A Visit to Magruder High

In April, Nonfiction Editor Emily Rich and Poetry Editor Laura Shovan visited Magruder High School. Students Megan Mitchell and Sam Lee each wrote essays highlighting the impact this visit had on them. First up, Sam Lee.

Sam Lee, Magruder High.

Sam Lee, Magruder High.

The chatter of a room full of creative writing students fell nearly silent when writers Laura Shovan and Emily Rich walked into the room. Our teacher led them to the front and introduced them, even though we already knew much about their writing. Each pulled up a chair and casually sat down. Once they were settled in, Ms. Shovan asked, “So, what are your questions?”

It took a few minutes for the collection of aspiring writers to warm up, asking standard questions as first—“Why did you begin to write?”, “How is writing part of your daily life?”, and “What are your inspirations?” They gave thoughtful and insightful answers from two unique perspectives, but our questions were not very specific yet.

In the weeks preceding their visit, we had the opportunity to read some of their works and familiarize ourselves with their individual writing styles. For Ms. Shovan, in particular, we had many questions about her style; our next assignment would emulate some of her poems. The questions for Ms. Rich pertained more to her content. Her personal essays had captivated us, and we were all curious about her storytelling.

LPR Poetry Editor Laura Shovan's journal.

LPR Poetry Editor Laura Shovan’s journal.

We view them as role models—their lives are something that we, as students of writing, hope to accomplish one day. They answered fully and with grace, frequently elaborating with their past experiences. Ms. Shovan even pulled out her own personal writing journal to show us, and Ms. Rich explained a bit of her writing process as she works on a new piece.

Each left us with a few pieces of advice—to live lives worth writing about, and to be observant of others. Their thoughts and ideas have helped inject more vigor into our writing; seeing and having the opportunity to converse with two kind, successful women was an invaluable experience.

Next, Megan Mitchell reflects.

Megan Mitchell, Magruder High.

Megan Mitchell, Magruder High.

I had the privilege of sitting in front of Laura Shovan and Emily Rich, experienced writers who graced us with their presence. Now of course, we had the typical questions that any aspiring writer would ask: How do you come up with ideas? How important is character development? What’s the difference between prose and short stories?

Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan shared their extensive knowledge on these topics. Their unique explanations of their experiences were an invaluable aspect to their visit, and provided a diverse image of their individual journeys as writers.

A peek inside LPR Poetry Editor Laura Shovan's journal.

A peek inside LPR Poetry Editor Laura Shovan’s journal.

However, I found that the most striking questions and answers weren’t about the process of writing itself, but the ones concerning our own personalities within our writing. As Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan shared, writing well is not about being like other popular authors, or what your teacher defines as good writing. Good writing is about putting your own style into your work, and telling your own story through your own creativity.

Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan’s visit offered incredible insight into the world of a writer, and gave me inspiration in following my own path. I greatly appreciated their presence and generosity in taking time out of their days to inspire us.

Thank you, Laura Shovan, Emily Rich, and Little Patuxent Review!

Online Editor’s Note: A special thanks goes out to Scot Ehrhardt, Sam and Megan’s teacher, who was instrumental in getting Laura and Emily into the classroom and encouraging his students to write, not only about this experience, but about all experiences. We thank Sam and Megan for getting Laura Shovan to open up her journal and give us all a peek inside: we’ve been so curious to get a glimpse of her genius at work!

Enoch Pratt + LPR = “Sole” mates

When Shaileen Beyer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library contacted Little Patuxent Review to inquire if we’d be interested in partnering for a third year on a statewide poetry contest, we agreed without hesitation.

Inga Lea Schmidt (Photo by: Shannon Finnell).

Inga Lea Schmidt (Photo by: Shannon Finnell).

By the time the contest concluded on March 1, nearly 250 entries from 93 cities and towns, representing 17 counties plus Baltimore City, were submitted in the blind contest. Little Patuxent Review editor Steven Leyva, LPR poetry editor Laura Shovan and LPR poetry readers Evan Lasavoy and Patricia VanAmberg judged the poems. Although they chose three finalists, all of whom will appear in our Summer 2015 issue, “Sole” by Inga Lea Schmidt was the winning poem.

I asked the judges what made this poem a stand out. Patricia, who is also an English professor at Howard Community College, said:

Playful wording of the poem “Sole” appeals in many ways: The first of these is vivid and specific imagery—all the way from a fish that “looks like a tongue”—to the solitary cup of coffee. Consistent themes of loneliness/flatness ensure that the diverse meanings of the word “sole” bond coherently. Sound devices like the judicious alliteration of S (solitary—seven—seconds) enhance the flow. Finally, the poem is well crafted with effective line breaks and transition.

Evan added:

“Sole” is a clever poem that doesn’t get caught up in its own cleverness, doesn’t get smug about it. While it’s structured like a dictionary definition, it reads like a plain spoken explanation. This allows the poet room to explore beyond the strict meaning of the word, to wander off on tangents right from the beginning that open the poem up and give it room to reach out beyond itself. It was the simple, yet compelling, voice of “Sole” that first struck me; its movement and nuance won me.

Inga shared her own thoughts about “Sole.”

I love when poems veer off course. With the first few lines you have a pretty good idea of where the whole thing is headed, you know exactly what you’re looking at, and then it happens: a turn. It can be subtle at first, but soon the poem is turning and twisting away from you and before you know it, you are so far from where you started.

This is the effect I wanted to achieve with “Sole,” which was inspired by Phillis Levin’s beautiful “Part,” another poem that breaks down the definition of a word. I began with the structure of a dictionary entry, straightforward and dry, then gradually introduced bits of myself and what the word “sole” means to me personally. I liked the idea of something so clinical — a dictionary definition — becoming something revealing and human. The flatfish turns to feet, turns to solitaire, turns to intimate feelings of isolation and unsettlement. I hope when readers finish the poem, they feel they are far from where they started.

“Sole” can be seen on display in Enoch Pratt Free Library’s front windows starting next week. On Saturday, May 2 during the CityLit Festival, please join us at the Little Patuxent Review session in the Poe Room (11 to 11:45 am) where Inga will read “Sole.” In addition LPR editors Ann Bracken and Steven Leyva will joined by contest finalists James Carroll (“Nick’s Diner”) and Micia White (“Rest Stop”).

Enoch Pratt Free Library Poetry Contest Winner:


By Inga Lea Schmidt

Sole: a flatfish,

small fins, small eyes,

small mouth, it looks

like a tongue. Also

a shoe’s solid base or

the undersurface of a foot,

a calloused pillar where

the weight of a person

is carried, where the one hundred

and forty eight pounds of

blood and bone and brain

and too much thought and fear

rest. An adjective:

having no companion: solitary.

A card game I can win

in two minutes and

seven seconds. From the French

seul, meaning only, as in,

being the only one, as in,

am I the only one? Sole:

having no sharer. Sharing

with no one. Use it in

a sentence: I make a sole cup

of coffee, sit at the window,

and wait.

Online Editor’s Note: Inga Lea Schmidt is a poet and fiction writer living in Baltimore. Her work has appeared in Off the Coast, Puerto del Sol, and Best Indie Lit of New England, and, in 2013, she received the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Intro Journals Project Award. When she isn’t writing, Inga works as a mediator resolving conflicts in Baltimore prisons. In the fall, she will begin an MFA program in Creative Writing at Hollins University.

To learn more about how the collaboration between LPR and the Enoch Pratt began read “Meet the Neighbors: Enoch Pratt Free Library.” 

Interview with Danuta Kosk-Kosicka

9781627200455-FaceHalfIlluminated-COVProlific LPR contributor Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka has two books being published. The first, Face Half-Illuminated, includes sixteen original poems and Kosk-Kosicka’s translations of sixteen poems by her mother, Polish poet Lidia Kosk. Apprentice House published the book just this week, and its available on their site as well as Barnes & Noble.

In April, CityLit Press releases Kosk-Kosicka’s Harriss Prize-winning chapbook Oblige the Light. Contest judge Michael Salcman, a poet and the art consultant for LPR, selected Kosk-Kosicka’s twenty-eight-poem manuscript.

This is all in addition to the contributions Kosk-Kosicka has made to LPR’s pages in print and online. Her poems “Lake Patzcuaro” and “The Movie in my Head” appeared in our Spirituality and Make Believe issues, respectively. She also contributed an essay on her experience as a foreign-born poet as part of our On Being Invisible series that coincided with the Social Justice issue.

This fall, Danuta and I met over coffee at Ellicott City’s Bean Hollow to discuss her work.

LS: Congratulations on the new books.

DEKK: I keep smiling. It’s a very good feeling.

LS: Do you draft your poems in your native Polish or in English?

DEKK: I came to this country as a scientist. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry. I was writing grant proposals, scientific articles. Everything was in English. So it became natural for me to write poems in English as well.

As a teenager I wrote [poetry] in Polish. I was a professor at Hopkins, and in the last few years I found myself, when I was writing scientific papers, scribbling some poetry on the back.

It’s just natural for me [to write in English]. I live here. I worked in this language. My kid was born here. Everybody around me speaks English. Most of my friends are English-speaking, so it was totally natural.

LS: Did you leave the scientific field to focus on your writing?

DEKK: I was beginning to feel very ill, and then I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Turning to poetry was a life-saver, so to speak, because I’m a very active person. Many people with fibromyalgia spend time in bed, can’t do anything. Of course, I have days like that too, but with writing and translating I can pace myself. Writing is a good thing and I chose poetry over novels. . . . I don’t have the energy to write a novel.

I had this burst of writing in 1997, a huge amount of poems in both languages. Apparently it was in me and it had to come out. I think it was probably that feeling of loss [after leaving my job because of my illness]. Having been an associate professor at Johns Hopkins, that was a huge loss.

LS: You came to the U.S. during a time of political upheaval in Poland.

DEKK: In 1980, people didn’t know much about Poland. It was not very often that scientists came from behind the Iron Curtain.

They wouldn’t let my husband come with me. The thinking was: Two professionals going abroad, they will not come back. He was let out in December only because Solidarność (Solidarity) was born in Poland and they let him go visit his wife. I was going to go [back] to Poland for Christmas and I couldn’t because martial law was imposed and there were no flights.

When you have no communication and you know you can’t go back, you have to kind of build a wall for security. You want to forget, but of course you can’t forget.

I’m looking at the titles of the poems and I’m thinking many of them are [about] loss. It comes in different ways. It’s the loss of country. For many months I couldn’t call my parents; there was no communication. I had to forget certain things so I didn’t go crazy. Part of the poetry is recovery [of those memories]. Many of the poems are like dreams.

LS: Translation is an art form in its own right. How did you get started translating poems?

DEKK: It’s a challenge. I guess that’s why I started . . . it was a challenge and something I could try to do. You know, the first poem I translated was Wisława Szymborska’s “People on the Bridge.” [When Szymborska won the Nobel Prize], a friend asked me if I could translate and I said I’d never done anything like that. At that time, there were no books by her in English.

When Szymborska’s books came out, that poem I translated was in two of them. My friend copied the published translation and compared it with mine. We realized they were very different. This was when I started to say, “Okay, what is a translation?”

Mom asked me to translate her poems. The first poem of hers I translated was a rhymed poem. That tells you how innocent I was—a rhymed poem in another language. It was published in Passager. Then I thought this was a great project to do.

LS: Do you remember your mother writing poetry when you were growing up?

DEKK: She is a lawyer and she worked all her life. Her first book was published when I was already here. Mom—she’s just totally amazing. [I remember her] writing occasional poems for the kids in school.

Putting together this book [Face Half-Illuminated] at Apprentice House was very difficult. I felt a huge sense of responsibility because it’s my mom and me together. [Kosk-Kosicka has translated and edited two previous collections of her mother’s poems.]

I came up with this idea. I proposed it to Apprentice House. They picked it when I was in Poland this year. So I told Mom, “We’re going to have this book!” Then I started going through the translations all again. My poems had to speak to each other. Her poems had to speak to each other and then they had to go across. I was the only one who could do it. My mom does not speak English.

LS: Who are some of your favorite Polish poets that Americans haven’t really discovered yet?

DEKK: Gałczyński. This is a poet we grew up with, my generation. And Norwid. He’s very difficult. A philosopher, a bit like Blake . . . he was very serious. I don’t know anybody who wrote like that.

Find previews of poems from both books here and here.

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka is a scientist, bilingual poet, writer, poetry translator, photographer, and coeditor of the literary journal Loch Raven Review. Her poems have appeared in the U.S. and throughout Europe in numerous literary journals and anthologies—most recently in International Poetry Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Spillway, and A Narrow Fellow Poetry Journal. Her translations of Maryland poets laureate—Lucille Clifton, Josephine Jacobsen, and Linda Pastan—have been published in Poland. Her translations of Lidia Kosk, Ernest Bryll, and Wisława Szymborska’s poems have been published in the U.S. She has translated into English almost 100 poems for two bilingual books by Lidia Kosk: niedosyt/reshapings and Słodka woda, słona woda/Sweet Water, Salt Water, the latter of which she has also edited. Danuta is the author of Face Half-Illuminated, a forthcoming book of poems, translations, and prose (Apprentice House) and the winner of CityLit Press’s fifth annual Harriss Poetry Prize for her chapbook manuscript Oblige the Light.

Lidia Kosk is the author of eleven books of poetry and short stories, including two bilingual volumes, niedosyt/reshapings and Słodka woda, słona woda/Sweet Water, Salt Water, as well as two poetry and short fiction anthologies that she compiled and edited. She collaborated with her late husband, Henryk P. Kosk, on the two-volume Poland’s Generals: A Popular Biographical Lexicon. Her poems and prose have been published in literary journals and anthologies in Poland and in the U.S., most recently in Lalitamba, The Blue Lyra Review, The Fourth RiverThe Dirty Goat, and International Poetry Review. Her poems have been translated into seven languages and into choral compositions and multimedia video presentations. She was featured, with Danuta, on National Public Radio station,WYPR’s “The Signal.” Lidia resides in Warsaw, Poland.

What You Eat: Pesto Change-o

In preparation of our Food issue (submissions open August 1st, after which they’ll simmer ’til winter), I’ve asked members of the LPR community to share stories of what they eat. Food occupies such a central place in our lives, that we can’t help but grow with it. Whether we were stewing in teenage angst while mom burned the pot roast or, as is the case with this entry from LPR’s own Laura Shovan, falling in love with a new family and food together, we can call on the sounds, smells, and tastes of our most formative and transformative foods to walk back into our own narrative histories. And on Laura’s suggestion, each piece in this series will feature a recipe, so you can cook yourself through an experience yourself. If you have a transformative experience with food, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.

And now that I’ve laid the table, LPR Poetry Editor, Laura Shovan:

Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan

Every year, my mother-in-law says the same thing.

“Pesto tastes of summer.”

She’s right. The basil leaves that give body and color to this light, green pasta sauce are so easy to grow, they’re found in even the most basic summer vegetable gardens.

For pesto and me, it was not love at first sight.

I was seventeen years old. I’d grown up in a house where Italian food was pizza, frozen lasagna, and pasta with sauce. RED sauce.

My British mother had a few recipes we all loved: her hearty beef stew, a traditional shepherd’s pie dish she’d brought with her to the U.S. On busy days, though, it was egg noodles with tuna, mayo, and frozen peas for dinner. If my brothers and I were lucky, we had Swanson TV Dinners. My favorite was the Hungry Man dinner that came with a square brownie.

My mother grew up in post WWII Britain. Food rationing made ingredients scarce. You ate what was in front of you and liked it. That’s how she’d learned to cook, so that’s how she cooked. And I did like it.

Until I met this guy. I was sixteen, a junior. He was a senior at a different high school. It was love at first sight. Rob is an only child and was, at the time, an only grandchild – an oddity in his big, extended family. I found myself adopted by his mother, Linda, and his grandmother, the matriarch of their Italian family, Rose.

Three-generation Sunday dinners were mandatory affairs. It was at one of these meals that I was introduced to pesto sauce. Green. On pasta. It just looked wrong.

But Rob and I had been dating a few months by that summer. I was in love. To say I was willing to try a strange-looking, garlicky dish doesn’t capture my feelings. I was in love with Rob, in love with how readily his family had accepted me, and in love with food for the first time in my life.

No exaggeration. Every dish that passed through Rose and Linda’s kitchens was delicious. Simple fried chicken cutlets for lunch. American recipes like pot roast. Hamburgers on the grill. It didn’t matter. I was learning that when you pay attention to the food you prepare, it repays the favor by tasting amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, the pesto. Just a few dollops of what looked to me like green mayonnaise on a pound of rotini cooked al dente. Yes, I was learning that pastas have names – this is the curly kind. It traps the bits of pignoli nuts and parmesan in the sauce best. With each bite, there is a perfect combination of basil, cheese, nuts, and garlic.

Pesto sauce can be served as a spread on thick slices of toasted Italian bread or French baguette. On pasta, it’s a great side dish for grilled chicken. Slather it over a nice piece of salmon and bake it to your liking.

Rob and I celebrate our 23rd anniversary this summer. He’s the cook in the family. My kitchen specialties are soups made with homemade stock and baked sweets. But I was brave enough to come up with my own pesto. When we served it to Linda, she asked for the recipe.

Pesto Sauce for Pasta

  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. to ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup pine (pignoli) nuts or walnuts
  • 2+ cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup to 1 cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt

Use a blender or food processor. Combine all ingredients except oil. Blend or process with on-off turns until a paste forms or ingredients are chopped small. Gradually add oil and blend/add until sauce has the consistency of soft butter. (If the oil separates, add more of the other ingredients.) Makes three portions. Can be frozen up to one month.

Note: Stale pignoli nuts have a bitter after taste. Before adding this ingredient to your pesto, do a taste-test. The flavor should be slightly nutty, slightly sweet.

Laura Shovan is Poetry Editor of Little Patuxent Review. She will be publishing a novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade Of Emereson Elementary, with Random House Children and keeps a blog about children’s literature and education at Author Amok. Laura was a finalist for the 2012 Rita Dove Poetry Award. Her chapbook Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems (MWA Books) and Voices Fly: Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches.

Print Issue Preview: Summer 2014 Unthemed Issue

A portion of Lee Boot's "Brick Garden Series" appears on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue.

A portion of Lee Boot’s “Brick Garden Series” appears on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue.

This summer Little Patuxent Review will release its first unthemed issue, but as incoming Editor, Steven Leyva, writes in his first ever Editor’s Note for LPR, “I trusted that thematic elements would emerge.” In my own experience as editor of the University of Maryland literary journal, in picking well-written poetry and prose that is thematically rich, it’s impossible to avoid the confluence of concerns of human beings. Blessed by a community that consistently delivers us just such writing, Laura and Steven both speak of this issue as being shaped and guided by change and transition – not just in terms of the transition from one Editor to another, but manifest in the lives of the characters our community has presented us with. To remix both Laura and Steven’s Notes [i], I invite you as readers to take your first steps with these characters and stories through doors opening onto vistas we weren’t expecting.

Even when seeking transformation, by its nature change eludes prediction.  Characters seeking to be transformed may still not expect the processes leading to that transformation [ii] or what the endpoint of that transformation may be. [iii] Similarly Michael Salcman explores how artist Lee Boot has come to an integrative approach combining painting with multi-media by first shifting among the dazzling array of digital possibilities. [iv]

But many times, the transformations are ones our characters did not choose at all. They are pushed, sometimes stumbling, over a threshold by an act of violence. In Cynthia B. Greer’s “Doris and the Dolls,” smoldering self-loathing from society’s rejection of Black Americans leads an eruption of bullying of “white girls” among Black schoolchildren, robbing the speaker of her identity and compounded the feelings of rejection. [v] In Jerri Bell’s “Vigil,” the speaker is raped by an ex-boyfriend and adopts the position of a sentry isolated in the peaks to guard against attack. [vi]

Of course, many other thematic threads emerge as well in the upcoming issue. I am confident that no matter what our readers are grasping for in their literary lives right now, their hands will land on something that holds fast in our new issue. You are invited to join us for the launch of the issue at Oliver’s Carriage House, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia, MD 21044, on Saturday, June 21st at 2:00 pm. We will have the issue for sale and contributors will read their work, followed by light refreshments and opportunity for discussion between contributors and those in attendance. The launch reading is part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

[i] Laura Shovan and Steven Leyva’s Editor’s Notes set the transitional tone of the issue.

[ii] Alison Turner’s story “A Runner” follows who finds her body and mind transforming during a vacation in Peru.

[iii]  Benjamin Burgholzer’s* essay “Don’t Go Over Your Hip Boots” narrates a son’s slide into drug addiction and subsequent recovery by rediscovering his roots.

[iv] Michael Salcman explores the transformations of artist Lee Boot* in his essay “Time Machine: Lee Boot’s Multimedia and Conceptual Art in Service to the Urban Ideal”

[v] Cynthia Greer’s* essay “Doris and the Dolls” recounts personal and interpersonal struggle among Black schoolgirls during the Civil Rights Movement.

[vi] Jerri Bell’s* essay “Vigil” follows her up a volcanic caldera where she guards herself against rape.

*These contributors will be present for the June 21st launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House. Details of the launch reading can be found here.

To Boast in a State of Grace: Musing from a New Editor

Dear LPR Staff, Publishers, and Readers,

Steven Levya at the Town Hall open mic and reading at Minas Gallery. (Photo Credit: Laura Shovan)

Steven Levya at the Town Hall open mic and reading at Minas Gallery. (Photo Credit: Laura Shovan)

In a year when an Olympic Torch hand off happened at the international space station, Christian Wiman stepped down as long time editor of Poetry, and the world lost Seamus Heaney, the persistent and powerful work of a Maryland literary magazine might seem insignificant. Consistently, some might say quietly, Little Patuxent Review has published an excellent and diverse group of authors who weren’t afraid to confront themes important to society at the local level. And while that is noteworthy, to do so amidst the economic realities of a massive recession and slow burn recovery while remaining a print journal – well I am tempted to call that an act of courage. Tempted, yes, but recalling an essay by Louise Glück, writing is less an act of courage and more a state of grace. For LPR I know that grace is derived from a dedicated staff of editors, a forward thinking set of publishers, and a faithful community of readers. Here is an example of how a literary magazine, when it remains close to its community, when it is willing to challenge, doubt, and audaciously make believe with its readers and authors, can become a necessary stitch in the seams of imagination which reveal a region, a city, and a neighborhood. Among that needlework, I must mention the extraordinary efforts of Laura Shovan, whose diligence and creativity as editor help to grow LPR’s presence in the region, and craft an inclusive identity for the magazine. I am both honored and humbled to continue such important work as the next editor of Little Patuxent Review.

Steinbeck explains in East of Eden, “You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast,” so let me offer a boast of failure. In my first year of my MFA, which should have been labeled the year to, “Shut up and listen,” I was determined to prove that I belonged in grad school and deserved to call myself a poet. That first week of classes was like being in a foreign country. Simultaneously I felt ashamed of my inability to “speak the language” of a workshop (I studied theater and acting as an undergrad), and eager to demonstrate what little I did know.  One evening I invited a classmate to my home for drinks and high-minded conversation, and in a moment of inspiration, though in retrospect it seems more like “party anxiety,” I spread all my books of poetry across the living room floor, called my friend, and said, “When you get here, let’s just pick a book off the floor, flip to a page, take a drink and read a poem.” Almost sounds like a precursor to literary beer pong. My friend thought the idea sounded fine as long as I paid for the drinks, but when he arrived and saw my magnanimous spread of verse, he cleared his throat politely and remarked, “This all you got?” There couldn’t have been more than six or seven books on the floor. Big failure? Check! Later when I visited my friend’s apartment and saw the multiple bookcases dedicated to poetry I understood his incredulity. I mention this anecdote, not because it’s the only story of failure I have, God knows there is an abundance of stories, but because it was a moment of failure where I feel I learned the right lesson. I responded to that evening by doubling my home library, diversifying my reading of poetry and fiction, and resolving to listen well to the group of emerging writers and seasoned teachers I found myself among. In other words, I learned the importance of stepping back and listening as method of becoming fully present in a community. I recognize this value as a part of Little Patuxent Review’s DNA, and believe it must remain a key part of the magazine’s posture in selecting great work to publish.

From its inception LPR’s selection process has involved a thematic element for each issue. As a young writer, I was often weary and wary of themed issues in literary journals. I suppose my reasons were the obvious ones: artistic restraint, an anti-authoritarian streak, and a presumption that themes are ultimately boring. After all, an intentionally thematic issue, while acting as an efficient organizing structure, can exert a certain hegemonic pressure. Simple objections made, for sure, but simple-minded as well. Perhaps it’s the height of myopia to evaluate a literary magazine based on the boundaries of a single issue. I couldn’t see how a journal could tell a story; have a conversation with its readers over a sequence of issues. Consider Little Patuxent Review’s most recent sequence of themes: Make Believe, Social Justice, Audacity, Doubt, and Music.  What a journey to take a community of readers through.  It brings to mind the words of Poet-Teacher Richard Hugo, in his essay Writing Off the Subject, that all truth conforms to music. I’ve learned to not balk at the word conform, and notice small mysteries in the sequence of themes. Is this one arc in the collective thinking of a community? Do people begin in imagination (Make Believe) and then bend toward activism (Social Justice)? Does activism natural give way to bold action (Audacity), before ultimately arriving in Doubt? Do the questions raised by a healthy doubt resolve in beauty (Music)? I feel I’ve wandered dangerously close to Keats in the last question—beauty is truth—but creating such collages in the imagination is what makes literature fun for me.  Such themes frame discourse that is already occurring, and make room for people to enter the dialogue. A literary magazine is solitary pleasure blended with “call and response” engagement. And in the myriad responses lie the opportunities for growth.

It is a deep joy to help create the collage and to invite others to do the same. It is an awesome responsibility to step back and listen to a community’s voice, heartbeat, and imagination. Courage is required, but I hope for more grace in the way I listen, read, and publish. LPR and the community it serves is worthy of nothing less.

Nothing Is Permanent But Change

If you have already submitted work to LPR’s Summer 2014 issue, you’ve noticed two things.

First, LPR is working on an unthemed issue—the journal’s first. When I became editor in 2011, the staff discussed LPR’s history of publishing themed issues. We’ve featured the best regional art and literature in our fifteen issues, covering such topics as Childhood, Turning Points, and Social Justice. At that time, we elected to continue with themed issues. Focusing on one topic helped me learn the craft of editing—selecting pieces that work well as a whole.

The journal’s reach has grown over the past three years. We hear from poets, readers, and fiction and nonfiction writers who would like LPR to try an unthemed issue. Whether it’s Science or Spirituality, writers don’t always have polished work on hand that coincides with our themes. We hope, by alternating themed (Winter) and open (Summer) issues each year, more of you will be encouraged to submit to our journal.

The second thing you may have noticed: the signature line on our current submission reply reads “Steven Leyva and Laura Shovan, Summer 2014 Issue Editors.”

While LPR has grown over the three years of my editorship, so have my children. With a son heading to college and a daughter beginning high school, it’s time for me to cut back on my LPR duties.

Please help me welcome Steven Leyva as Little Patuxent Review’s next editor. After our Science issue launch event on January 25, I’m looking forward to working with Steven on LPR’s Summer 2014 issue. With no limit on the subject matter for our themed issue, I hope you will submit your best work by March 1, 2014.

Steven blogged for LPR after our Town Square series reading in August. When Steven takes over in 2015, I will move into the role of Poetry Editor.

It’s hard to believe three years have passed since LPR’s co-publishers surprised me with a phone call: Are you interested in editing Little Patuxent Review? What a thrill it was to make that same phone call to a talented, committed young writer. I can’t wait to see how LPR continues to develop under Steven Leyva’s leadership.

Online Editor’s Note: Don’t miss your opportunity to thank Laura for her hard work leading LPR. Join us for the SCIENCE issue launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House on January 25th at 2:00 PM. The event is free and open to the public.