“Whatever plans you think you got, you better get some others.” An ominous bit of advice given, in Brendan McKennedy’s “Deep River,” to a young woman struggling to make a meaningful life as a millhand in 1920s North Carolina, it might well be the motto for the last three years, when we’ve had to pivot, accommodate, reimagine, reconfigure. It certainly rings true for the characters in this issue’s fiction, who find themselves having to make all manner of unforeseen adjustments. In Joanna Pearson’s “The Favor,” a couple become the hosts to an unexpected houseguest at a time when they are questioning the boundaries of what makes a family. The narrator of Deepa Varadarajan’s “How to Give a Best Man Toast” wrestles with the shifting of attachments as his beloved older brother gets married. And in Naihobe Gonzalez’s “Southern Cemetery,” a young woman spontaneously spends an evening with a new friend, exploring the risky space between safety and uncertainty, confronting her relationship to fear.
Shifting focus, the essays here are concerned with the spaces we inhabit—and how they shape us. “First you live in a house, and then it lives in you,” writes Emily Winakur in “Who Lives in That House,” an essay that explores, among other things, the relationship of place to memory. Jonathan Gleason’s braided essay “Proxemics” is a meditation on architecture, spatial relationships, family, penitence, and forgiveness. And in “The Other Erica,” Erica Goss contemplates the multigenerational impact of her grandmother’s death, leading her to search for the house in Germany where her mother and grandmother endured the Second World War, seeking clues about her mother’s, grandmother’s, and, ultimately, her own identity.
Whatever space you find yourself in, whatever plans you have, I hope you can make room and time for the stories, essays, and poems we’ve gathered for you in these pages. Welcome to the spring issue.
Given the turbulent mundanity of our day—its diminished expectations and dire prospects—it is time, surely, to take a lesson from springtime itself and to venture all upon a reckless moment of beauty. When it comes to beauty, I’m with Cocteau: “a little too much is just enough for me.” Call it, as Emma De Lisle does, “some helpless faith of my flesh,” but I cannot help but choose the apple blossom over the killing frost, the bear cub over the melting ice cap, no matter what the odds. The question, then, becomes just how and when to improve those odds in beauty’s favor. Our poets rise amply to the question. Wisely, Rachel Abramowitz advises, “If you see a saint, speak to it,” i.e., engage with transcendence wherever it appears, then ask for directions. Angela Ball suggests, with just the right touch of metaphysical insouciance, that we explore “the space between / two swans,” there, perhaps, to discover the grace that moves all graciousness. It’s worth a try, and in the trying we may delight to find what James Davis May calls (and calls for) “not just beauty, then, but its excess.” When I was young, the phrase “too much” was an earnest form of praise. In our more-than-praiseworthy gathering of poets, may you find ample and adequate excess.
Featured in This Issue
Rachel Abramowitz, Kazim Ali, Lisa Ampleman, Elizabeth Atherton, Sam Bailey, Angela Ball, nicole v basta, Bruce Beasley, Benjamin Bellet, Ariana Benson, John Blair, Sherah Bloor, Alex Braslavsky, Maxine Chernoff, Emma De Lisle, Bonnie Jill Emanuel, Olivia Clare Friedman, Caprice Garvin, Jonathan Gleason, D. C. Gonzales-Prieto, Naihobe Gonzalez, Erica Goss, Kamal E. Kimball, Mike Lala, James Davis May, Brendan McKennedy, Sarah María Medina, Aditya Menon, Joanna Pearson, Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Brian Simoneau, Tyler Smith, William Stobb, Jean Theron, Deepa Varadarajan, Amie Whittemore, Emily Winakur