Love—word we fill up with our desires and fears, utter with sincerity, toss around carelessly—when we were deciding on the theme for this issue, it seemed perhaps a foolhardy choice. But Ecotone was entering its fourteenth-anniversary year—the number for sonnets, valentines. And we are sometimes foolhardy. We named the issue knowing that the idea of love is often thrown up as a screen, to mask inequities or obscure oppression. That use cheapens the word, but it can’t alter the thing itself: love, the hard-working kind, the kind that reminds us to do more and ask more of ourselves, is the root of our survival.
One of my great loves, and one of this magazine’s abiding concerns, is print culture—the way editing, design, and materials can come together to make enduring text objects. Earlier this year, we debuted a series of fine-press broadsides, featuring poems from Ecotone and highlighting guest printers. It is named for Jason Bradford, who served on our staff from August 2014 to January 2016, and his mother, Shirley Niedermann. This issue seems like the right one in which to introduce the series.
Jason worked with Ecotone first as a reader and fact checker, and then as co-poetry editor, alongside Stephanie Trott. During his time in the MFA program here at UNC Wilmington, we came to know him as an exceptional poet, a gifted teacher, and a talented editor.
Jason’s mother, Shirley, became a part of the Ecotone team as well—she accompanied him to his classes, to our editorial meetings, and to the classes he taught as a teaching assistant. Shirley is a Navy veteran, with a wry sense of humor, and her presence made the magazine a more fun place to work.
In 2016, during his last semester in our program, Jason died due to complications of muscular dystrophy—a great loss to our community and to the poetry world. His contributions to this magazine and to poetry resonate in the present, through authors whose work he suggested, through his generous and sharp editorial outlook, through his friendships with writers, and through his poems. Those poems appear in magazines including jubilat, the Dialogist, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Gulf Coast. His chapbook, The Inhabitants, is available from Final Thursday Press, and his manuscript Stellaphasia was a semifinalist for the 2018 Crab Orchard First Book Award. We all look forward to seeing it published soon.
That’s the ultimate act of love for a poem, after all, to make it part of your body and mind.
In honor of Jason’s poetry and editing, and in honor of Shirley’s work to support her son’s life in literature, we are glad to introduce the Jason Bradford–Shirley Niedermann Broadside Series. Our first broadsides were designed and printed by Rory Sparks, and feature poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston and Molly Tenenbaum. This fall we debuted two broadsides designed and printed by Laurie Corral, with poems by George David Clark and Katie Farris. Each is a perfect container for its text; each fits perfectly inside a copy of the magazine; and each is a work of art, with letterpress or risograph printing and, of course, poems that will sit well on a wall year after year, poems you may well want to commit to memory. That’s the ultimate act of love for a poem, after all, to make it part of your body and mind. I’m thankful to our poets and printers, thankful for Shirley’s permission to name the series in this way, and thankful to be able, through the broadsides, to keep in mind Jason and Shirley’s example of love for family, friends, and poetry.
As the Ecotone team thought about the call for work for this issue, we turned to other writers to evoke some of the qualities we hoped to find. I can’t resist reprinting here some of what we gathered. As you’ll see, those words conjured up a lot of good things. We had to pause and remind ourselves that the mission of this magazine is, in essence, love—of place, and of the craft of editing—so we needn’t worry about fitting it all in one issue. Still, there is plenty.
Love demands of us self-examination, as Susan McCarty undertakes in her essay “Buying a Vuarnet T-Shirt.” It may ask us to lift up writers whose work is at risk of being erased, as Jennifer Elise Foerster does in her essay on Anishinaabe poet Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. It can lead us to give what feels like everything for a beloved or a friend, as Juliet does in Hilary Zaid’s story “All We Have Is Where We’ve Been.” And it may ask us to engage in serious play, as Anna Maria Hong does in her poems “Romanze” and “Bref Double.” To work for love is to love; and the writing and art in this issue are doing that work.
A love issue ought to be full of poems, and this one is. Each one is made with a fourteen-line form: sonnets, rondels prime, a pair of sonzals, and a few brefs double—a form I’m thankful so many poets tried out for us. I recommend it if you haven’t made one yourself.
In an editing course I’m teaching, we’ve been talking about inequity and bias in the publishing industry. We’re looking at the numbers for jobs in publishing and for work published and reviewed, which is not a cheer-inspiring activity. One of my students recently asked, Do these numbers discourage you? Of course they do. But a clearer view of inequity offers an opportunity. The work is here for us. Our choice is how we do it. The worse things are—in publishing as in climate crisis as in so many realms—the more obvious the opportunities: to cultivate our love, to act on that love for each other and for the ecosystems we’re part of. May we all—and I mean, of course, the human world and the more-than-human—have all the love we need, and give all the love we can.