HAS ANYONE EVER GONE THROUGH A PERIOD OF DRAWING R E A L in a big loopy font with psychedelic hues? It’s fun to mess around with reality, bend it into balloon animals, drop it off a rooftop. To make it unreal with magic or disorder. To take some license with it. Sadly, what is real has taken a few hits this year, but no one ever wrote a fake poem or a fake short story. Art doesn’t even purport to be true. Memoir is so suspect we identify the genre with a foreign word.

I’m happy to report that our Spring 2019 issue keeps this record intact. Nothing fake about it. Oh sure, there are personal views. Social ones. Political. Environmental. Spiritual. There’s talk of old wounds and new, of small love, restless journey, the strange and familiar. The writing is genuine despite our failings and honest lies and even minor inaccuracies. “No,” I wanted to say, reading a poem last week in another journal in which a farmer “plowed a row of barley.” Barley isn’t cultivated in rows. But in the poet’s heart that was how they saw it, and barley is one of the few grains with two beats in it, and so I stopped myself and instead said yes, and yes, to Devin Kelly’s poem. Real enough is OK by me, and if one line isn’t real, maybe the next one will be. Like they say about winter weather in the deep South—if you don’t like it, wait a day.

This issue celebrates the finalists in our Heavenly Creatures con-test, an ekphrastic opportunity to write to the luminous kite photographs of artist Sally Gall. But isn’t everything ekphrasis? Yes, because everything is art. No part of the animal—Earth, sky, fire, family, people, love, and hurt—can embarrass or shame us. And so, I want to drown in Claire Bateman’s poem “Fathom.” I want to drown in it completely naked except for my reading glasses.

And I want to be hitch-hiking as Linda Michel-Cassidy motors by in her poem “Cavalier.” If you want stories, then you want Brittany Ackerman, Claire Harris, and Daniel Mueller. One of our poetry consultants, Edgar Gabriel Silex, adds a story, and Detroit poet Michelle Brooks kicks a short poem which combines suicide and the Philadelphia Eagles in a terrific compression of infinite soul.

What’s missing from these pages are six months of ragged correspondence, fraught emails sent to perturbed authors in Texas and Vermont and Oregon containing all sorts of argument, nudging, persuasion, cajoling, and inveigling, about what exactly defines “Totally Limited Omniscience.” The truth is that we don’t know what this means, but we’re exhausted by justifying language, and explanation. Take out personal rhetoric– it probably just belongs on Facebook anyway. Keep the search for voice without ever finding it, as Claire Bateman writes:

The point where the sky is most accessible in the sky itself.
The point where the sky is least comprehensible is also the sky–

I tried to find an accessible sky last December when I visited the equator. I felt such joy having one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern, experiencing simultaneous seasons, summer and winter only inches apart, with a seamless texture. A wind would sometimes tug at me like a friend, and Adriano Cabrera would shout to me at intervals. We’d picked some arabica beans. He was whuffing off the papery skins and I was shaking the beans over spent sugar cane stalks burning in a covered tub, and Adriano believed one of the secrets of his coffee was to roast it over the old cane. He wouldn’t tell me the other ones.

Near the entrance to Adriano’s Santa Cruz island farm, a sea lion napped on a bench with a look on its face which said to all: I am amused, but I am not pleased, and anyhow I don’t like coffee or poetry.

The horizontal and the vertical join in such strange ways. ‘This is one reason we chose Suzanne Merritt’s ghostly painting for our cover. In much of her work she painstakingly tries to capture as much motion as possible so of course we were led to something quieter, calmer, and full of horror. The encaustic artist—she uses hot wax, resin, and pigments—created “Elegy to the American Republic” as part of her Oracle series.

One of the newest items you’ll find on our website is a community bookstore. Who wants to sell only their own magazine? It’s a place we’re building to promote the recent books of our contributors. It’s especially gratifying when a former contributor has book news. In January, Jenn Hollmeyer won the Katherine Anne Porter prize for her debut collection and we’re thrilled to have given her some early encouragement.

Apart from the magazine (which is always open for submissions), we continue to seek book length submissions through April. All genres are negotiable. Surprise us with the impossible. Comfort us with what can only be known through art’s pleasant distortion. And as always, remember to vote.

Barrett Warner
Aiken County, SC