Issue #10 ~ Winter 2023
Dear friends and lovers of literature, art, and life,
For as long as I can remember one of my favorite past times has been people-watching. Not just people though and not just watching. I enjoy observing and absorbing all the sounds and sights, and feelings a moment has to offer.
I have distinct memories as a child going with my dad to Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha on Sundays. We would walk around the pond and eventually find a bench and sit for long stretches of time, observing all the other people coming and going. Sure, we went to the slides and fed the ducks too, but mostly I remember the quiet moments spent in observation and contemplation.
I also fondly remember all the time I spent sitting on a lawn chair on my front porch enjoying a can of Dr. Pepper and bag of BBQ potato chips. I’d stay for what seemed like hours listening to the birds and squirrels in the trees and watching cars go up and down our street. Sometimes, after being there for a while, I’d feel a spark of urgency to capture something I’d been thinking or feeling and pull out my journal to write.
Writing made me feel more present and more… connected somehow. Connected to what though? I often wondered as these were largely solitary moments. But now that I’m actively engaged in reading and sharing other people’s writing, the answer is clear. It’s connectivity to people, their experiences and observations, and our shared humanity.
With each of the issues we publish, I have the pleasure of working with about 15 new people I’ve never met before. I have the wonderful opportunity to learn a little about who they are both through their work and also from interactions throughout the process. In these past three years, the proclivity I have for writing my own story has expanded into a desire to help other people–readers, writers, and artists alike–feel this sense of connectedness.
The want to help others is an inherent core component of our mission as a literary journal but another, more explicit want, is to shine a light on that which might otherwise be overlooked. Thus, part of our mission statement says “We aim to lift up the strange, the daring, the underrepresented; and reveal complexities hidden in the Heartland and beyond.”
When we composed this statement three years ago, we never dreamed that “beyond” would mean a compilation with voices from Australia, Nigeria, India, Canada, and all across the US. But that is exactly what is included within the virtual pages of this beautiful winter issue.
Not only is it rich with a diversity of experiences but it also holds true to the part of our mission which speaks to revealing hidden complexities. Moni Brar’s poem, Migrant Wish, for example, reveals the truth that “home” is a notion that exists within the mind, and with her words, she unwinds the kind of grief that can come from not belonging to any “place.”
In an interview, Moni elaborated… “I have this desire to belong to an environment, culture, and country that I feel like I will never truly belong to because I straddle two worlds. So, it’s that living in the in-betweenness and this sense of having a splintered self that I try to reconcile.”
By contrast, Summer Hammond’s nonfiction essay, Iowa Blues and Greens, is rooted in a sense of place and her childhood memories. It overflows with sharp observations and deftly described experiences from her upbringing in eastern Iowa. In each section, we get a deep sense of knowing, both of place and its people. Those pieces merge into one another to form a complete picture that provides insight about a person–who they are, and why.
Each poem, story, and essay in this issue, in turn, holds a different truth at its core.
In poetry, we have “Turnings” by Rohan Buettel which beats a drum of contentment while ‘Nikah’ courageously confesses forbidden love while also imparting the cultural consequences of that love. In Soon Jones’s poem “This is How the Body Knows” she seamlessly weaves a narrative that includes complexities of race discrimination, loss, isolation, and personal revelation.
These heavy, heartfelt verses are beautifully counterbalanced by the light in the poem “Portrait of a Body as Spring” by Emmanuel Mgbabor which might make your mind fly forward in time to warm days or lying in the green grass on a cloudless day. Or T.M. Thomson’s poem “Ascension” which might make you want to rise up from wherever you are reading and declare that it’s time to make a change.
In the fiction story “Who Takes the Bus in LA” by Marc Eichen, we are sent on what first seems to be a jovial ride down memory lane but unravels into a tragically too-common experience shared by many underprivileged persons lost in a sea of urban life. My advice is to read this story, let it sink in for a few days… and then read it again.
Gargi Mehra’s trio of flash fiction stories “Mothers and Brothers” gives substance to a culture and family dynamic through brief glimpses into poignant moments. And in the 10-minute stage play “Guten Tag, Baby!” Scott C. Sickles sets up and brilliantly executes a scene where a grandmother delves into her memories to recount the time she first met her husband and in doing so helps her daughter and granddaughter learn truths of the past that will forever change their perception of her and their relationships.
Changing perceptions through the exchange of stories, ideas, and artistic expressions is another inherent value of being a part of the publishing world. It’s meaningful to me to be a tiny part of someone else’s journey and provide a means for them to share their work with a wider audience. This includes the visual artists I’ve met as well, like Gerburg Garmann, who provided the cover art and several alternate versions of the original painting for this issue. “Scarred Beauty” is striking in all forms and somehow perfectly embodies the spirit flowing through each of the pieces it accompanies.
Dear reader, we live in arduous and uncertain times and the need for observation, connection, and compassion is greater than ever. Art is a wondrous means through which we may better understand ourselves and the world around us, and find ways to cope, heal, and grow. I’m grateful to you for reading, grateful to the authors and artists who trusted us with their work, and as always, extremely grateful to have such a wonderful team!
That’s it for Issue #10 ~ Winter 2023.
With peace, love, and daydreams of daffodils poking through the snow,