Another year is drawing to a close—the eighth such passing I've observed since Eclectica came into being. I'm sitting here at the O'Hare bus terminal in the middle of holiday transit, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect on what this publication means to me.
In order to get at that idea, I'm compelled to mention a mural downstairs in the tunnel leading back to baggage claim. It's a brightly colored montage stretching over 100 feet, and beside it is a floor-to-ceiling inscription of Langston Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," an explanation of what the mural has to do with the poem, and a list of the artists who worked on it: all teenagers from local middle and high schools. Up close, I was surprised to find that the mural is actually painted on rough sheets of plywood, affixed in place with what look to be 12-penny wood screws.
It's no Sistine Chapel, nor am I an art critic, and yet, walking the length of this mural, I was moved by the collective energy and conviction that apparently went into it—energy and conviction still being broadcasted loud and clear at two in the morning, years after those kids slapped paint to plywood. Here at O'Hare, amid all the piped in music, flashing neon, and corporate largesse, I venture to say this mural is the single most inspiring thing there is. Which is what's great about art and literature: clarity of purpose, sincerity of execution, and simple beauty always trump the budget involved.
Which is really what this publication means to me. Eclectica Magazine isn't the Sistine Chapel, either, but there's plenty of clarity, sincerity, and beauty on display here. I feel the same way I imagine parents of eight-year-old children do: I know I can't take much credit for the good that's here, but I'm proud of it nonetheless. And grateful to the many hundreds of people who've contributed their own brush strokes and colors over the years.
I have with me a copy of The Best of Melic that I've been reading on the plane. It has "Editor's Copy" scribbled on the cover. Dog-eared and worn, it was lent me by CE Chaffin himself. I will soon mail it back to him, having enjoyed both the reading of it and the privilege, however brief, of possessing it. In its own way, this book is priceless, although one would likely have an easier time unloading a copy of The Da Vinci Code at a garage sale. I suppose that's a good thing.
The truth, overexposed, becomes cliche. The punk band, having sold too many records, has sold out. That which is special cannot, by definition, be common. And yet, words and art are inherently as common as can be. When words and art can be displayed on plywood and accessed free on the internet, printed on demand, shipped next day from Amazon, what makes a work "priceless" has everything to do with rarity—not of the words or art themselves, but of the individuals willing to appreciate them.
This is not to say that I don't want success, fame, and fortune for Eclectica, Melic, and other ezines. And I'd like to think that, in the big picture, our time will come. But there's something a little delicious about being under the radar like we are. Knowing we are here potentially for the entire world to see, but if you're reading this, you're one of a self-chosen few.
It's a stripped down issue this time in order to accommodate some changes we're making, both to our lives and the magazine itself. No poetry, fiction, nonfiction... no submitted work at all, just reviews and editorial content. We'll be back in April, in force, as promised. In the meantime, check out Colleen Mondor's comprehensive look at young people's literature in the review section, and have a great new year.
December 22, 2004
Editors Note: Since this issue was posted, Kevin McGowin's life was tragically cut short. In keeping with his life, the circumstances surrounding Kevin's death were mysterious and controversial and, as such, will not be commented on here. We wish only to express our gratitude for the energy and contributions he brought to Eclectica over the years and to extend our condolences to his parents and anyone else who may be mourning his passing. ~TD
Take a look at the O'Hare Murals.
Listen to Langston Hughes read "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."