Issue #23

September 20, 2016

Letter from the editor

Rebecca Starks, Mud Season Review editor-in-chief

A special thanks to this issue’s guest editors, who were featured in our 2016 print issue and agreed to select or solicit work for our September online issue: Aimee Nezhukumatathil (poetry), Sean Prentiss (nonfiction), and Robin McLean (fiction).

Jonathan Rovner’s creative essay “The Funambulists” provides a metaphor for what the writer does: each step of the tightrope walker increases the tension in the rope, and in the audience, even as he or she looks everywhere but at the source of tension. It’s a balancing act between the unacknowledged, obsessive inner focus, and the outward, glossing gaze. How, Rovner implies, can you presume to imagine what someone else is going through, even as your life warps around not trespassing on this imaginative space? “Imagination is a sleazy car salesman, the bastard kid of Truth. And it’s the latter that will pull you from your impregnable jet in the clouds and sit you down and explain with cold and scientific exactitude that there is a kind of pain you cannot comprehend, let alone remedy.”

The protagonist of Nathan Leslie’s story “Fly in the Ointment” manages to evade this dichotomy. “I seek perfection in everything,” Grover says. “Certain rug makers, I am told, bury small imperfections in their work as an honor to God. I strive for perfection only.” His perfectionism is neither imagination nor truth, but a fuzzy middle distance. Like “Tom” in Rovner’s essay, by trying to avoid the elephant in the room, Grover creates a conundrum he can’t solve. He subscribes to The Code, the moral commandments of the gated community he is a caretaker for, even as its representatives condemn him. He has raked his conscience as clean as the lawn, until it might be fake.

In Christina Mun-Lutz’s poems, the tightrope stretches between a daughter and the mother she never knew. Each line is like the first step away from security, as in “A Story of Beginnings”: “after the ocean’s / million hands fold and unfold”—but there is never such an “after,” only perpetual reenactment: “a mother’s hands open / and a daughter’s always reaching.” The color black recurs in her poems—in foals, in the night, in crows—a glowing black that makes me think of eyes, of pupils narrowing and widening to regulate the passage of light, and of pain.

Sculptor Troy Simmons creates another kind of balancing act, between his potentially polarizing interests in the environment and architecture. His works embody the weight and restriction of the manmade, even as the natural world pushes through the concrete to appear in bright colored suggestions of petals and foliage, in what Simmons calls “the persistence of what is endangered.” His layers crumble to reveal past layers, but more than the present crumbling we’re aware of the original layer that seems to be asserting itself again, overtaking, evolving out of the surface the way sea creatures crawled out onto the land.

It feels fitting that the last issue I should see through to publication is one that was primarily edited by others: the journal has taken on its own life, and I look forward to its evolution under the direction of editor-in-chief Lauren Bender, and to continuing in a consulting editorial role. I’m grateful for all the contributors and staff I’ve gotten to work with and come to know over the past two and a half years.

Rebecca Starks, editor-in-chief