The ten pieces in this portfolio come together in a constellation of interconnected themes, motifs, and fascinations.
The narrators in Haley Larson’s “Maintenance Requests,” Elizabeth Bradfield and Demet Taspinar’s “Travel of the Light,” and Eleanor Stanford’s “Beans and Seeds” share an interest in cartography. Larson’s narrator travels “alone and unmapped” past Croatian city walls, where “some lines are invisible but not imaginary,” and a step beyond them could detonate what lies buried. Bradfield’s lyric prose, set to Taspinar’s stark and luminous images of northern ice, describes old arctic maps as the speaker searches “for landmarks, for clear and fixed positions,” wondering of a lover, “How do we map our time apart?” Stanford’s narrator meditates on erasure, noting in maps of Brazil “the sailing ships inked in the margins, perched on the waves as though they too were a permanent feature, something by which you could chart your course.” These essays ask how we navigate, release the past, find it again.
In Quintan Ana Wiskwo’s haunting “Cap Arcona,” Karolina hears “the sound of ice” from the deck of a Nazi prison ship, echoing Taspinar’s silent imagery, while the cadence of German blends with melodious cries from the bass clarinet. Like Wikswo’s historical subjects, the narrator of Sarah Jane Holsteen’s “Piecemeal” experiences connection without speech, watching seizures take the mute boy she cares for and waiting for the moment of return, “when truly you are struck and thrumming as a bell.”
Peggy Shumaker’s “Odd Jobs” resonates with Larson’s themes of separation and self-discovery, describing a time when the narrator wrote “the script of a life I wasn’t sure was possible,” finding herself a “mongrel Protestant” at a Catholic publishing house, and learning in the midst of a suffering marriage, “how words meant to be sung should be divided.” Mark Dow takes up similar themes in “Dick and the Electric Bill,” investigating wholeness, division, and the body in a Judaic context.
The narrator of Beth Malone’s “Tide Pool” wrestles with the ephemeral nature of intimacy, showing a mother suckling her infant, “my own need to fill her quicker than her need to be filled,” alongside memories of a changing female friendship. Mita Mahato’s speaker also searches the past in her mixed-media essay “Cancer,” tracing the obscured memory of a lost loved one.
Do stop in at “The Montaigne Machine” by Eric LeMay before you leave our nonfiction section. This interactive piece blends images, Montaigne quotes, and your words to produce uniquely tailored photo essays using the element of chance. It’s the perfect outlet for the creative energies stirred by this provocative portfolio. Enjoy, but be warned, “The Machine” has caused addiction in some test subjects.
Erin Wilcox is a writer, poet, musician, and editor. She is the nonfiction editor for Drunken Boat: An Online Journal of Art and Literature, a former copyeditor for Alaska Quarterly Review, the founding coordinator of the Editorial Freelancers Association’s Arizona chapter, owner of Wilcox Editing Services, and a staff editor at The Editorial Department. Erin's creative work has been featured recently in Praxis: Gender and Cultural Critiques, Short and Twisted, Spiral Orb, Soundzine, Stoneboat, Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska, Veil: Journal of Darker Musings, and in radio broadcasts in Alaska and Arizona. She writes for various trade and scholarly publications, including Copyediting and Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses. Find out more at wilcoxediting.com and wilcoxwrites.com.