Issue #12

September 20, 2015

Letter from the editor

Rebecca Starks, Mud Season Review editor-in-chief

“What do you want to see, / now that you are going blind?” The question the narrator’s dead mother in Darren Morris’s poem “Limitations” poses can be focused three ways: on the visible world, on the yearning to see, and on the possibility that physical blindness opens up another way of seeing. Morris’s poetry moves by way of a paradoxical synesthesia of outer and inner, and a juxtaposition of opposites: in the coupling of train cars he hears “the tireless urge for loveless congress”; feeling, cold he visualizes his mother’s body awaiting cremation; from a frozen lake he sees the shoreline “aflame.” Observing the ice-coated branches of trees, his sight fading, he notes “the impossibly / smooth conclusions they make of the air.” The words themselves are an irresistibly smooth conclusion, bringing to mind the ending of another poem, Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man,” who sees “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

Christopher Volpe’s Black Paintings, in the tonalist vein, do something similar, exploring the relative contributions of black and white shades to clarity and obscurity. Fog can seem to be both obstruction and visible spirit. Volpe writes: “My paintings at times seem to be about the tension created between looking and responding to the world – questions of perception, subjectivity, and representation. I hope they’re also mostly about a state of mind – something genuine, non-rational, and intuitive.”

Genevieve Plunkett’s story “Get Gregory Out” puts questions like these—perception, subjectivity, representation—into play, as a cultish group of women carry around made-to-order lifelike dolls and present themselves to each other and the world as mothers. Their behavior abstracts motherhood into a martyrdom without justification. What could be sharp social commentary is instead presented as a psychological portrait of Patty, one woman in the group, and we’re left wondering about her state of mind. Even her attempt to escape the illusion she’s trapped herself in, by dating a man, is marked by merely going through the motions, a lack of emotion other than relief “she could just let it happen.” But she doesn’t—even as others respond to cries for help, we sense she is still listening for a cry of real human need.

Like Patty, Millie Tullis wants to break free from a life of illusions. “The Bees Are All Women” is structured on the tension between investigating and asserting—between losing herself in the journals of Sylvia Plath or the study of bees and asserting herself in the world, confronting lovers and leaving the hive of her parents and the Mormon church, instead of “waiting to be someone who isn’t waiting.” The flip side of her patience with the craft of writing and the natural world is an impatience with herself and where she comes from, an urgent need to find herself in what she is investigating.

Rebecca Starks, editor-in-chief