Mosaic artwork by Laura Robbins
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
First of all, I would like to join Tom in speaking of Laura Robbin's mosaic work. I didn't have the opportunity either to meet the artist or to view the work in person, but I greatly enjoyed the experience of matching the images to the poems. Generally, I find that I'm making new discoveries about the poems when I look for an image to partner them on the page, and of course, the poem adds a new dimension to the artwork as well. Returning to Robbin's work specifically, the poets that I was in communication with during the proofing process had nothing but glowing words for the images with which their poems appeared. And additionally, the choice of mosaic work that makes something whole from divergent parts seemed, to me, especially fitting for this issue as I felt that something similar was going on in a couple of the poems. In both Jesse Damiani's "After Another Day Spent on the Couch" and Hala Alyan's "A Love Story that is Not Mine," words seem to occupy unexpected places or to occur in unexpected combinations. While encountering the unexpected has the potential to jar the reader, it is also a possibility that the reader might also be given new ground on which to stand. Damiani begins the poem with, "I can't hussy here—it's too loud." While the reader is momentarily displaced, solid ground is regained when "On TV, there's an old married couple / on a bench." The reader sees this couple's wedding briefly, and "their skin mottling with age." When the poem ends with "I can cartography. I can't toaster oven," one reason I was willing to accept the new place that I had been taken might have been because there was something solid to cling to along the way. Alyan's poem, on the other hand, begins in a world that I can recognize with "You meet someone when you are growing your / hair out. You shed bobby pins as you dance." In this instance, the poem moves from the known through the unexplained and back again to the familiar. The poem is bookended with hair, first growing out, but shorn at the end: it is this progression that guides the reader through what happens between the points. Some of the mosaic pieces that make up Alyan's poem include unexpected actions, such as "He paints a nativity scene / on your arm" and "The paper reminds you of / egg yolks." But, of course, all poems are composites that make a whole, and it is possible to see not only how divergent words make lines, but how lines make stanzas. Tom writes that mosaics "embody the tension between maintaining individualism while still creating a cohesive whole," and this seems to me a particularly apt definition of poetry as well.
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
The last couple issues have been jazzed up with photographs taken by Eclectica's Facebook friends. The visual results were dizzyingly diverse, and taken as a whole, presented their own sort of coherent theme: one mirroring a key driving philosophy of this publication over the last 16 years, celebrating the tension between the global diversity and global togetherness afforded by the World Wide Web. The fact that those images came from readers of the magazine reflected another Eclectica tenet: that although tens of thousands of people across the planet "tune in" to read each issue, this publication remains as "indie" and "lo-fi" as it gets. No corporate or university sponsorship. No non-profit status. No board of directors. At this moment I'm typing these words on my laptop, sitting in my car at my son's soccer practice. Many of the aforementioned pictures were taken by our readers as snapshots, some as mobile uploads from their cell phones.
Which brings me to the current issue. While we still have a pile of Facebook photos lined up for future issues, I thought it would be nice for a change of pace. Enter Laura Robbins, a New Mexico artist whose mosaics blew me away when I saw them a few weeks ago at Albuquerque's "Globalquerque" festival. I love tile, and I love mosaics, not just on a visual level, but for how they, too, work as a metaphor for what I've strived to achieve with this magazine. Many readers may know about the comparison often made between Canada and the United States, where Canada is described as a cultural mosaic, while the U.S. is described as a "melting pot." I don't wish to open up a comparison between the two countries, except to say that I've always preferred the idea of a mosaic over a molten mess—not just because mosaics are beautiful, but also because they embody the tension between maintaining individualism while still creating a cohesive whole.
Perhaps I've taken longer than necessary to get to the upshot (I'll claim as an excuse that it's easy to be distracted while watching soccer practice and helping one's daughter with her math homework), but the upshot is that I'm grateful to Laura for providing these images, and I encourage those of you who love her work to check her out further.
The spotlight this issue is on a piece by Dolan Morgan and the accompanying illustrations by Jessica Mack. I say, "a piece," because it wouldn't be quite accurate to call it an essay or a story. It's not quite nonfiction, either, although it could be called that, just as I suppose it could be considered some very twisted travel writing. Is it humor? Miscellany? All I know for sure is that I've not seen anything quite like it before.
It's been awhile since we've had Crispin Oduobuk, Thomas J. Hubschman, or Anne Leigh Parrish in the fiction section. This issue marks their fifth, fourth, and third appearances, respectively. These are seven very strong pieces of short fiction, and a number of them (Hubschman's "The Move," Sheila MacAvoy's "They Are Kept Forever," Alan Marshfield's "A Man of Parts," and even Mike Campbell's "A Family Story") provide a breadth that can only come with age—and I'm referring here to the characters and their points of view, not saying anything about how old the authors themselves are! These are not snapshots taken in the hustle of youth, but rather they are full portraits of human experience. It's appropriate that Tom Hubschman's essay in the Salon (where he has been a regular contributor for the last six years) is titled "An Elder's Manifesto."
The problem with mentioning authors is that one never knows where to stop. Of the fiction authors, I've left out Javiero Viveros, whose story "JFK Mystery" doesn't so much encompass a lifetime of perspective, but it's certainly different. It has what I've referred to before as "zing." Of course, I haven't mentioned the fine folks in our Nonfiction, Travel, Review, and Interview sections, but I trust our readers will check them out, too.
As always, I'd like to share some publishing news about current and former contributors. Anne Leigh Parrish's collection of stories, All The Roads That Lead From Home, is now available for pre-order from Press 53. Jimmy Gleacher's Paradise Rules is out, perhaps to the chagrin of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. Trevor J. Walker's Just Words is now available in hardback, paperback, and ebook, and Timothy Bradford just published his first book of poems this summer, Nomads with Samsonite. Our Review Editor, Colleen Mondor, has a book coming out called The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska, and it received a starred review from Booklist! Congrats to her, the aforementioned writers, and anyone I may have missed.