While some lit mags are being forced to close up shop, Ecotone continues to thrive, not only because their commitment to high quality writing, but also their willingness to experiment with new approaches. This anniversary issue showcases this philosophy with features such as the "New Nature Writers" section, the chosen artwork, and "What's your Ecotone?" which allowed their loyal readers and contributors the space to reflect and share what that means to them.
They bring us a star-studded line-up for fiction: Steve Almond, Brock Clarke, Melissa Pritchard, and Jamie Quatro. A gem can be found towards the end in Quatro’s “Wreckage” where the characters have no names, and we can easily associate with its plot. The protagonist is an elderly woman who shares her most intimate thoughts and desires while looking back on certain moments that have made her who she is in the present. This focus highlights the all-encompassing endeavor of dealing with one’s own mind, and the ways in which we tend to construct our own realities both in the physical world and within:
Years later, when she can no longer recall the sculptor’s face, or voice, or remember what it was she found so enticing; when she has lost even the memory of the feelings he aroused in her body, when she is certain those feelings will never again occur; when she has aged past the gazes of men, and women too, other than appreciative glances at her still-fit shape or thick silver hair- even after all of this has dissipated, she will find herself thinking.Like the narrator, so much of what we think and do can leave us at the mercy of our minds. As a result, I was invested in the significance the role her mind played as she strived to understand the conflicting emotions and the changing world around her.
Of poetry, Maura Stanton's "Things I Didn't See" stuck with me as I continued reading. This poem puts into focus the moments and things in our lives that we do not see for ourselves, yet still impact us in a strong way. "I didn’t see the downtown bridge collapse / But I knew my sister crossed it every day." The uncertainty that arises in these types of situations can cause us to lose ourselves in hypotheticals, and no matter what, we cannot adjust how the world plays out beyond our control, just think. And just think is what this poem makes you do. From familial examples with her sister and mother, to the fire she witnessed in Santa Fe, Stanton displays how these moments can stop us in time, and leave us with nothing but our thoughts.
My favorite piece in this issue is David James Poissant’s essay: “The Story of a Year” which chronicles a family’s twelve-month timeline. Though the structure lends itself to being a simplistic piece, the writing perfectly captures not only the trials and tribulations the family endures, but also the way in which we tend to recap things in a hectic, abbreviated fashion. In the end, Poissant’s strong voice pushes us to think about the relationships central to their lives and what larger meanings come from those unions.
Econtone is published twice a year, and their staff is always looking for innovative ways to reach their audience and separate themselves from other journals. If you’re a fan, be sure to check out their sister imprint, Lookout Books, as they release some gems. Everything Ecotone does embodies the spirit of being a member of the literary community, and it is evident not just in their “product”, but in their other endeavors, including teaming up with The Common to provide two spectacular journals to readers.