Epiphany’s mission statement describes the word epiphany as a “moment of sudden revelation.” Combine that with this issue’s theme—pent up humanity—and the options are tantalizing. Writers respond with reflections on the various meanings of ‘pent up’: feelings that are restrained, confined, or bottled up. Some of those feelings may ultimately, though not always, explode.
Chantel Acevedo chose a short story to illustrate. “The Execution of the Guitar,” familiarizes us with a Cuban family in Seaside Heights, NJ. We catch the atmosphere of a carnival’s midway as it appears during a storm: “The stuffed animals on hooks caught the spray, and their synthetic fur glistened with tiny globes of water. They looked sugared over.” Her plot twists and turns and eventually comes full circle.
Another outstanding story—this one sticks with me, starting with the title—is “Matilda’s Death,” by Finnish writer Tiina Raevaara, translated by Hildi Hawkins. Matilda has been dead three weeks, ruled a suicide, but her sister Minna believes otherwise: “To my eyes, the wound looked like something made by a bird of prey, the stabbing of an enormous claw, whose intention was to tear the heart from Matilda’s chest.” Minna intends to “kill the monster who destroyed my sister.”
Changing course, I flipped through pages to find Lebanese artist and musician Mazen Kerbaj’s work. He draws a wonderful 14-page graphic that makes a meaningful statement about people’s constant chatter. A couple of his captions: “Everyone talked to themselves and to each other all the time and very loudly.” “Nobody heard anything or anybody.” He titles this work “people who talk,” and it’s worth taking time to contemplate.
The other graphic featured here is Netherland artist Sanne Peper’s silhouette photo of a Deep South tree enveloped in Spanish moss. Her photo is followed by a page on the artist’s process. That’s followed by a short piece by Jim White called, “Glossolalia,” that also appears in Peper’s book of photos and observations titled Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled. This is one of many couplings, or in this case a tripling, that ties two or more pieces together.
A special section entitled “Writers for Recovery” was created at The Turning Point Center and The Caledonia County Community Work Camp, both in Vermont. Its aim is to use writing and getting published as an aid to help people recover from addiction.
Inside, Kevin Fuller, in his first published work writes a rap prose poem to his child. It starts out:
I was there when you were born. A new man had to be sworn. Got hurt, my head was torn. Got mad, wouldn’t eat your corn. Tough guy turned to Jello, being Dad made me mellow.
Another publishing newcomer is John Gower, a drug and alcohol counselor, who writes about his mother in “When This Winter is Finally Over.” At first he’s a “forty-year-old deadbeat son.” But things change, and Gower pens a satisfying conclusion to this short piece of nonfiction.
Turning to poetry, which I sometimes read first, I found an interesting experimental series by Czar Gutiérrez, who favors titles in all caps with no space between words. His translators are Nick Rattner and Marta del Pozo. Look at these words in “BLUEALMOSTRANSPARENT,” excerpted from FALLOFTHETIGHTROPEWALKER:
-Here I am
Lord – he said: With golden belly and miraculous electricity
With a precious splendor that sparks in my eyelashes
The skies opened and the seas and the waters
began to rise above his tender cheeks
The dreaded friction, then, between liquid walls
Of sweet wave, of glass
Gutiérrez’s work is one of those couplings I mentioned. It’s accompanied by the “Translators’ Process.” Rattner and del Pozo write that their collective translation “involves finding rhythms, images, interpretations that resonate within both of us. There was always a verbal dialogue, but many other times there existed an intuitive accord . . . .”
One fun feature of this issue of Epiphany is the back cover, which contains columns of words with page numbers. For example, under the word “understanding,” you have four choices. I chose: broken like an egg 89. On page 89 there it was: “There is an instant when understanding breaks like an egg in your hands,” from Patricia Follert’s story “Thank You for Making Today Beautiful.”
Next, under “free love” I chose dockside fantasy 43. Tugboat captain turned writer George Matteson covers this fantasy in “An I for an I,” a story forthcoming in his book Tugboat Stories.
So go ahead, enrich your reading with these varying approaches—some sleek, some bitter, some triumphant—that fulfill Epiphany’s theme of Pent Up Humanity.