As the publication date of Clockhouse Volume Three approaches, we’d like to give you another sneak preview. Here’s the “Editor’s Note” that will introduce the issue:
The Power of Where
by Julie Parent
Can a collection of writing be a “GPS for the soul”?
The Huffington Post already grabbed this phrase to name their section on health and wellness, but each time I read through this issue of Clockhouse, I find myself guided by a certain kind of GPS, a “global positioning system” of characters and situations, moments and images, discoveries and declarations that take me on what I can best describe as a journey of the places we all inhabit—inner and outer topographies of the soul.
‘Who,’ ‘what’ and ‘where’ are the staples of any good piece of writing, but ‘where’ carries an added elusive quality beyond the indication of geography, or even of inner journey and conflict. In addition to the outer and inner landscapes we live in, dream of, escape from, or long for, there’s the space in between these places: the roads going to or coming from these locations—be they physical, emotional, or spiritual—that are an essential component of our personal and collective ‘where.’ This space between often defines (and, conversely, is defined by) ‘who’ we are and ‘what’ we are doing. ‘Where’ reflects the background, culture, beliefs, impulses, choices and actions of each of us as we travel from one “place” to another. ‘Where’ is not only the place departed or the place sought, it is the journey itself.
Where have I been? Where am I going?
In moments of upheaval or contemplation, we revisit our personal and collective pasts to understand where we’ve been and what our future may hold. In this issue of Clockhouse, Jeb Sharp revisits the classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows, just as Jennifer Pullen plays with variations on the archetypal fairytale “Little Red Riding Hood.” Similarly, in his short story “I Know a Little,” Michael Carroll illustrates the personal journeys of two individuals contrasted against the hometown they both shared and wanted to escape.
Sometimes this journey of ‘where’ happens within a private setting and impacts our own sense of identity. Kazim Ali brings us an excerpt of his new translation of Marguerite Duras’ novel Abahn, Sabana, David in which the characters are largely defined by their proximity to and distance from each other. Duras uses this space and intimacy to underscore the mystery and tension between the characters, or what Kazim calls a “dangerous sense of disquietude of the politics at work” within the story. This all turns what we easily recognize as anti-Semitism into a much more vague, and thus more universal, exploration and fear of otherness.
This Duras piece (along with “I Know a Little”) is part of a new, larger section within Clockhouse we call “The Folio,” curated in this issue by poet, author, and Goddard College MFA faculty member, Douglas A. Martin. Douglas sought out work from an eclectic group of writers he carries with him, in his heart, in his soul—in a personal folio of sorts—that further defines his personal ‘where.’ In the essay “Twice,” also within the folio, T Clutch Fleischmann explores the implications and possibilities of a personal ‘where’ by encountering an artwork consisting of two full-length mirrors side-by-side. The essay considers the isolation and juxtaposition of the writer’s own doubled reflection as well as the mythical tales the artwork evokes.
Like the strictness of a mirror, other work within this issue examines the concrete details of place and the discoveries within: In “Asymmetrical Beings,” Jason Arias brings us inside the exploratory self-quarantine of a young artist, and Sam Lahne dramatizes a mysterious encounter on an airplane in The Giant Man. In this issue’s interview about his novel Delicious Foods, James Hannaham reveals a misconception he discovered about modern labor-enslavement camps: “ . . . because of all the trappings of regular employment, it becomes possible for people to deny that what is happening [to them] is actually slavery.”
Perception of truth, and life of mind and spirit also encompass our personal ‘where.’ Michele Karas speaks of inner hopes with “In the You-Are-Still-Alive Dream,” Alan Elyshevitz draws upon the agrarian past to elucidate the technological present in “Insomnia, Part VII,” and Carolyn Locke describes a meditative journey to a final resting place in “Rest in the Riddle of Yes.”
Of course, our most recognizable interpretation of ‘where,’ the world around us, speaks to our present reality and hope for a better future. Charlie Bondhus shows us how “George Zimmerman Signs Autographs at a Florida Gun Show” and Tim Kahl provides an environmentally conscious “Guide to Yosemite Highlights.”
Where have I been? Where am I going?
Where am I now?
As we travel from one ‘where’ to the next, there are moments of pure presence, without attention to past or future. Robert Vivian’s pieces, what he calls “dervish” essays, swirl together vivid detail to viscerally remind us of the ever-present here and now, and Kelley Simons’ cover illustration shows us the tranquility in this space between that still holds potential for the next step of the journey.
The young girl drawn on the cover is peacefully seated on a slope, holding a rope that disappears up into the luscious green foliage of a tree. She faces the general direction of the tree but looks past it, unconcerned. Her eyes don’t follow the disappearing rope but her hands gently grasp it nonetheless. Did she tie the rope up into the tree herself? Did she discover the rope on the hill as she was passing by? We don’t know. She is in the space between though, deciding, in her own time, what to do next. Her story is open-ended and, considering her dress, no doubt timeless.
We hope that this issue of Clockhouse is also open-ended and timeless. The final piece, Zachary Lundgren’s poem “The Backbone before Blossom,” is a response to the famous Sally Mann photograph, Candy Cigarette. During the proofing of this issue, Zach explained to me why he omits final punctuation in this and all of his poems.
“I feel this more accurately gives the sense of a poem never truly ending, how it cannot be boxed in and concluded with final punctuation. For me, a poem is sparked by a moment, and looking back on that moment today, compared to four years later, will inevitably change that moment . . . does that make sense?”
Indeed. On any stretch of road between the “places” we inhabit, our perception of what has passed and what may come will shift. Each piece within this third volume of Clockhouse manifests this shifting perception—this nuanced, magnificent power of ‘where.’
As for “GPS for the soul”? Maybe we are the GPS. I’ll let you be the judge of that. And, when you re-read your copy of Clockhouse a few months or years from now, you may have a different answer.
Pre-orders for Volume Three of Clockhouse can be placed at www.clockhouse.net for shipment in July.