April 20, 2015
Letter from the editor
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ (AWP) conference inspired us, providing the chance to meet some of our contributors, talk with other writers, learn from other editors, and hear some of our favorite authors and poets read and be interviewed. And while I imagined the impulse to “only connect” would reign, what I came away with was a renewed sense that this endeavor of writing—and publishing—is about the persistent work of immersing yourself in a craft until you create something that works. As one editor put it: “You are basically sending your work to yourself. Send work you’d be excited to read.” From the authors, when we at Mud Season Review accept a piece, we repeatedly hear three things: this piece means a lot to me; a number of people have given me feedback on it already; and I appreciate your working with me on it further. The work—both process and result—matters equally to the authors.
In Josh Booton’s poems, part of a longer work, “Tectonics,” two columns of poetry rub up against each other, such that their staggering and repetitions open the door to inversions and double meanings: “the fault- / lines wending where- / ever they like ending in / ever after happily.” Or “the long division / carrying the one.” Or “I will die without / you.” The word “tectonic” comes from the Greek for builder or construction, and these poems hold in tension the human scale of intentional construction and the natural, longer-term scale of tectonic shifting, by which the earth makes and unmakes its surface. Recording the incremental effects on a marriage of daily tensions and their release, Booton’s poetry works to show this duality at work in human relationships.
This contrast between the quotidian and the cataclysmic underlies Edmund Sandoval’s essay “Like Happy Birthday But Not Really,” as the specter of disease his partner faces turns his own thoughts in morbid directions. In a medical context, Sandoval clarifies, morbid means invasive, and this scare invades their lives. Birthdays become a way to collect a set of memories that run the gamut of human emotions, from the pettiness of not wanting to share your birthday with someone you don’t like, to deep-seated irrational guilt. Everything is trivial until it’s not; the empty ritual of making a wish can lead to regret; celebrations can easily turn into scars.
In Amanda Pauley’s story “Butchering,” we see the flip side of tradition, taking us back to the etymological root it shares with treason: a handing over. For Melinda to break with her family’s traditions can be seen only as a betrayal of “what they expect me to be,” as Chester White says in her dream. The care of hands—as they prepare a Thanksgiving meal, scrape bristles off a hog, or make the pregnant Melinda comfortable or presentable—doesn’t distinguish among the objects of its care or take into account their point of view. Ritual is meant to control for confounding points of view, to remove the threat of divergence.
Something of Melinda’s predicament is captured in Nissa Kauppila’s paintings of birds (and bats and dragonflies). The birds keep eye contact, their heads and beaks sharply delineated, while the feathers are torn and scattered as if by a predator. In trying to capture the immediacy of both their presence and their flight, the painter seems to do calculated violence to the winged creatures, unraveling their precisely but only partially rendered images, while the rest breaks into reticulate veins reminiscent of craquelure that appears in aging paint. The creatures are snared in their escape, even as they are released from a false stasis.
Rebecca Starks, editor-in-chief