blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1
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A joint venture of the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and New Virginia Review, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 by Blackbird and the individual writers and artists

ISSN 1540-3068

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Welcome to Blackbird, year two.

  Julia Johnson
  Norman Dubie
Cornelius Eady
  Radically Local

First and foremost, we are privileged to publish "Book of the Jaspers," the second section 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 conclusion 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 time yet to come.

Several of these voices are linked in a cyber loop that particularly recommends them to your reading pleasure. The poets Joshua Poteat, Miguel Murphy, and Erin Lambert, and the fiction writers Becky Hagenston and Julia Johnson are also linked in their care for language and in their ability to place their readers slightly off-center. This stance invites us to examine more alertly our familiar landscape and its inhabiting objects. We welcome the opportunity to call your attention to their work.

We also direct you to new poems by Cornelius Eady and Claudia Emerson and to the remarkable variety of poetry that joins them. John Allman's gritty evocation of a Queens neighborhood of the 1940's joins Natalie Peeterse's drive through the Virginia countryside and Paisley Rekdal's tour of an eighteenth century tapestry via the imagined mind of its creator.

Presented in this issue are the astonishing fictions of four writers, four women, giving voice to four narrative points of view. "Fiona," a prismatically faceted excerpt from Melissa Pritchard's forthcoming novel, Late Bloomer, is revealed through the lenses of several shifting personae. Becky Hagenstrom's poised and evanescent second-person story, "How to Keep Busy While Your Fiancé Climbs Mount Everest," listens in on a lover's distraught mind, while Julia Johnson's "The Shower Wall" presents a chilling survey of a simple room from the point of view of a disintegrating consciousness. In wrapping up Blackbird's new fiction, we're pleased to also introduce Sandi D. Terry, an emerging young writer, and her gracefully wrought first-person narrative, "Bocca," her first published story online or in print.

R. H. W. Dillard explores the sources of creative reading and writing, and Dennis Danvers weighs the virtues of William Gibson's most recent opus in two of our nonfiction offerings. The Gallery section takes for its subject the ways in which three quite different individuals approach art making. Noted art critic Donald Kuspit connects Kandinsky's abstract paintings to his spiritual reflections. Sculptor Sheila Pepe crochets a connection between bridges and shoelaces, and dancer Chris Burnside helps us investigate his attraction to both movement and words.

Intricacy of detail marks much of the work before you, detail that leads us to an uneasy peace within the space/time continuum. Welcome, all, to Blackbird for a second year.  

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September 18th, 2003, the Richmond area was hit by a hurricane the size of the state of Colorado. On every city block, it seemed, two or three trees pitched onto cars or into houses. More than ten thousand fell in city limits alone. We are still cleaning up, repairing, re-examining a changed landscape.

Many of us were without power for more than a week. One disadvantage of Blackbird's chosen media showed itself when we knew we couldn't pick up the journal and read it by lantern or candlelight.

But we remain confident, despite the chance of a temporary outage, that Blackbird comes to you in the best mode possible, one that allows content we couldn't otherwise provide, and one that lets us reach so many of you so far away, so fast.

Blackbird is currently in beta test with LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) at Stanford University to ensure that Blackbird will eventually be copied to archival computers all over the world in case we should ever cease publication. In the meantime, we plan to have a long life.

But how safe are you on the grid? Are there hurricanes ahead? Snow and ice? Monsoons? Tornados?

Our advice? Print out your favorite Blackbird poems and stories. Post them on your bulletin boards; plaster them on your walls, stick them inside binders on your bookshelves; mail them to friends, photocopy them for students, leave them under the wipers of a stranger's car, keep them close at hand for quiet offline moments, for the chance to stain your favorite Blackbird story with coffee.

Think of it as insurance—just in case the lights go out.

—the managing editors, midnight, Oct. 31, 2003