In the Lap of the Atlantic

Hello from the ocean.

Which is to say, hello from a salutary winter beach walk. It’s gotten pretty cold here on this coast, but a walk by the shore is often still the ticket. The view and the air never get old—this must be in part because they are already ancient—and this makes them good company.

Which is also to say, hello from a set of ecosystems in dire need of support. This year the world’s oceans reached the highest temperatures noted since 1958, when record keeping of this kind began, according to a paper in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. It will take systemic change along with individual action to help our oceans go on as healthy, sustaining, sustained living systems. What action can I take? You? It’s a question worth asking and asking again.

Which is to say—as our team noted last spring—a magazine that sits nearly in the lap of the Atlantic ought to have an Ocean Issue. And what a delight it’s been to read and consider work for it—ranging from the speculative to the research intensive and all around between.

In Kim Samek’s story “Garbage Patch,” against the background of a near-future Seattle whose music scene has been decimated by rising rents, the intrepid Thuy seeks for a way to eat all the plastic she can wish for. In “Sexy Thing,” by Amber Wheeler Bacon, a family prepares for an approaching hurricane, and the narrator’s sister gets ready to go on a portentous date. The story is related by a boisterous, opinionated, touchingly frank narrator, one with whom I’d like to check in again in a few years to see how she’s doing.

Patricia Ononiwu Kaishian’s “The Magnetism of Eels” traces the journey made by the American eel, Anguila rostrata, from ocean to river and back, and considers language, home, queer advocacy, and finding a sense of place along the way. In “The Last Good Day,” Hea-Ream Lee ventures out to find and document a rare plant that grows where an even more ancient ocean once was.

What action can I take? You? It’s a question worth asking and asking again.

In Rajiv Mohabir’s longer poem “Humpback Vocalizations,” whale song and research on it travel across the page in a watery, magical progression. And save some of an idle afternoon for Molia Dumbleton’s story from an East Coast lobster-fishing town, “Before All This.” It’s got poetic compression along with the expansive feel of a novel, and some of the sentences may break your heart a little.

There’s much more, including many oceanic poems—from new and past contributors including Cherene Sherrard, Yuko Taniguchi, and Gretchen Steele Pratt—that would, I suspect, sound even finer if read near a body of water, whether it’s an ocean or a bathtub. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have.


I’m pleased to share some good news along with this issue. This fall, we welcomed Michelle Donahue—writer, editor, teacher, and novice surfer—to our team as associate editor. She joins us having worked on some magazines I love—Quarterly West, Flyway—and brings a keen and wide-ranging editorial sensibility, not to mention a genuine sense of fun. I’m so glad to have her on board. If you’d like to hear a little about her work and editorial philosophy, check out fiction editor Becca Hannigan’s interview with her on our blog. There, Michelle writes, “I’ve discovered that really my favorite ocean is the one I can currently dip my toes into. I find there’s something so calming about the coast, and so humbling. There’s no better place to be reminded of our own beautiful smallness.”

As this issue took shape, I realized that I wanted it to begin with the ocean itself. Thanks to Michelle, it does—she took the photo shown on the facing page at what’s now called Topsail Beach.

From this body of water to the one you’re closest to, hello, hello, and welcome.


Sandpipers walking along the ocean's edge.