From the Editor


The woods have been calling to me more than ever, and never have they felt farther away. One evening, I found myself re-watching Pride and Prejudice (with Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly), tea in hand, as much for the story as for the birds that chirp throughout the soundscape and the stoic bare beauty of the Peak District. I felt deep envy for Elizabeth’s muddy hems and rosy cheeks. 

Did I want to escape, to disappear? Perhaps. In the words of Patricia McKillip from my favorite book of hers, Winter Rose, "I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me."

The day after I ran away to that English countryside, I was able to write—first time in months—nothing spectacular, but I did spill some soul-ink on paper. And then it dawned on me: We need the woods and their tales not to escape, but to recharge, to fill our cups, so we can go on and fill others’.

This issue of Bracken was long coming, but here it is, larger and even more diverse. It took us a while to find work whose magic will stay with you as you carry on in your lives—real magic. For haven’t you ever wished to breathe life into something lifeless, a faded and deflated plush toy that’s been your companion since before memory, or a dolly you’ve cared for like our own child (A Faerie’s Sullen Child)? And if you’ve lost somebody you loved, you know the ice that fills your heart and refuses to leave (Her Hands Like Ice). And if the world around you was trying to stomp out your soul, wouldn’t you have imagined you were someone else, somewhere else (Fancy Wings), or wished to follow someone to a better place, especially if that someone had white fur, whiskers, and a watch (I Am Your Rabbit)? And haven’t you ever been seduced into being a part of something larger than yourself, enough to abandon all caution (Down Creekside)?

Having a guest poetry editor was new, wondrous, and sometimes challenging. We read and re-read the submissions that touched us, and talked about them as the pines grew tall above us, moss stretched over the hardwoods, and birches rapped on the windows. The images stay with me: a face of a father long-gone fashioned out of a flannel, then his eyes watching the daughter “from so deep in the bracken” (Visitation); a blanket of darkness and a memory of oneness with the woods (Resonances); a willow that’s a protector and a witness to first love (That Willow); a menagerie under one’s skirt (Understory); an airportless world (Untrust the Cure); a tree “fingering the air,” reaching, becoming (Sycamore); sorrows that come with swallowing a fish as a child (Some Kind of Gift).

In art, Jana Heidersdorf returns with another poignant cover. I caught this piece in Jana’s newsletter and it both unsettled and moved me.  It is called “Darkness” yet I find it delicate, beautiful, and full of hope. 

We are also featuring two pieces, Moth and Sleeper, by Greek multidisciplinary designer Constaninos Chaidalis from his project Sinister. This project “deals with personal memory and loss,” and with returning to our child state when faced with big emotional challenges. I was drawn to this work partly for its embodiment of a truth close to Bracken’s soul—how myths and tales can feed the child in us, giving us strength to cope.

And lastly, Henry Hu is back with another piece “Run.” 

I will leave you with this: If you are struggling to find footing in these dark times, I want to direct you to Myth & Moor, a blog by a person who’s long been an inspiration, Terri Windling. This is the post that helped me move forward: Dark Beauty.

I hope this fills your cups so that you may feed others beauty and hope.

Alina Rios