Letter from the Founding Editor:
What strange and bewildering times we’re living in right now. Although social distancing and seclusion may be the preferred state for some writers, for others, forced isolation is difficult and stressful. The concerns we have regarding our families and communities is enough to stifle our creative impulse to write. When I checked in with the editors of RR, I told them I wasn’t writing much. Editor Yasmin Kloth responded that she wasn’t either, except for one small poem that traveled from her dream world into morning consciousness. She shared it with me. The words were poignant, gentle, and carried the questions so many of us are holding inside, almost afraid to speak aloud.
“Every morning . . . I wonder what new part / of my world has disappeared . . .”
The days we move through are unsettling and filled with a slew of words we’d never expect would be our new lexicon: quarantine, shelter at home, pandemic, social distancing, flatten the curve. We’ve traded shopping and dining out for empty shelves and delivery, family gatherings and quiet conversations for Zoom meetings. We pay close attention to the 6-feet of space we’re instructed to keep around ourselves. We wear face masks and latex gloves. We’re afraid to touch anything, to get too close to even our neighbors.
“We didn’t speak, just smiled / with our hands raised gently / to the sky, a song note, a flare: / I see you.”
And there it is. Everything we’re missing and needing and wondering if we’ll get back—that human connection, that communion of sharing face to face, that need to communicate, to be known, to be seen.
“I see you.”
If poetry is any consolation, if it is a saving grace (I think it is), then our "song note," our "flare" is the sharing of poetry with each other. When poets write, revise and submit, they are in essence saying, "Here I am. Here is my heart. See me. I exist." The editors of RR take the responsibility to "see" the poet and the poem very seriously. That's why we have a regimen of Round 1 and Round 2 readings. When a poem is accepted, it's been examined carefully. It's been fully and deeply seen. In choosing art for the accepted poems in this issue, Featured Artist Shelley Thomas held the poems in her mind's eye similarly to the way that she holds found objects during beachcombing. Featured Musician Michael Morton relied on an image-filled visual and emotional tone before he translated the poems into music. Sight and sound, recognition and response, awareness and affirmation, all played an integral part in creating this new issue, this new world of poetry.
In our present situation, a virus has temporarily taken much of our world away from us. It is a joy to realize the light of poetry still shines vibrantly. It somehow settles me, steadies me, gives me hope. We're all seeking hope right now, the hope that we can somehow get through this, that our creative spirit can rise above these troubling days. When we wake in the morning, much like Yasmin did, we hope to see the things that keep us safe beyond masks, gloves, and social distance: kindness, compassion, joy, love. My hope is that this issue of Rockvale Review might kindle in you a new awareness of human resilience and compassion, that you will smile, or nod, or notice the commonalities we share even in separation and challenge. I hope that when you wake each morning to another day that may at first seems strange and difficult, you will look deeper and further to find the light that's still there.
And speaking of light, I'm grateful to everyone who shared their light with me to create Issue Six during this time of stress.
- To my fellow editors - Christine, Shahe, Yasmin, and Therese: thank you for the time you spent considering poetry even as you balanced other responsibilities in a swiftly-changing environment. Your careful reading and thoughtful comments led us to the right poems. I'm lucky to be working with all of you!
- To Shelley Thomas: Oh my, how you've outdone yourself! You "found" the perfect image for the poems, capturing the deeper meaning behind the words. Your artist's statements are poetry themselves. I am deeply appreciative.
- To Michael Morton: It's not easy to interpret poetry with solo flute, but you did it flawlessly and beautifully. To know how deeply you read the poems, responding to the poetic line with musical phrasing, inspires and thrills me. I am in awe.
- To the poets featured in this issue, I give you these words: We see you.
Every morning my head presses
against the sound of the alarm.
I wonder what new part
of my world has disappeared
as if I had it in my hands
just a moment ago
as if it were a word in my mouth
I can't remember.
I woke from a dream and saw
our neighbors through the windows
of their homes and their cars.
We didn't speak, just smiled
with our hands raised gently
to the sky, a song note, a flare:
I see you.
I woke and wondered
where the hope is buried--
the deer still nibbling at the dew
and new spring growth in the yard,
the neighbor cat’s black
body in a slinky curve
at the back of our house
searching for mice in the field.
My daughter, unchanged in the morning
her dimple a deep well
of joy as the sun gives us the day
we don't recognize
but welcome the light in
just the same.
Yasmin Mariam Kloth
The print version of Rockvale Review, Issue Six is available on Magcloud for $18.00 and includes a free digital issue. The digital version by itself is $4.00. We offer this print edition as an option for poets who might like to have a printed copy of their work paired with the art. Click on the red MagCloud button to purchase directly from the MagCloud site. To read all the poems online, scroll down.
Click on the photo to go to the poem's page. All images copyrighted: Shelley Thomas, 2020
Poems that were chosen for a musical response are noted. The audio file is included with the poem. All music copyrighted: Michael Morton, 2020