“Animals take center stage in this fifth issue of Wild Apples,” writes Linda Hoffman, the founding editor of the journal. Humans are a part of this issue too, but more precisely the pieces are about how we fit into the animal world—and even how the animal world fits into us. (In some cases, literally; in “The Animals Within Us,” Greg Lowenberg discloses that four hundred species of parasites live in and on us, including our intestinal tracts.) Thus, the interconnection between humans and other creatures becomes the thematic thread that strings together all the pieces in this issue.
In Pamela C. Rosi’s essay, “Magical Animals in Papua New Guinea Art,” I learned that pigs “are symbols of wealth, status, and leadership” in New Guinea. “They are reared by women, and clan leaders…marry several wives to ‘grow’ pigs for competitive feasts. Pigs are so valuable that a woman may breastfeed a piglet.” In Kathryn Liebowitz’s essay, “Out of Our Skins: of Flux and Fame,” I discovered that “In the world of fairytales and myths, the boundary between humans and animals is fluid and quixotic.” Liebowitz explores the metamorphoses from human to animal and then back again.
The artwork in this issue is vivid, plentiful, and arranged to maximize the aesthetic presentation of each written piece. As a result, the journal is visually pleasing and attracts the reader’s attention. While this issue is carefully laid out, the editors took some liberties in its design, as the poems become intertwined with essays, which become covered in artwork. But the journal, as a whole, seems to work. The permeating theme of “praising animals” is enough to keep the narrative flow, even when the artwork might overwhelm the coherence.
Through its array of captivating illustrations, nature poems, and essays regarding animal ethics, history and beyond, this issue of Wild Apples can woo any nature-lover, any artist, any writer, or truly anyone drawn to the mysterious and the compassionate. “In our own lives,” Hoffman writes in the introduction, “if we are fortunate enough to come upon a turtle laying eggs, the footprints of a fox, or some other unmistakable sign of a wild creature, we are filled with a reverence we don’t necessarily understand. Poets understand!”