Introduction

 

Ambrotype of an Ojibwa gentleman, c. 1850.   Image taken by either Benjamin Franklin Upton or Joel Emmons Whitney of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ambrotype of an Ojibwa gentleman, c. 1850. Image taken by either Benjamin Franklin Upton or Joel Emmons Whitney of St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

“Don’t tell me that Orpheus failed.
An artist understands
about faith—
the hours, the years, the life,
watching a blossom disclose
its velvet throat…”

 

So begins one of Oriana Ivy’s lyrical meditations from this year’s issue of Glint.  While the very act of submitting one’s work to a literary journal is itself an act of faith in prospective readers and viewers, both those on the editorial board and those who will eventually discover that work in the finished journal, the process of composition itself may demand even greater belief and trust.  Does a blossom expose its delicate anatomy only when it knows an audience will appreciate?  

Hardly, as Ivy continues:  “Look long enough at anything / and it will grow in you.”

Yes, the listener to Orpheus’ lute, the viewer of O’Keefe’s orchids may experience that frisson of germination within herself.  Look what crept out of other artists’ seed coats…if only because they trusted that something wanted release, then cultivation.  

Unfurlings inspire unfurlings.  Such aesthetic propagation may be experienced as compulsion, as effusion.  As never-ending Parousia.  

As I study the words and images offered by Issue 3’s contributors, I am impressed by the survival of faith in creative endeavor.  Even after “The Horrible Thing Happened” on 9/11, Christine Reilly managed to find relief by thinking about “colors” like “emberglow, phlox, bamboo, quarry.”  Although the speaker of her poem may doubt that God-as-Love can exist in the aftermath of such an event, she still finds days when she can perch in a tree and sing “about getting through.”

At least three works of short fiction (Noah Milligan’s “Amid the Flood of Mortal Ills,” Alexandra Pajak’s “Election Day,” and Erin Toungate’s “The Midwife”) concern themselves with feasible futures that challenge faith.

In Milligan’s tale, inhabitants of the midwestern United States struggle to maintain the mental fortitude necessary to form and follow contingency plans for when the levees break; water has already enveloped the rest of the country.  Pajak’s survivors ration more than food and medicine, doling out justice in a manner that might have been inspired by Shirley Jackson’s “Lottery.”   The “elect” in this story are not exactly innocent, not exactly guilty.  Language has undergone a similar sea change in Toungate’s narrative as a young girl is inducted into the family business of “midwifery.”  In each of these speculative texts, the authors imagine that the world as we know it has vanished, though not entirely.  Older residents recall, for example, “days of orange skies and silvery flashes of life in water and the brilliant glare of city lights far north against the night horizon.  But these men were few and often silenced by others in despair or in disbelief” (Pajak).

I can’t help but think that the visual artists in issue 3 offer competing visions of what we are, of what we could be.  Ivan de Monbrison’s pared and splattered images might be all we would have left if apocalypse overtook not just body, but also mind.  The portfolio by the teenaged photographer, Eleanor Leonne Bennett, reminds us of what we have not lost, yet:  A pony’s companionship.  Snow transforming the horizon.  A young girl’s luminous skin.

Our poets also provide us with sensory glimpses of what we would not want to forget:  “the singing at Table Rock AME / soar[ing] to heaven like the purple feather / on Teresa Porter’s new bonnet” in Timothy Dyson’s “Miss Lena’s Country Buffet”;  father and son “muscl[ing] a buck knife throat to tail etching through piebald fur” in Ryan’s Mattern’s “What We Become”; the “low tsk tsk as the oil slips” through a woman’s fingers as Jessica Tyner instructs the reader on “How to Oil an Indian Man’s Hair.” 

Some of the speakers look to the Bible for confirmation, but even Lazarus—in Jennifer Blair’s “Melancholy”—frets that his story of resurrection wearies his listeners’ attention.  Lissa Kiernan’s wanna-be Wiccan fears that “Real Wiccans are crafted from other real Wiccans,” suspects that “Real Wiccans know what to say when asked / the meaning of life, even when blindfolded,” whereas she is left to pluck “a stray white / whisker from the soft pink wattle of [her] neck” (“The Craft”).  The poem seems to differentiate between the woman called “witch” and the woman of power.

Though some characters are conviction-challenged, Issue 3 is flush with spirits worth knowing.

How could anyone not want to join the company as Mr. Klondike and his cousin Mrs. Lemmon-Flutie discuss near death experiences and Queen Elizabeth’s weasel phobia in David Vardeman’s short story?  Although I probably wouldn’t want to actually be in the bathroom while adolescent boys examine their first girlie magazine, I appreciate the nervous vantage that Abdul Shakur provides in “The Prettiest Pieces.”  What will happen if the black boys are caught looking at pictures of naked white ladies?  And, then, there’s B.D. Fischer’s perpetually inebriated intellectual of “Indian Car Alarms,” who so reminds me of a former co-worker who tried earnestly to convince me that the more marijuana he smoked, the smarter he became.

I think Fischer’s narrator may be related to the speaker of Ron Riekki’s “I Don’t Want the Women Who Want Me.”  The speaker of Riekki’s poem manages to scare off potential partners by shooting at coyotes he only thinks he sees.  No doubt, either of these male personas could learn a thing or two from Bill Wolak’s sexual histories in verse.  I doubt that either could resist such titles as “Casanova Explains the Invention of the Bra,” though I can’t say how much hope Wolak’s lessons can offer to would-be lovers whose causes seem so lost.

Overall, the contributions to issue 3 suggest that the human spirit is resiliently creative.

The lovers of Christine Dano Johnson’s nonfiction essay find ways to salvage and revive, blending faith systems as they transform pages from a water-damaged Tibetan Book of Prayer into Christmas decorations.

Indeed, the home often turns out to be a place of emotional and spiritual sustenance.

James Valvis sees a potential holy site

in the place on the rug
your wife’s foot falls
each morning
as she slides out of bed   (“Altars”)

John McKernan reminisces on those quiet interludes when a person could “sound like fresh coffee poured into a white cup on the patio,” when s/he could “smell like a slice of Catawba melon on a white plate” (“Silence”).

Whether the poet ventures into the lab or into the unexplored regions of the globe, so much depends on sense (both physical and mental).  In Francine Sterle’s poem, the speaker recognizes that so “much of the map / could be labeled / terra incognita,” and so much remains “unknown    invisible to others,” and, yet, she is more drawn to exploring the familiar landscapes of bodies.

Meanwhile, the scientist—an explorer of invisible organisms—still depends on his domestic comforts, perhaps because they enable him to take intellectual risks.  In Eileen Malone’s prose poem, Louis Pasteur accepts the need for “wrong choices,” knowing they

have to be made as frequently as right ones.  How we are built to make mistakes.  If we make a big enough mistake, we find ourselves on a new level, stunned, out in the clear, ready to move again into fantasies of sliced melons, jasmine crawling brass lamps, walnut stuffed dates.

Indeed, as William Carlos Williams might have told us: so much depends upon the sliced melon, the purple feather, the orchid’s velvet throat.

Readers of Glint Literary Journal, we offer you these unfurlings.  May our words and images offer what you need to laugh, blossom, and cope.

 

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