Dear Explorer of the Arts,
Welcome to the Workshops Issue of Able Muse — our second, post-hiatus, issue! A significant portion of this issue highlights the online workshop environment, specifically Eratosphere. For the first time, we brought in guest editors for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art and they looked at submissions from Eratosphere in addition to those from the usual sources.
Timothy Murphy started as our Guest Fiction Editor, but will now stay on as Associate Poetry Editor. He will concentrate on the featured and spotlight poet sections. For this issue, he has brought in two of the most talented Eratosphere poets as featured poet and spotlight poet. We have Jennifer Reeser who has graced the pages of previous versions of Able Muse as our Featured Poet, along with a personable interview by Tim. Catherine Chandler, our Spotlight Poet, is also introduced by Tim. There is more poetry from Rachel Hadas, Dennis Loney, Timothy Murphy and several others.
Thaisa Frank our Guest Fiction Editor has put together one of our most entertaining fiction section as well as a diverse one in terms of length, subject matter and style. For additional good news, she will also stay on as Associate Fiction Editor. We include fiction from Dennis Must, Anne-E Wood, Nina Schuyler, Steve Gilmartin and others.
Gregory Dowling, our Guest Non-Fiction Editor, brought in the best collection essays from the keen minds of Eratosphereans including David Mason, Stephen Collington and others. We also have a book review by R.S. Gwynn of the latest winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, Bundle o'Tinder by Rose Kelleher who is a long-time Eratospherean.
Finally, Sharon Passmore, our Guest Art Editor brought us a visual feast from our first double-featured artists issue. Terri Graham—a long time Eratosphere artist, and Andy Dolphin are featured. There is more art and photography from Eratosphere and other artists.
I gave our guest editors the option of their own guest editorial. These follow below.
I'm positive you'll find this issue one our most extensive, ambitious and innovative, filled with unique, and exceptional poetry, fiction, non fiction and art. Indeed, this issue soars to new heights thanks to the synergy from our guest editors and our talented contributors.
The very best,
NEVER TO EDIT, I once swore as a boy.
Now to my ineffable joy
I am guest editor of the Able Muse.
When Alex asks, how does a boy refuse?
It’s been a pleasure editing this issue and working with a diversity of writers. My goal was to mix traditional narrative with more experimental forms. In every case, I tried to follow what the late W.G. Sebald called “prose fiction”—i.e., fiction in which every word counts, fiction in which the writer doesn’t spend time on “connective tissue”—those laborious descriptions that transport the reader from one place to another, engage in weighty flashbacks and expository dialogue, These are passages that Elmore Leonard, in a breezier manner, describes as “the things that readers skip over.”
Prose fiction is often (and mistakenly) thought of as being very short and ignoring the linear rules of time that characterize traditional narrative. In truth, prose fiction encompasses a wide spectrum. It was impossible to include a novel as long as Sebald's “Austerlitz”. But my goal was to illuminate the spectrum by choosing a variety of prose fiction forms. Some stories in this issue are more traditional in their development of narrative, yet sparkle with well-chosen words and efficient transitions that allow readers to take leaps of the imagination with the writer. Others ignore traditional linear sequences and the reader must surrender to the language itself, sometimes filling in their own version of the story.
All writers, of necessity, work on the “wrong” side of the loom—seeing all the tufted bits of wool the reader can’t see and never having the luxury of reading their finished story for the first time. Prose fiction to my mind, is quite faithful to the reader on this “other” side of the loom in that it tries to make patterns simple, yet asks readers to participate in their creation as they read. In an age where there’s so much pre-packaged thought, prose fiction can offer radical vistas.
From the Guest Art Editor, Sharon Passmore:
Welcome to Workshop issue of Able Muse. I was very surprised and pleased when Alex invited me to be the Guest Art Editor.
I had a great time looking at all the wonderful images that were submitted. We received a wide range of pieces—from exuberant to quiet—including paintings, collages, photographs, digital manipulations and drawings. It was an honor to view them all and very difficult to choose between them. The final selection was determined not only by how much I like the pieces but also by how different they were from each other—from the graphic cut paper collages by Üzeyir Lokman Çayci, to the quieter and more introspective work of Terri Graham, one of our featured artists. Our other featured artist, Andrew Dolphin, is a local artist here in San Diego. His piece “Chi” started out as ball point pen on paper. We have Pat Jones’ playful “Do You Think She’s Gone?”
Yes, we have two featured artists in this issue, Andrew Dolphin and Terri Graham. Alex has asked me to explain why and how I chose the featured artists. I have no explanation other than I love their work. In the end that’s all that counts. Either a piece of art moves you or it does not.
Andrew has been playing with taking his paper and canvas images into a digital format and manipulating them, even going as far as tearing up the original physical piece and scanning the fragments as in “Recycled Reality”. Andrew’s “A Day Before Time”, which is a straight painting, is one of my favorite pieces because I love its strength, its motion, and the interplay between those two forces. It’s as if his tree has braced itself across the picture plane to hold the energy back.
Terri is a long time Eratospherean, thus I’ve seen several of her images workshopped in the forums. It was a pleasure to see some of them again. Terri’s “Synopsis” is one of my favorite pieces of art, period. It reminds me of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, and in fact *gasp* I prefer it. Aside from her obvious technical virtuosity, her images take you on an unexpected journey. Pack your bags.
I hope you all enjoy this work as much as I did.
There is no point looking for a common theme in the various essays in the non-fiction section of this issue of Able Muse. There isn’t one. And even if they all belong to the basic genre of the essay, I’m pleased to say that they manage to be as diverse as possible in style, approach and form.
David Mason’s essay on Charles Causley is a fine example of the critical overview, giving us in the space of 3,630 words (where would we be without computer-tools?) an enticing introduction to a major poet who is still sadly under-rated. Mason manages to be both wide-ranging in his assessment of the full arc of Causley’s career and critically precise, as he homes in on individual poems – and he really does seem to be at home with this poet.
John Whitworth is characteristically forthright in his short essay on rhyme. And who better than the creator of Perdita Simmons1 to celebrate the virtues of this poetic tool? As one might expect his essay is effortlessly learned, critically acute and (of course) very funny.
Rory Waterman provides a piece of scholarly close reading (I’ll resist the temptation to slip in the adjectives “good old-fashioned” here). He takes on the challenge of telling us something new about one of the most famous poems in the language (“One Art”), examining it alongside Bishop’s rather less well-known “Sonnet”. This short but erudite piece succeeds in showing just how rewarding and how revealing keen attention to form can be when discussing poetry. Not to mention how essential.
Stephen Collington’s essay offers a lesson in literary, political and social history. The chances are that the story he tells will be unfamiliar to most readers of this journal; it certainly was to me. It is just one fragment, of course, of the great and tragic story of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but such fragments, when so thoroughly documented and so clearly recounted, can be more informative and revealing than many full-scale histories. And in Collington's hands it is also very moving.
Tim Murphy’s essay is an example of a genre he has begun to make his own: the prosimetrum, which (as Wikepedia informs us) is quite simply “a literary piece made up of alternating passages of poetry and prose”. Murphy has been using this form for autobiographical purposes for some years now; in particular (as his own footnote tells us), he is concerned to recount the literary friendships of himself and his partner, Alan Sullivan. This particular excerpt focuses on his relations with the poet he has come to call Mr Parnassus, Richard Wilbur, and it offers an intriguing mixture of reminiscence, portraiture and literary criticism. It is remarkably successful in its depiction of a man he describes as “the most misunderstood of modern poets”.
So, as I say, no common themes, messages, forms or styles. Just a common love for poetry. And the ability to transmit it. What more could one ask?