To help celebrate Chinese New Year, this reminder of one memorable rooster from Ecotone 18.
To help celebrate Chinese New Year, this reminder of one memorable rooster from Ecotone 18.
Ecotone 23: The Craft Issue
For Ecotone’s fall 2017 issue, the editors invite writing on craft. We seek work that explores craftsmanship of all kinds, that exhibits its own craftiness, makes us think about the act of making in new ways. Some possible considerations:
Craft shaped by place; place shaped by craft—how our inner and outer environments influence how, what, and why we create.
Guilds and apprenticeships. Sewing circles and solitary work. So-called high craft and so-called low. Craft as and in companionship. Craft as community.
State fairs. The fiction, history, poetics of witchcraft. Craft and technology. Making and destruction. Form and function, beauty and ugliness. Spacecraft, aircraft, watercraft.
Gender and craft. Race and craft. Queerness and craft. Craft traditions under threat (by lack of attention or too much of it), and traditions in the process of being revived.
Craft as resistance. Craft as activism.
Metalsmithing, embroidery, signpainting; cocktails, baking, fermentation; amphibrachs, bops, Oulipian constraints.
Rhetorical strategy. Ars poetica. The craft of writing. Of editing.
Craft as a means of resilience, of cultural and bodily survival.
Cleverness, craftiness, smarts. The narrative possibilities thereof. The clues for keeping on therein.
We need your craft now, writers. Please send work that is traditional or experimental, but above all, excellently made. To ensure that we are able to consider your submission, please review our complete guidelines before sending it. We may read with unthemed issues in mind as well; still, if you are thinking craftwise, be sure to mention the theme in your cover letter.
Zeina Hashem Beck’s poems, “The Woman in Our House,” “Asmahan,” and “Listen” appear in Ecotone 21. In the piece below, Zeina tells us about the process of writing 3arabi Song, using a glossary of some of the Arabic words in the chapbook.
Writing 3arabi Song: A Glossary of Arabic Terms
Tarab: a kind of Arabic music. The word is also used to describe the emotional effect of this music on the listener, who is almost in a state of trance.
Tarab: When Mom began an Umm Kulthum song in the kitchen, Dad replied from the corridor. When my parents’ friends came over, everyone sang. The only video footage my parents have of me as a toddler is me singing in the middle of a living room, surrounded by clapping adults. This was Lebanon in the ’80s, during the civil war. Every day at lunch or dinner, Dad made the same joke about a line from a famous Abdel Halim song – a line about how time was coming to heal us.
Ya’aburnee: literally means “you bury me.” A term of endearment, often used by Arab mothers, expressing their desire to die before their children, rather than live without them. Can’t be translated in one word.
Ya’aburnee: Three summers ago, my cousin was shot dead on the street in Tripoli, Lebanon. My aunt sat in her living room, crying and singing about her asmar, her dark-skinned boy. That same summer, two Tripoli mosques were bombed. I don’t know how many people have buried loved ones in Syria, in Iraq, in Palestine. How to write the untranslatable?
3arabi: the Arabizi way of writing “Arabic.” Arabizi” comes from the combination of “Arabic” and “Englizi” (English); it uses numbers to represent sounds that are specifically Arabic, and has become well-known among Arabic speakers (especially online and in texting).
3arabi: One of the books we had in our house in Tripoli was a big, blue, French-Arabic/Arabic-French dictionary. It’s one of the earliest books I remember going through; I liked its thick cover, its smell, its thin pages, its weight. Looking back now, I find it interesting that, like me, it was bilingual. Like many Lebanese, I attended a French school then an American University. I feel I live in many languages, and so does 3arabi Song. But living in many languages means using the language of the colonizer, the Empire – do I forgive myself? And how do I break English to create a space for my 3arabi self inside it?
Ra7eel: departure | 3awda: returning
Ra7eel | 3awda: In one of the first stories I wrote as a little girl, I gave my character a very Western name: Grace. I remember struggling to come up with it because, in my little girl’s mind, I probably thought, Who names their characters Zeina or Ahmad? Who sets a story in Tripoli? One thing 3arabi Song says is, Oh for God’s sake, who the hell is Grace?
Bahr: the sea. Also means “meter” in Arabic poetry.
Bahr: The sea isn’t always merciful. Refugees keep drowning in the Mediterranean. And poetry seems simultaneously useles and powerful. But language is what I do, so I do it.
Habibi: my love.
Habibi: I lose count of how many times a day I use the word habibi. I lose count of Allah too.
Allahu Akbar: God is greater.
Allahu Akbar: These words didn’t use to invoke fear, or beheadings. When I visited the US for the first time last year, I wanted to read the poem “Adhan,” which contains the words Allahu Akbar. My husband worried some people in the audience might not get it, might be scared. He also worried some people in the Arab world might be offended. This is what happens when you live in the liminal. I read the poem.
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her first collection, To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize. Her second collection, Louder than Hearts, has won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in April 2017. She’s also the author of two chapbooks: 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 smith|doorstop Laureate’s Choice, selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Forward Prize, and has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and The Rialto, among others. She lives in Dubai, where she has founded and runs PUNCH, a poetry and open mic collective. Zeina’s readings often have a strong performative quality, and she has participated in literary festivals in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this department, Save Your Place, we highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.
This place is from the poem “Muybridge’s Clouds” by Joshua Rivkin in Ecotone 17.
“His lens opens and the sky burns away. No limit, no shade. Just the color of the crater left by footprints in mountain snow or the bright blindness of a just-fired gun, the sky in early photographs appears white. In his darkroom, a library of negatives, he matches the right shape for the right sky.”
It’s that time of year, y’all: Best American time! Congratulations to all of our contributors whose work is reprinted or commended in this year’s anthologies—and shout-outs to the following authors, whose work first appeared in Ecotone. Subscribers can log in to our website to read most of these pieces, and we’ll make a few of them open-access during the month of October:
Amy Leach’s essay “The Modern Moose,” from the Sound Issue, is reprinted in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016.
The Best American Essays 2016’s Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2016 includes four from Ecotone: “The Ear Is a Lonely Hunter,” by Barbara Hurd, “Mapping the Bottom of the World,” by Kate Miles, and “D Is for the Dance of the Hours,” by Aisha Sabatini Sloan, all from the Sound Issue; and “Hope Without Hope,” by Ana Maria Spagna, from Ecotone 19.
Finally, we’re very pleased to report that the Sound Issue is one of The Best American Essays’s Notable Special Issues of 2015! In celebration, during the month of October, we’re offering copies of the issue for $10—0r you can add a copy of Sound to a new subscription for just $7—$21.95 for Sound plus issue 22, the Country and City issue, and issue 23. If you’d like to see what we’re up to next, be sure to subscribe or renew.
Happy fall, happy reading, and congrats to our fabulous contributors!
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 was released this week, and we’re thrilled that Ron Carlson’s story “Happiness” is included. And we were even, ahem, happier to see the attention the story got in editor Laura Furman’s introduction.
“This year, as always, when the reading got under way for The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016, the stories in the just-published 2015 collection whispered in my ear that this would be the year when I wouldn’t find another twenty worthy of succeeding them. The haunting prediction held for a while, and then the first right one appeared. This year, Ron Carlson’s “Happiness” reassured me that once again there were more wonderful stories to discover.”
She goes on, we gleefully note, for several paragraphs about the story, including this one:
“The unhurried pace of the narration speaks of happiness as the narrator luxuriates in his modest way. He isn’t about to rush anything, not his descriptions of the weather, land, trees, water, trout, or deer. Even the cabin’s copper Levelor blinds have their moment. Happiness might glow and inspire, in memory and in its presence, but it doesn’t last, a truth here not stated but implied.”
We’re also proud to congratulate other Ecotone contributors for their inclusion: Charles Haverty for his story “Storm Windows” from One Story, Adrienne Celt for her story “Temples” from Epoch, and Wendell Berry for his story “Dismemberment” from The Threepenny Review.
This What’s Your Ecotone comes from Karen Linehan, winner of this year’s Rose Post essay contest from the North Carolina Writers Network. It describes the ecotone around her home in Carolina Beach, NC.
An ecotone surrounds my one-story brick house. It’s a porous border where the indoors and outdoors converge—more structural than ecological. Throughout the year, I share this space with a variety of animal residents. Mud daubers create earthen nurseries under the eaves. Green anoles scamper across the screened porch. Cockroaches cruise the kitchen and millipedes ramble the bathroom tiles. Chimney swift nestlings chitter inside the chimney. Squirrel tree frogs rasp from the gutters.
Earlier this spring, a queen paper wasp discovered a hole in an exterior window screen. Between the screen and the glass panes of a bedroom window, the wasp began constructing her nest. By the time I noticed the small funnel hanging by a stalk in the window, she had already fashioned the first hexagonal cells. Using flakes of bark she had chewed and softened with saliva, the wasp had sculpted wavy layers of gray and beige. In the base of each cell, she had deposited a single egg, like a miniature white sausage.
Through the early weeks of May, I watched the wasp at her nest. She fed her developing larvae a gooey mixture of nectar and the chewed parts of caterpillars she had harvested from my yard. In about a month’s time, the larvae transformed from pupae into sterile female workers. Soon the nest began to look more like an upside down umbrella pocked with dozens of cells.
Sometimes I pressed my face against the glass. On the other side of the window, the wasps raised their smoky black wings in a threat display. My simple eyes gazed into the wasps’ compound eyes. There was nothing between us except the narrow pane of glass.
Now it is late August. Soon reproductive male and female wasps will mate and depart the nest. Only the fertilized queens will survive the winter months. They’ll hibernate beneath loose bark or inside the wooden walls of my old shed, waiting for the warmth of spring.
The ecotone around my home changes through the seasons. As the nights become cooler, black rats will move from the nearby woods into my attic. The chimney swifts will depart for Peru. As for me, I’ll remain in my habitat through the winter, stoking the fire and reading Tinbergen’s The Animal in its World.
Karen Smith Linehan is a lifelong naturalist with a deep love for the flora and fauna of North Carolina. She teaches first and second grade at Friends School of Wilmington where she shares her love of nature with her students. Karen is currently pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction through Chatham University’s low residency program. She plays guitar and sings with her father in the Raleigh-based band, Bloomsbury. Karen and her husband, Terry, live in Carolina Beach. They have two grown daughters, Kelsey and Dylan.
We at Ecotone are mourning the loss and celebrating the life of our coeditor for poetry, Jason Bradford. In addition to being a keen and perceptive editor, Jason was an incredibly talented poet. Here is a selection of his work, which we will update as new publications appear. We hope you will be as moved by his words as we continue to be.
“Approaching Limits at Carolina Beach” in Rogue Agent Journal
“A Poem for My Mom” in Fruita Pulp
“Altern/native” in Jubilat
The new issue of Dialogist is dedicated to Jason, and includes one of his poems.
Jason also has poems forthcoming in the Laurel Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Gulf Coast.
His chapbook, The Inhabitants, is available through Final Thursday Press.
And we’re grateful to the Kenyon Review for this incredibly thoughtful memorial.
If you have the means, there is a memorial fund set up for Jason here. The site will be available for donations through February 29, 2016.
From the site: “Our goal is to ensure that the costs associated with his passing do not have a catastrophic effect on his family. If we exceed this goal, we plan to establish scholarships (both to UNCW’s Creative Writing Program and to Camp Courageous in Iowa) in his name.”
Our love and thoughts are with Shirley Niedermann, Jason’s mother, and with all his friends and family at UNC Wilmington, the University of Northern Iowa, and beyond.
We’re finishing up the first full week of school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the home of Lookout and Ecotone, and are gearing up for a semester of literary action! We’re just a little over a week away from the release of Lookout’s debut novel, and we’ve got news and events aplenty:
In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors, cover artists, and editors from peer presses and magazines to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.
Ben Stroud’s story “Traitor of Zion,” is reprinted in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.
One of the great difficulties in writing fiction that deals with history is figuring out where to depart from the historical record in favor of invention. In some ways, this can be the biggest problem in such a story. I had this struggle with “Traitor of Zion.” I can’t remember when I first heard about the branch of Mormons that settled on Bear Island in the far north of Lake Michigan. But once I did, I tucked it away as an idea for a story. I was drawn to the distance of the place, and the audacity of the enterprise: to build a new settlement in this remote, incredibly difficult-to-get-to island. In my writing I’m often driven by a sense of adventure. I want the story to be a journey for the reader, but also for me. This seemed like solid material.Continue Reading