Print Issue Preview: Science Under the Microscope

Science LPR-cover front only-1 (2)One of the first blogs I wrote as the new Online Editor of LPR was about my experiences as a poet and physicist. Concluding the blog, I sought our communities’ experiences with and thoughts on science. One respondent sent a poem by Robinson Jeffers that ruminates upon what possibility of mankind precipitating its own destruction with science. Mike Clarke, Co-Publisher of LPR, pointed out the huge challenge we had undertaken with a theme that cannot help but run up against the legacy of C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures”.

Evidence of these concerns and many other ideas runs rife across the pages of the Winter 2014 Science issue, and this issue has been one of the most exciting and richest experiences I’ve had with LPR yet. The pieces speak to each other in ways that remind me that in both science and art, human thought revels in theme and motif.

A theme through human history is the search for our origins. This issue brings us the wonders of new life [i] and newly (re)discovered [ii] life in the primordial soup of the sea. Contributing Editor, Lalita Noronha, and invited contributor, Myra Sklarew, make the most of time by guiding us through the billion year history of evolution from the first complexities of plants [iii] to the development of the biological machinery of intelligence [iv].

One of the gifts of that machinery, which continues to vex scientists with the challenge of its complexity, is the gift of introspection, empathy, and critical thought. This issue celebrates those creatures sacrificed for science [v] and critiques the inhospitable laboratories dominated by so-called “enlightened” men [vi]. Meanwhile, Michael Salcman contextualizes the artwork of Soledad Salamé’s, featured in the issue and on the cover, clearly living on the supposed border between science and art [vii].

Returning to a more taxological approach, you will find poetry living in the world of flying creatures [viii-x] and poetry about genetic inheritance [xi-xiii]. In each category sharing an aesthetic — the songs of a twittering towhee [x] and a reticent mute swan [xi] — the poets view their object with a diverse set of lenses, sometimes evoking binoculars and at others a microscope.

The issue concludes with Susan Thorton Hobby’s interview [xiv] with Nobel laureate John C. Mather, whose view takes us from the microscopic all the way out to the largest field of view possible: the entire universe. John will be giving a talk on the history of the universe as part of LPR’s and the Columbia Art Center’s ongoing salon series in April.

When we opened the reading period for this issue, we asked you to “write with your most exacting eye, your most dogged pursuit of truth, and, of course, your utmost imagination.” I am thrilled to see how our community has met that challenge.

Before the bibliography, there is also a little book keeping. Please don’t forget to join us for the Science issue launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House,  5410 Leaftreader Way, Columbia, MD on January 25th at 2:00 pm. Those authors who cited below who will be reading at the launch are marked with a † symbol. Additionally, we have recognized those authors cited below who we have published in this issue only after submitting to LPR two, three, or even four times with a * symbol. Please keep in mind that rejection often means that your poem was not the right fit for our current issue, and your persistence may mean that your work will find a happy home in our future issues. Click on links in the citations to be taken to previews of the work.

[i] Kim Roberts’ poem “Protandric” tells of the mating habits of oysters.

[ii] Whitney Gratton’s† poem “Coelacanth” recounts the rediscovery of the fish of the same name.

[iii] Lalita Noronha’s† poem “Mustard Seed” celebrates pays homage to biological and ecological complexities found in such seeds.

[iv] Myra Sklarew’s poem “Ode to Astrocytes” celebrates the astrocyte cell, recently discovered to be more important to brain function than previously believed. The issue also features a conversation between Noronha and Sklarew on their experiences as scientist-poets.

[v] Rebekah Remington’s† poem “To Science Fair Plants” gives thanks to plants who have become grade school science experiments.

[vi] Mary Jo LoBello Jerome’s†* story “Dermis” recounts the difficulties faced by a female scientist.

[vii] Michael Salcman†, LPR’s Art Consultant, presents an essay entitled “Earth, Water, and Fire: The Art of Soledad Salamé”.

[viii] Catherine Bayly’s†* poem “Wait and Collect” examines butterfly collecting.

[ix] Barbara Daniels’* poem “Ode to Binoculars” praises the power of bird watching.

[x] Barbara Crooker’s* poem “Rufous-Sided Towhee” listens carefully to a bird of the same name.

[xi] Anne Barney’s poem “Old Song” begins with an ancient flute carved from the wing bones of a mute swan.

[xii] Marlena Chertock’s† poem “Short Curve” examines the far reaching consequences of genetic inheritance in our everyday lives.

[xiii] Marian Kaplan Shapiro’s* poem “LUCA” begins with the human species’ last universal common ancestor.

[xiv] Susan Thorton Hobby† contributed an interview with John C. Mather entitled “A Modest History of the Universe.”

†These authors will be present for the January 25th launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House.

*These authors were published after submitting to Little Patuxent Review at least twice.

What Sets Us Apart: LPR at AWP

Baltimore Review Editor Barbara Westwood Diehl (left) and LPR Editor Laura Shovan (right)

Baltimore Review Editor Barbara Westwood Diehl and LPR Editor Laura Shovan

Nothing helps a literary journal clarify its personality like trying to stand out at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. The annual AWP get-together is one of the largest of its kind. This year’s event, held in the midst of a Boston blizzard, attracted more than 12,000 attendees.

This was the first trip to an international literary gathering that Little Patuxent Review had taken. We were but one of 750 exhibitors and shared a table with one of our real-life neighbors, The Baltimore Review. Tucked into a corner of the second exhibit floor, I’m sure that all 12,000 visitors did not make it to our table. Even so, plenty of people stopped to chat about our journal. By day three, I realized that there were consistent themes in their comments.

First, many people were drawn to our table by our striking journal covers, featuring works by acclaimed artists Joan Bevelaqua, Raoul Middleman and Theaster Gates, not to mention a Renaissance masterpiece. The quality of the overall look, resulting from the excellent work of Design Editor Deb Dulin and her predecessor, Stephanie Lemghari, also surprised and impressed writers who had been perusing literary journals all day long.

People also mentioned the general excellence of our product. In addition to design, the paper quality and full-color spreads stood out among the other journals.

Second, many appreciated our strong community focus. LPR operates as a collective of creative artists, suppliers and supporters. This sense of a group effort extends to our contributors, past and present. The ways in which we have accomplished this include:

Printing

Since our inception, we have worked with a small local company instead of opting for a less expensive out-of-state or big-box printer.

Readings

Contributors are invited to read at the launch of each issue, which has brought people from as far away as California to Columbia, Maryland. For the past two years, we have also scheduled at least one additional event per issue, holding readings at the Columbia Festival of the Arts, The Writer’s Center, the CityLit Festival, Busboys and Poets, the Baltimore Book Festival and other venues. Even a converted post office!

Videos

Launch readings are videotaped whenever possible. A separate video of each contributor, posted on our YouTube channel and linked to the online table of contents of our issues, makes them available to the general public.

Website and Blog

Led by Online Editor Ilse Munro, the LPR site is anything but static, offering outstanding original content on a weekly and, increasingly, a bi-weekly basis.

We post reviews of books authored by our contributors and others from around and beyond the greater Baltimore-Washington area. Some contributors participate in the popular “Concerning Craft” series. This gives our writers and artists the opportunity to share insights on how they came to create the pieces appearing in our publication. In addition, we post articles aimed at helping potential contributors improve both their writing skills and submission strategy (and include links on our Submissions page). Finally, we provide personal introductions to other area arts organizations such as The Baltimore Review in our ongoing “Meet the Neighbors” series.

We also have several online series that expand upon the themes that define our various print issues. “On Being Invisible,” for example, serves as the online companion for our Winter 2012 Social Justice issue. This gives a range of blog contributors the opportunity to discuss the role of literature and art in our community and larger society. (We hear you! Based on your feedback, our editorial staff is looking into the possibility of publishing one unthemed issue per year.)

Which takes me to the third and most important theme that emerged regarding what sets us apart: we want your input, and we are more than willing to act on it when possible.

All of these elements—our sustained focus on publishing a high quality product with visual as well as literary content, our continual commitment to community, our ongoing engagement with a our core constituency—serve to characterize the special place that Little Patuxent Review occupies among the other literary journals.

Since it was revived in 2006, Little Patuxent Review has used the arts as a lens through which to view ourselves and our society. Each new issue, each new post on our website is a springboard for discussing the achievements and challenges that humanity faces.

That discussion has included interviews with luminaries such as Michael ChabonEdith Pearlman and Martín Espada side by side with works from emerging authors such as Dylan Bargteil, Angie Chuang and Liam Casey. We invite you to join the conversation by submitting your work, commenting on our blog posts or volunteering to work with us.

I thank all the contributors and fans—long-time and new—who visited with us at AWP. Like us, you believe that the arts reflect the sum of our fears and hopes for the world.

Online Editor’s Note: As part of our continuing commitment to contributors, we are preparing to launch a new series, “First and Foremost,” featuring authors whose debut literary works have been published by Little Patuxent Review. Our first “first” will be Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, an accomplished writer and editor who recently expanded her scope to encompass short fiction. Watch for other developments as well as our first Assistant Online Editor Leila Warshaw starts to makes her presence felt.