those two ladies for brightening up our pages.
Our Spotlight is on Irina Ruvinsky's memoir piece, "Handwriting," with Hannah Edwards' three poems and Sarah Richards' "Chances" (fiction) as our runners up. All together, we've got eight strong stories, three nonfiction and two travel pieces, something humorous from Garrett Socol, eight reviews, 22 poems, and some unique prose in the Salon from an all-time Eclectica great. It's enough good reading to keep one busy through more than one morning coffee session.
Most people don't consume an entire issue, of course—the Internet affords us a much more fickle reading experience. But in putting these issues together, I have the pleasure of reading it all, and I'm frequently surprised by what I learn and what I enjoy in the other sections I'm not directly involved in editing. Former Spotlight Author John Palcewski's memoir, "Exhumations," is one example from this issue. I can only speak for myself, but I have a feeling anyone reading this piece, man or woman, who has experienced a meaningful relationship that didn't work out well, will have some blinding flashes of recognition. Maybe a whole lot of flashes.
Regarding the fiction, which I did have the pleasure of editing firsthand, these are as richly varied a bunch of stories as ever. The fact that all eight authors are new to our Fiction Section, with only Ben Daitz having appeared in Eclectica before (he was previously a Spotlight Runner Up in Nonfiction, which means he's joined an elite group of authors—including Palcewski, Jascha Kessler, and Stanley Jenkins, all in this issue—who have appeared in more than one section of the magazine), is unusual and bodes well for the future. Richards introduces us to a Northwestern fish slimer who is addicted to slot machines, wants things to work out with a girlfriend who isn't crazy about casinos or the smell of fish, and happens to be a woman herself. The narrator of "Chances" joins a crew of other indelible characters in this issue, including an American journalist wooing an English colleague during the British handover of Hong Kong, a lonely scientist laboring under a bad marriage and a worse totalitarian regime, a young Latina woman in a family way and needing the services of a curandera, a couple quietly aging in the Ohio heartland, an understandably neurotic protagonist whose traumatic experience plucked straight from today's headlines gives her a new lease on life, three young people on the verge of privileged adulthood, and two recovering alcoholics having the kind of day that might inspire one to drink. I enjoyed discovering these characters and getting to know them, and I hope you will, too.
We posted this issue later in January than usual, barely even getting it online before the end of the month. The tardiness was due in large part to our working on what will be, for the rest of this year, a very big project. As many of our contributors and regular readers know, we've been raising funds to publish four best-of anthologies celebrating the 20 years we've been online. As of this writing, we successfully met our Kickstarter goal. The project is a go, and while there is a ton of work left to do, I'm excited as heck not just to be celebrating all those years and the 250 authors we'll be publishing in the four volumes, but I'm also hoping these books will be successful enough to justify future volumes and a reissue of our original Best Fiction anthology published in 2004. More than 2,000 authors have graced our pages, with the numbers increasing with every issue, and it's not just a platitude to say there's a lot more work deserving to be anthologized.
Please know, those of you who have been a part of the Eclectica family, but whose work wasn't selected this go round, that I appreciate every one of you, and I will continue to do whatever I can to show that appreciation. I'm sure David and Jennifer feel the same way, both of whom, I might add, deserve hefty bonuses for the work they did this past month on their respective anthologies and putting together this issue, all while fulfilling little, mundane obligations like their day jobs (which provide actual, as opposed to virtual, remuneration).
One small thing I can do to thank our authors is to mention some of our alums' achievements in this editor note, so if you have something going on you'd like me to plug, please let me know. Along those lines, I hope our readers will order Laird Barron's X's For Eyes and Stephen Bett's Selected Poems from Amazon, and then check out G. K. Wuori's Cold Iron.
Speaking of achievements, three Eclectica authors have joined the rarified company of writers whose stories were selected for the storySouth Million Writers Award top ten stories of the year. "Better than Google" by Joe Pitkin, "Jermyn" by Chikodili Emelumadu, and "Poppy’s Got Priors" by Joanell Serra were 2015 finalists. This marks the first year we've placed three stories in the top ten, and it continues what has been an impressive showing by our authors that has resulted in twice as many notable stories and top ten finishers over the history of the MWA as our nearest competitors. I mention this out of pride, yes, but also to indicate the tremendous wealth of talent on this site. Some of that talent gets recognized in things like the MWA or included in an anthology. All of it makes for great reading and is worthy of your time.
Here's wishing you a safe and productive winter.
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
I'm delighted to have books by Eclectica poets reviewed by our Poetry Editor, Jennifer Finstrom, for the first time in this issue, and hope to have more of her reviews in upcoming issues. Thanks, as always, to Ann Skea for for another raft of fine reviews. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to do the Indy eBook review column in this issue. I hope to return to it for the next. I 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 also happy to present an interview of former Eclectica contributor (in poetry, July/August 2010) Vanessa Blakeslee by Kristie Smeltzer regarding Blakeslee's book Juventud, which sounds like a must read.
This issue includes our second historical review, this one of John Keats' Endymion. Reviews in those days pulled no punches and the book was widely panned. Keats' life was reputed to have been as short as it was due to the vicious reviews the book received. My thanks to those who sent comments on last issue's reprint of Jonathan Swift's satirical review of The Art of Political Lying.
I would like, as always, 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.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Eclectica's four-anthology project has been so large and all consuming that I just have to say something about it before moving on to some thoughts on this wonderful winter issue. Putting together the poetry anthology has been—and still is, since it's ongoing—one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done. And I think my favorite part of this whole process has been having the opportunity to simply sit and read (and reread) every single poem published in every single issue. What a tremendous privilege to revisit the work of so many accomplished poets from all over the world who are writing in such astonishing variety.
And that is nowhere more clear to me than it has been lately. In addition to reading through Eclectica's vast history, I've also been reading books written by many of our regular contributors. I briefly mentioned some of these books in the last issue, but I would like to mention David Oestreich's book Cosmophagy again, since it's now available for preorder from Folded Word Chapbooks. I was lucky enough to read this book before its release, and I certainly hope that you'll pick it up. If you'd like to read some work from Oestreich, look no further than this issue (and our archives). In the Word Poem Special Feature, you'll find "The Juncos Return to Northwest Ohio," a lovely sample of what you will find in Cosmophagy.
A few books that I'm eagerly looking forward to getting a hold of are Histories of the Future Perfect by Ellen Kombiyil (The [Great] Indian Poetry Collective), Debris Field from Miriam Kotzin (David Roberts Books, January 2017), and God's Will by Scott Urban (Mad Rush Press). And there's more! Please check out the review section of this issue—I had the delightful experience of writing about Marc Frazier's Each Thing Touches and Mark Magoon's The Upper Peninsula Misses You. I hope you'll investigate some of these wonderful books. And Eclectica poets, if you have a book coming out or some other news to share, please feel free to contact me!
This winter issue is coming out a bit closer to spring than usual, but nonetheless, I hope you'll agree that it was very much worth the wait. As usual, there is a blend of familiar and new voices here, and one of the new voices that I particularly want to point out is Hannah Edwards, one of the Spotlight Runners-Up. The three poems here from Edwards stood out to me the first time I read them. I was struck by how her poems blend the everyday with the numinous: Wonderbread and playdough with ideas like "only grown-ups need oxygen to live." Please check out these poems—and all the rest! I'm especially pleased to share this issue—probably because of the extra time that it took to get it to you—and I do hope you enjoy it!