Jan/Feb 2004

From the Editors

Like parents, we're proud of all aspects of this magazine. Like siblings, the fiction and poetry sections tend to swing back and forth from issue to issue, each vying for the spotlight. Literally, we tend to see a fiction Spotlight Author one issue, a poetry the next. It isn't planned that way, but it tends to happen. Last October, John Reinhard and Lisa Lewis headlined a batch of poets rarely and in many cases never seen in an online publication. Seemingly not to be outdone, our fiction authors have responded this issue with eleven of the most eclectic, haunting, and flat-out impressive stories we've seen yet, with Belgium-based Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe leading the way.

Chika's two stories have as their protagonists African women, both of whom have lost what once brought them happiness. In the first, "Thinking of Angel," Oge has lost her friend, her husband's love, and her sense of place. In the second, "Dreams," the reader is thrust into the point of view of a widowed mother of three who has lost even more and, in what may be seen as a lesson that Oge could benefit from learning, must redefine happiness in order to experience it again. Both stories are tinged with sadness, of course, but Ms. Unigwe's characters and therefore her stories have a resiliency and an understated—while at the same time almost biting—sense of humor that ensures there's nothing morose or melodramatic about them.

Speaking of understated and biting, two qualities in a story that take a certain amount of genius to pull off at the same time, Alex Keegan's "Motorways" reaches its conclusion in a way that mirrors its protagonist's life. Simple, understated, matter-of-fact, culminating in a profound sense of despair at the realization that one has failed at something for the second time, and worse, failed at something that one might never get another chance to get right.

I'd like to say something about all of the stories in this issue, but I don't wish to slight the poetry or miscellany, or the commentary, or especially the reviews. Regarding the latter, Kevin McGowin's writing in this issue, by itself, could stand alone as its own online literary publication. He takes us on a raucously erudite journey from Anne Rice to William Faulkner, with some characteristically McGowin-like stops in between. Ann and David Skea are back in force, and along with McGowin, Gilbert Wesley Purdy, and Mostafa Hefny, Eclectica is review rich indeed.

The release date for Mel Gibson's The Passion draws close, and given what some commentators have noted about the state of religious/secular division in America (see my editorial in the Salon), Tom Rogers' piece in the Miscellany section, "The Birth of an Anti-Semitism: Mel Gibson and the Crucifixion of History," is certainly topical. And speaking of Miscellany, Alex Keegan in "In Lieu of 'Preference'" demonstrates some real cajones by offering up his recipe for how to judge fiction in an issue that also features one of his stories. I for one feel "Motorways" does hold up under Keegan's own standards.

In poetry, Brad Bostian and Christopher Watkins both managed to get two poems past a very picky group of editors. Not counting the word poems, only ten poets appear in this issue, and their work is a tremendous distillation of the hundreds of poems that were submitted. Eclectica strives, predicably, to keep things eclectic, and these poems fit the bill. There are poems of all persuasions here—yes, Gladys, even some that rhyme!

And regarding the word poems, I'll close by saying that I think this is one of the coolest features of this or any online publication. The likes of Taylor Graham, Dancing Bear, Jennifer Finstrom, Eclectica's poetry staff, and many others over the last few years have participated and continue to participate in the classic four-word challenge. A few confused souls have tried to write poems that literally had only four words in them, and a few others thought they just needed to use one of the four. The ones who've succeeded created poems that you can't tell are "word poems," and indeed, I think some of our finest poetry over the years has appeared in this section. The added bonus each issue is that a reader can delight in seeing how many different visions can be born from the same four words. I urge everyone to try it, but be forewarned that for some of us it isn't easy—it's been about three years now since I was able to write one, while that darned Taylor Graham can do five at a time!