From the Editor
I’ve always struggled with home. It could’ve had something to do with growing up a creative person in a family of engineers and doctors. It could’ve been immigration, which breaks you in half so that you can never truly, deeply feel at home in the country you left or in the country that took you in. Whatever the reason, home was always fantastical, imaginary, on the other side of my world, just outside touch, smell, and sight. I began writing to write myself a path to this home. It is no wonder then that I wrote fantasy.
In this issue, we are featuring the work of the winner and the runner-up of our home-themed flash fiction contest. I picked this theme because “what does home mean to you” is a question that can stir up so much, if you let it. Home is, most often, people or a person. This is shown beautifully in “When Mama Calls,” by Maria Haskins, the winner of our contest. Home is, of course, belonging. “Path of Stones,” our runner up by Kathryn Kulpa, brings out that yearning to belong so well. The contest was judged by Gwendolyn Kiste, who has more things to say about our winners.
Things shifted for me this year, quite unexpectedly, where home moved into the real realm and it affected the kind of work that spoke to me for Issue IV. We’ve always leaned more toward magic realism than fantasy at Bracken, but in this issue, this is even more so than before. You might notice that this is a photography issue, which grounds it in reality. Our cover image was captured by Michael Marsh, a photographer from the seaside town of Whitstable in England. We’re also featuring other select images of Michael’s beautiful photography and I got to ask him a few questions, one of which was of course about what home means to him.
Another artist in this issue is Ellie Davies who lives in Dorset and works in the woods and forests of Southern England “making work which explores the complex interrelationship between the landscape and the individual.” Ellie says “Our understanding of landscape can be seen as a construction in which layers of meaning that reflect our own cultural preoccupations and anxieties obscure the reality of the land, veiling it, and transforming the natural world into an idealisation.” Just like home was to me—an idealization. Just like the woods, my second home, remains to me still.
The three short stories that made it into this issue are “Harvest” by Bracken alumnus Stephen Case (whom you might remember from Issue I), “Christine-Ann Corbin” by Arthur Davis, and “Essential Needlework Advice for Shadows, Spectres, and Other Ethereal Beings” by Rachel Linn. “Harvest” is a very real Halloween story, which I’m hoping you will read now, and then once again on All Hallows Eve. “Christine-Ann Corbin” will take you on a wild flight in 1914. And “Essential Needlework Advice for Shadows, Spectres, and Other Ethereal Beings” will give even the lost and gone among us instructions for how to belong, complete with illustrations.
Jed Myers, our Poetry Editor, and Erin Slomski-Pritz, our new first reader, collected six moving and diverse pieces for this issue. In “Roxanne’s Room” by Lyn Coffin, the past, present, and the future are all real, and passing from one to another is seamless, as easy as taking a breath or reading a line. Sheila Sondik’s two poems “Dancing Limbs” and “Dancing Birds” are in a form called the Golden Shovel, recently invented by Terence Hayes, in which the lines’ last words comprise a quotation from another poet. “Prayer (1)”—a brilliant debut by Lucy Harlow—weaves medieval and early-modern poetry into the now. “Zugunruhe” by Olivia V. Ambrogio is all aflutter and restless with a need to belong… elsewhere. “For Steve” by Andrew Gordon is a quiet personal piece that silences the woods.
When an issue comes together, a sub-theme can emerge. It surprised me that in this more real and grounded issue, we have so many birds. Restless birds, dancing birds, silenced birds, and swallowed birds. To me birds mean ultimate freedom—to be able to fly away, soar high, go far. Of course, it also means being free to return… home.
I hope you enjoy this issue, and that perhaps in the magazine we have offered you a home, a place to be heard, to relate, to dream, to feel safe. A place to return to again and again.