blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


FEATURE | April 15, 2003

Blackbird: A Preview of Coming Attractions

As we prepare to publish Blackbird, Volume 2, Number 1, and I read through the stories, poems, lectures, and art that we have collected, I am struck by the odd felicities, synchronicities, or just plain coincidences that permeate the work.

First and foremost, we are privileged to publish "Book of the Jaspers," the second installment of Norman Dubie's futuristic book-length poem, The Spirit Tablets at Goa Lake. ("The Book of the Jewel Worm" was published in Blackbird, Vol 1 No 2, and the concluding installment of the poem will appear in Vol 2 No 2.) Dubie's enriched narrative has its origins in the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism as much as in the best traditions of speculative fiction, and perhaps the poem's hunger for wholeness in a chaotic tomorrow has in some way presided over the choices we have made in this volume, for much of the work here either explores the patterns that bind our lives in time and desire, or introduces the voices of a new generation of writers who will speak into our future.

There are many threads in the upcoming volume you'll want to follow. Sheila Pepe crochets shoe laces to fill a room with a floating net that captures the rhythmic beauty of the underpinnings of bridges. Donald Kuspit follows a strand into the tangling abstractions of Kandinsky's paintings by viewing them through the filter of Kandinsky's own spiritual desires. Dennis Danvers investigates William Gibson's newest opus and in the process touches on the slippery nature of the hours we inhabit.

Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. . . . We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition.
     William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

An idea that sends us back to Paul Ekajati, Dubie's space travelling narrator, and his pursuit of the lost tablets that may uncover a path leading away from "now" and toward a transcendent recognition.

Or that sends us on into stories by four women whose protagonists are trying to find a foothold in the "now" and its shifting sands of desire and fear. Julia Johnson's "The Shower Wall" depicts a remarkable disintegration:

I am forgetting everything I ever knew, the sound of the doors closing, what the reflection of light looks like. I am losing track of the exact color of white because there is no other white and the slipping memory of white is no longer the white I need to know. The sidecar is riding away on its own. I cannot always find the names for colors when describing them. They are true to whatever it is that depicts them. Like the wave slowly moving across the ceiling in its blue-gray motion. In this it is horrifying.

Johnson, as well as fiction writers Sandi Terry and Becky Hagenston will likely be new to you. New to you also will be the work of a number of our poets. We will particularly call your attention to the efforts of Joshua Poteat, Erin Lambert, and Miguel Murphy. One of the joys of poetry is that it shelters a new generation of voices singing counterpoint to poets who have preceded them. Lambert, Poteat, and Murphy know their poetic lineage, and they speak in remarkable cadences of their own.

Never the sudden sparrow there on your foot snipping the cricket
in two before it opens its big mouth. No, the cricket chirps & right there
summer unfolds & evening begins & you cup the poor dark song
in your hand & let it go.
It's not real a father says to his boy sitting on a bale of hay
behind us.
They're not dying.
I look at him & know that for once in his life he is right.
The sad flinch that fathers give the world when their children
are shown too much or not enough makes him seem almost distant,
not wholly there, a part of the landscape & I begin to regret looking at him
as we regret anything that is crumbling right before us:
the ocean's shore: the shriek of the fox diffused by leaves.

     Joshua Poteat, "Our Memory, the Shining Leaves (Waterford Fair Civil
       War Reenactment)"

In this world and the future one, the writers and artists of the upcoming Blackbird detect space and time inhabiting our lives in an uneasy continuum. These artists are adepts at positioning us to observe from the unexpected angle. They aim, as R. H. W. Dillard would have it, to make "real readers" of us all.

A work of imaginative literature is not that finished report of an experience or thought process that is certifiably correct or incorrect…it is rather an experience itself, one shaped in figurative and rhythmical language to be sure, but an actual experience nonetheless. It is not an account of meaning that has already been arrived at by whatever logical or experimental process; it is rather an engine for the generation of meaning, a vital field from which meaning may arise in the minds of its readers. The artist is not, like Bruno Anthony, the murderous madman in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, someone who knows "all the answers," but is rather someone who scarcely knows where he or she is going, but one who trusts the exciting process of imaginative creation and one who knows when he or she gets there.
     R. H. W. Dillard, "Going Out Into the Crazy"

Please join us May 1, 2003, in Blackbird, Volume 2, Number 1.

—Mary Flinn, Editor-in-Chief, Vol. 2 No.1  

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