Jul/Aug 2017

From the Editors

Photograph courtesy of David Ewald

Photograph courtesy of David Ewald

From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor

Last month, David Ewald hosted what we're calling a "hoopla," a gathering of two or more folks to celebrate Eclectica Magazine, our contributors, and their work. This was the second official Hoopla of the year, with the first occurring earlier in Chicago (in collaboration with Weeds Poetry at the Hideout, which Jennifer Finstrom brings up below in another context!). Another Hoopla is scheduled for early September at the Ghostwolf Gallery in Albuquerque's Old Town. I'm still hoping to attend something in LA, NYC, and perhaps another in the Chicago area in the coming months, and I urge all our readers and contributors to consider putting together a Hoopla of their own. Readings, art displays, live music... it can be a lot of fun, and because of the incredible breadth and diversity encompassed by the Eclectica diaspora, you're never too far from some fellow members of our "extended family," nor is there ever a shortage of vibrant, interesting material to share.

This month, I was remiss in getting this issue together in time for July 1st or even the 15th, ultimately having to settle for the 31st. I'll spare everyone the detailed excuses, but I will say having teenaged children has not been without its challenges and disappointments. We may never know when or if we've succeeded in overcoming some of our latest challenges and disappointments, but I felt compelled to invest a lot of extra hours over the last four weeks in getting things back on track.

This issue is another doozy. Putting together the fiction section, I was surprised to find how many of the pieces seemed to resonate with each other. When I read our submissions, I'm not looking for a particular kind of story or a particular theme. As I mentioned on a comment thread the other day, we operate entirely at the mercy of what shows up in our inbox, and we just try to pick the pieces most deserving of our readers' attention, whether said pieces are by a first-published female author from Nigeria or an established male author from Texas. But that said, life does sometimes have a flow to it, and patterns inexplicably fall into place. TheReviewReview.net took a look at the last issue and concluded, based on the pieces included therein, that we are an America-centric publication for which "the reader... is probably not resident in Southern Sudan, and won't necessarily relate to anything experienced by a person who lives in another faraway space." Had the reviewer happened to land on the Jan/Feb 2017 issue instead, she might have gotten a different impression, or at least a glimpse of our less America-centric side.

All of which caused me to look at the current issue's fiction, wondering what kind of first impression it would provide. What I found was that here again, the work is all by American writers, but I was initially surprised to learn that all six of them are women. Animals have a strong presence in these stories—in fact, "Wild Animals" is the title of one of them!—to include sharks, a snake, a moose, and a kitten. These stories range in length from flash fiction to novella, and they present their female (and male) protagonists as complex, sympathetic, and often perplexing creatures. I wouldn't want a reader or reviewer to conclude these stories represent all Eclectica has to offer in terms of worldview or personal identity, but I'm very happy to have them represent my sensibilities as an editor at this moment, with this issue. This is an impressive batch of fiction, in my estimation, and while there was no plan to assemble an all-female-authored set of six stories that fit together thematically like these do, I'm super pleased it worked out that way. I hope the reader will be, too.

I'd like to give a shout out to our Spotlight Runner Up in the fiction section, Linda Boroff. Her piece, A Season of Turbulence, is the aforementioned novella, and it has the distinction of being set in Alaska. I've flown into Anchorage on some of those white knuckle, cold sweat flights like the one that opens the tale and is referenced in its title, and I found many of the details throughout to be spot on. Turbulence stands as a strong piece of work regardless of its setting, but as someone who grew up in Alaska, I confess I enjoyed seeing our 49th state so accurately represented.

Some quick updates on Eclectica alums: Erica Goss recently released her first full-length poetry collection, Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Jim Krosschell's essay "Almost Heaven" is now part of an essay collection called One Man's Maine: Essays on a Love Affair, just published by Green Writers Press. Scott Gould has a new collection of stories out called Strangers to Temptation. Jesse Minkert's has a new poetry collection from Finishing Line Press out as well, called Rookland. Finally, we were psyched to learn that Ryan Blacketter's story "She's Back to Sleeping" found its way onto a syllabus / reading list for a course at Marymount University. If you have news or new work to promote, please drop me a line and I'll be sure to add a word here in the next editor note.


From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor

Thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for her insightful reviews. 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 return 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

There is so much about the poetry in this issue that has me excited to share it with you all. We have a great Spotlight, a great Word Poem Special Feature, and a sparkling "regular" poetry section (which is always anything but regular), and the first thing I want to mention is that there are a whopping 23 poets represented here, including 12 who are new to the poetry section. These new voices are Michael Milburn (who has nonfiction in the July/August issue of last year), David Jalajel, Richard Weaver, Seth Jani, Ruth Kogen Goodwin, Maddie Woda, Billy McEntee, Deborah Allbritain, Chelsey L. Slattum, Sharon Mathews, Alissa Marmol, and finally, Urvashi Bahuguna, our Spotlight Author. So many poets we hope we'll continue to hear from—please spend some time with their work by way of welcoming them to the Eclectica poetry family!

When you check out Bahuguna's work in the Spotlight section, you'll find many fresh images that will stick with you. As I was working on this issue, I kept finding myself returning to the idea of being on a rope bridge (in the poem "Alone") and feeling that "[t]he stomach / is a swing: attuned to this movement, singing / with it." And from the same poem, "in the photo, I look small & full of wonder. / A pinecone tightly wound into itself." All three of Bahuguna's poems—"Alone," "In praise of drool," and "Boy"—provide moments and images that you'll take with you from the issue.

And as always, we have many returning poets, and we sure are delighted that they continue to think of us. Jack Murphy's "Child's Pose" (in the Word Poem Special Feature) even inspired me to buy a beginner's book on yoga. It's a lovely poem that makes connections between the different ways we teach and learn, asking about 11th grade English students: "Do I make them feel their words are wrong, counterfeit? / Experience resentment at my own impossible poses, / so fluent on my tongue, so shoddy on their own?" Also in the Word Poem special feature is a collaborative poem from mother and son writers, Sharon Mathews and David Mathews. David is a regular contributor to our pages, and with the collaborative poem, "New Self-Portrait" and his solo poem "Whitman on the Bank of Lethe," he has 18 poems for you to read. Bob Bradshaw, another regular contributor, has two poems in this issue—"Everything Breaks Down" and "Small"—and these poems give him an amazing 41 pieces that you can read in our archives! "Small" is the poem I chose to end the poetry section, and the lines, "I lay down in the sand like an oyster / closing my eyes to keep / from being overwhelmed" seemed fitting ones to give you by way of conclusion.

And before I close and leave you to your reading, I want to tell you how excited I am about a brand new collaboration you'll see in the next issue! I love writing groups and open mics and all of the many places where writers come together in community, and when there's a chance to bring communities together, that's even more wonderful. We've opened up a special submission category for one of Chicago's open mics and am inviting the many regular participants at Weeds Poetry at the Hideout to submit their work for the Oct/Nov 2017 issue. You can read work from Chuck Kramer in our archives (he co-hosts the venue with Gregorio Gomez). Weeds Poetry is an open mic that happens almost every Monday (what commitment!), so we can't wait to share some new voices with you soon, but until then, happy reading!


From David Ewald, Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany Editor

Before addressing this issue's miscellany and nonfiction, I'd like to harken back to mid-June of this year, when Eclectica forces converged on Bird & Beckett Books and Records in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco to partake in what has proven to be the biggest Hoopla thus far. The line-up: Keith Mark Gaboury, Erica Goss, Joanell Serra, Dennis Kaplan, Stuart Ross, Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, Gavin Austin, and Judith Serin. Each contributor had something to offer. I was far from alone in being wowed by the quality of the work on display. I'm aware there will be another Hoopla at an art gallery in Albuquerque in early September, and beyond that... well, that may be it for the Hooplas. Thanks for the memories.

Photograph courtesy of David Ewald

On to our current issue, the nonfiction and miscellany sections of which feature the usual odd assortment: a brief but poignant personal essay by Wil Gilmore ("My Zoo"), a reckoning with a certain number for Andrew Bertaina ("On 35"—for him age isn't just a number, baby), another there-and-back-again narrative of overseas intrigue by Peter Bridges ("Back to the Baltics") that implores You-Know-Who not to pull out of You-Know-What. No, not that. Not that, either. You know, the other thing...

Anyway, those three can be found in Nonfiction. And what of Miscellany? Is it still as miscellaneous as ever? Of course it is! For those who doubt there is any connection between science and the literary arts, whoa, boy, does David Farrah ("Intimately Entangled: Some Thoughts on the Physics of Poetry") have an essay for you. And for those who had no doubts about this matter already... read Farrah's piece anyway.

That leaves Antonio Lopez ("Workshop 3: A Poem for the Arrest of a Homeless Man Inside Rutgers' Conklin Hall"), my nominee for Spotlight Author, who haunts the halls of Rutgers University and finds the ghosts are very much alive, mad and present, and well within striking distance.

The same can be said of us all.