Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
Shout out to the website unsplash.com, along with photographers Solen Feyissa, Pawel Czerwinski, and Clark Van Der Beken, whose pieces I selected to accompany this issue's written work. These are free, public domain images, but I imagine the artists would be thrilled to hear from folks interested in hiring them for freelance work, should anyone in the position to do so happen to be reading this issue and impressed with their impactful use of color and composition.
Gina Troisi is our Spotlight Runner-up for fiction, for her piece, "Where He Still Lives." There are a lot of Anthony Bourdain tributes and mentions going around, and this is one of the good ones: a solid piece of fiction first, with characters who inhabit a fully realized world, but also, a moving tribute to a man whose impact was tremendous on those who heard and felt what he had to say, more so due to the tragic circumstances of his passing.
Congratulations to this issue's overall Spotlight Author Andrea Bianchi, for her timely nonfiction piece, "On Resignation," and also to our poetry Runner-up Haresh Bhojwani, whose "What You Are and What Is Yours"—full disclosure—is one of my all-time favorites.
I first met Haresh in a poetry class taught by my lovely wife and longtime Eclectica Poetry Editor Julie King at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, back in 1988. Haresh's poems and his delivery of them were hits at our periodic readings, and they graced the pages of UWGB's Sheepshead Review, but so far as I know, they've remained mothballed in the decades since. I was able to scrape up a few of them, but it was only after I mentioned to my mother how I was trying to track down Haresh's work that she saved the day. She had traveled to Green Bay from her home in Alaska to visit me, had attended one of the aforementioned readings, remembered Haresh (he was, and is, a memorable guy!), and still had all the old Sheepshead copies I'd given her. Sure enough, she found the poem I was looking for, sent me a picture of it, which I transcribed, and I was able to convince Haresh to submit it for Evan's consideration. I was nervous Evan wouldn't like the work (he's a wonderfully picky editor!), but thankfully, "What You Are and What Is Yours" not only made it in, but earned Spotlight honors. It means a lot to me, both that the poem earned this recognition on its own merits, and that Haresh, already such a big part of my own life and history, has joined the extended Eclectica family.
The rest of the Fiction section contains a strong and tidy collection of short stories and one longish historical novella. Some of the stories take us to less typical settings—at least, they don't show up all that often in Eclectica—like the urban Canada of V. Zenari's "Yukon Sal's Made Some Terrible Mistakes"; or the North Shore of New England so vividly portrayed in the film Manchester by the Sea and now here in Max Keisler's "In the Water"; or even Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place often beloved by artists but less successfully captured as a literary setting—with notable exceptions due the Hillerman family and one chapter of Huxley's Brave New World—the way Christie Cochrell does in "Camino Escondido." For some, we get to more closely examine the way one puts food on the table (literally, in the case of Bianchi's "Where He Still Lives"). I don't think I've ever felt much compassion for car salesmen, but Alex Kudera gets me as close to doing so as it's probably possible in "A Thanksgiving." And then there are pieces like Steve Vermillion's "Pretty Boy" and Joshua James Amberson's "States, Never Imagined" that aren't so much trying to immerse us in place or profession as they're giving us a chance to briefly try on another human being's skin, whether that skin is terribly burned in a self-inflicted accident or quietly compromised by cancer.
I mentioned a historical novella. Rounding out the Fiction section for this issue is Peter Bridges' Hunter, Scholar, Spy. There isn't much more to say about Peter that hasn't already been said when it comes to his contributions to Eclectica, but to recap: a former Spotlight Author, he has graced our pages with poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, sometimes in multiple categories in a single issue—he is as tenacious as he is prolific! An engrossing read, his latest contribution (his 23rd appearance in under a decade), Hunter, Scholar, Spy, takes us back to the 1860s and provides a fictional window into a real-life episode most of us would never have imagined had occurred, told as vividly as only a career diplomat with Peter's knowledge, skill, and experience could deliver.
In Reviews and Interviews, Ann Skea, gives us six books to consider (buying, from Amazon, using our book cover links, should you wish to contribute a small slice of your purchase price to Eclectica's coffers). We also have an interview of Josh Malerman (author of Bird Box) by Zach Semel, and a review of Ed Morin's "The Bold News of Bird Calls" by Ed Werstein, which seems like an odd but fortuitous case of avian synergy (one of Ann Skea's reviews is of Songbirds by Christy Lefteri). Martha Peterson also contributes to the Review section with a piece half review, half one-act play, so she gets points for creativity on top of her incisive look at the work in question: Patrick Madden's Disparates: Essays.
I'm proud to release another strong issue into the wild here in the summer of 2021 as humanity fitfully emerges from COVID. I hope everyone will remain cautious with respect to the virus—we're not out of the pandemic woods yet—but you're perfectly safe to devour Eclectica without restraint.
From Evan Martin Richards, Poetry Editor
This issue brings a wealth of first-time Eclectica authors, both storied and emerging, including spotlight runner-up Haresh Bhojwani, Charlie Brice, Pete Mackey, and Rituparna Sahoo in the poetry section and Karen Carter, Amelia Diaz Ettinger, Adele Evershed, Julius Lobo, Corinna Schulenburg, Corrie Thompson, and Melody Wang in the word challenge feature. We're happy to welcome back returning contributors Erica Goss, Judy Kaber, and Jessica Scirocco, as well.
A theme emerged this issue, as they often do, unintentionally (or maybe subconsciously). It's always fun to find resonances between the pieces in an issue, though rarely does an entire section seem to coalesce like this summer's—these pieces center around family, the relationship between parent and child, looking back and looking forward. Perhaps these ideas felt particularly relevant to me (and, I presume, to the authors who penned them) because we find ourselves in a time of widespread reunion. We've all had the experience of seeing a family member or friend again after a long absence, but never in my lifetime has that experience seemed so universal or so total as in this era of "reopening"—a nicely poetic term, though one that's permanence is yet to be determined. In any event, I'm glad that so many have been able to reconnect, and my thoughts are with those who have not.
This issue's word challenge feature was particularly fun to put together, with tons of great work to choose from. The final selection boasts stichic nature pieces, sharp second-person, and lovely extended metaphors. Perhaps it's the nature of the challenge, but I always find reading through the word poems to be grounding and restful—I hope you do, too. Next issue's words are wood, receive, trip, and tree. I'm excited to read what you come up with!
From David Ewald, Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany Editor
Suddenly it's summer, unlike the last, and I find myself on the road more often than not. As is my habit, I made my selections early, edited and sent in the finalized versions by mid-June. I knew I had a strong septet, confirmed by our choice for this issue's Spotlight Author. Hearty congratulations go to Andrea Bianchi for her ultimately life-affirming and, what I suspect will be for many, life-altering essay "On Resignation." In her piece, Ms. Bianchi begins with death but ends with life, and I for one have a new perspective on the details that make up my own short time here on Earth, the events and habits and sensory flashes so many of us rarely bother to notice, let alone write down. By the end of "On Resignation" I was greatly moved; I trust you will be, too.
This wouldn't be Eclectica if, in addition to an essay on resigning oneself to the inevitability of one's own passing, the nonfiction section didn't include musings on the threat of a workplace mass shooting ("To Live and Die in LA" by Guinotte Wise), an account of early- to mid-70s loafing in Southern California while waiting to punch a ticket to the political big-time in DC ("One Year After the Break-in" by Anthony Mohr), the prescient expression that Nature calls to us even as we call to it—and it's trying to tell us something urgent ("Auspices" by Evan Silver); a brief pointed memory of the past that connects strongly to a present experience ("Familiar Stranger" by Sydney Lea), and a piece that encompasses fable, academia, gender and pronouns ("Trans Origin Story of the Jackelope" by Margaret Speer). For the finishing quirk, in the travel section Susan Hatters Friedman cleverly recounts the raising of her children into worldly adults through a list ("Get Your Kids to Leave the Country in Under 50 Easy Steps") that ends with a blessing, a yearning. To call or not to call. To pick up or not to pick up. We have no time for that now. We think we've moved on. We're on the road and may not be home for some time.