From the Editor


The idea for Bracken was born in the Yorkshire woods, at Arvon, right after the Paris attacks of this past November. The horror left me feeling desperately alone so far from home, and the wood lulled me to sleep, when nobody and nothing else could. 

Or perhaps it was born long before, in my native Russia, where I roamed the wood every summer, fearless and deeply at home with mosquito bites, huckleberry patches, and brown-topped boletes hiding in the moss.

Or, was it something still deeper—a need, a void? I read the stories that grew out of urban landscapes, alternate realities, and complex utopian visions. I enjoyed these and sometimes became obsessed with an idea suggested by these stories, like the existence of London Below, which is a life-long obsession. But, I craved a simpler, subtler magic, one whose power lies in its being barely there. Close your eyes and you’ve missed it—no wands nor glorious machinery, no weapons but heart and word. 

It was a leap of faith, then, to call out to others who seek this subtle magic—a call that was answered more beautifully than I could have imagined in the form of a cover, by Jana Heidersdorf, woven of dreams that both of us dreamt half across the world from each other.

Then came the tales, sturdy and graceful vines of verse and prose.  

In verse, we follow a mud-fellow into the woods (“Close to Home,” Myers), come out from under the bed and summon the trees (“Give Up the Saw Jennifer,” MacBain-Stephens), disappear into the Vienna Woods both fairytale and Nazi-real (“Tale from the Vienna Woods,” Michael), run away and lick the roses (“Runaway,” Hermann), fall from a ladder seeking silver (“I Asked the Alchemist,” Backer), and suffer the fever of Mama’s twisted love (“Devoured” and “Neverhome,” Bixel).

In prose, we befriend the crows (“When We Got to Arizona and the Petrified Forest,” LeHew), follow two witch-sisters through life and death (“Through Earth and Sky,” Kiste), listen to the trees’ wisdom yet weave our own human fortunes (“The Woodcutter’s Sons,” Case), encounter Goldilocks before she meets Papa Bear (“Father Bear,” Martin), and try to help stumblers on their mysterious way (“Passing Through,” Thom).

I fell in love with Caren McCaleb’s art while watching (and weeping as I watched) Lost in Living, a documentary by the brilliant Mary Trunk. “The Guardian,” like other pieces from the same era, tells a story from in-between the shadows.

All this is presented in gorgeous simplicity by Piper Robert, without whom this issue would not have happened—as, too, it wouldn’t have happened without the support of my secret readers, who read all my “maybes” and provided their impressions respectfully and generously. Also, a special thank you to Michael Matheson who has a wealth of knowledge in this confusing businesses, and who is an amazing editor, writer, and human being.

I hope this takes you on a walk through the wood of the heart’s own magic, and brings you safely back, changed, renewed, a little younger perhaps. And I hope Bracken will continue to provide you with more woods to discover and walk in—a wood for each season to come.

Alina Rios