LPR at Five: The Two Little Patuxents

With our tenth publication, the Summer 2011 Make Believe issue, we reached our fifth year. Before we dive into preparations for our landmark Winter 2012 Social Justice issue, we’d like to take time to look at what we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. Let’s start with our name…

Little Patuxent Review was founded in 2006 by a group of writers residing in the Howard County, MD area—Mike Clark, Anne Bracken, Ann Barney and Brendan Donegan—to fill the void left when a periodical with the same title, started by poets Ralph and Margot Treital, closed a quarter century ago. Here, Donegan shares this thoughts on the link between the Little Patuxent River and the eponymous publication:

Little Patuxent River

Little Patuxent River (Photo: Lynn Weber)

A river, at least in its pristine state, brings delight and magic to those who live within its catchment area. The Little Patuxent River does this magnificently. So does Little Patuxent Review. Look at them side by side.

The river has poetry and music. Gaze from the banks near its rising point and savor the shadows of a few daddy-long-leg spiders cast by the dappled sun on the sandy bottom. Listen quietly as its waters cascade down the rocks at the lofty fall line, splashing into each nook and cranny. The Algonquin word “patuxent” means “water flowing over smooth stones.”

The Little Patuxent River flows through many environs, reaching out to many sensibilities. It rises out of the ground, slowly seeping, not gushing. It picks its way, back and forth, through the low rolling hills of the Piedmont, seeking its way to the edge of a plateau filled with fertile farms and homes, until it reaches the fall line, where it tumbles one hundred and eighty feet to the sandy coastal plain, now to wander, sometimes almost in circles, until it finally meets the Patuxent River, forty-five miles from its source.

Think about Little Patuxent Review as you scroll through its pages: how it brings you into its narrative; how it traces a path for you through poetry, prose, fiction, art and photography; how it opens up your world as a butterfly opens its wings to the delights of the various genres and the talents of the diverse creators.

Take non-fiction. The river, its inhabitants and its environs rigorously follow the laws of science. Savage Mill and remnants of the dam above preserve the history of the sawmills and cotton-spinning of bygone years. Then take photography. The afternoon sun peeks through the crowded trees on the bank of the river, providing a crisp black and white image, almost searing the eye, casting long dark shadows toward you on the ground.

Imagine the river as a story. The narrative begins quietly in a distant separate place, drawing you in as it picks up the pace, flashing you by mysterious farmland holdings and homes sheltered in woodland copses, each with a story to tell, down by huddled masses of houses, through more countryside, reeking with history, right to the edge of the fall line. Without giving you a chance to catch your breath, you are hurled into the air, bouncing off rocks, wondering how you will land. Down you come in the waters below the fall, down, down, down until you finally come up for air. Alive, you are still in the clasp of the river as the story speeds up, pulling you slowly, but surely, towards your unknown destination, first to the right, then to the left, then to the right of a sandy island, the waters around you gurgling as the pace picks up. Then, after a final turn, you round a corner and there is your mother, the Patuxent River.

Brendan Donegan

Brendan Donegan

You can bring the two worlds together yourself by seeking out a warm rock near the falls on the Little Patuxent. Listen to the music of the river and the open your copy of LPR to your favorite page and read it aloud. The river will hear and take delight in it and reply with a few extra watery notes just for your pleasure.

Brendan Donegan grew up beside an estuary in Cork, Ireland. His work was published in The Hudson Review, Preservation and Island Journal. His essay “Over the River: A Journey Down Little Patuxent” appears in the LPR Winter 2008 Nature issue.

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