Cosmic Pattern III, Lake Hoare, Antarctica
Photograph by Diane Tuft
Courtesy of Assouline Publishing
Welcome TCR Readers:
Antarctica has always fascinated me. It is a desert, actually; a landmass covered by sheets of ice that average one mile in thickness. For decades explorers and writers have referred to the cold continent as the Great White or the Sleeping Beauty. Antarctic ice sheets once served as metaphors for timelessness and stability. These days, thanks to climate change, Antarctic ice no longer represents resilience. It becomes a symbol of vulnerability, especially in the west, where ice sheets sit closer to sea level.
I received an advance announcement for photographer Diane Tuft’s collection of Antarctica photography, Gondwana: Images of an Ancient Land, days after being invited to edit The Coachella Review. I immediately thought of Lucy Jane Bledsoe—I had admired her novel, Big Bang Symphony, set at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station—so I invited her to write about Tuft’s book. She had every reason to say no. She was preparing for a residency at Yaddo; she had other deadlines looming. Yet, like me, Bledsoe felt intrigued by the photographs. I’m grateful to her for saying yes and pleased to include her insightful review in this issue.
In a 2013 LitReactor interview to promote his novel Fight Song, Josh Mohr says he tries to write books that have big hearts and ask really difficult questions along the way. Mohr says, “I always feel we do our best work as artists when we’re totally vulnerable, way out of our comfort zones.” He set the bar high in Fight Song and answers his own challenge again, brilliantly, in his brave new memoir. We feel honored to feature an excerpt here. Mohr’s “Quantum Leap,” along with Jordan Rosenfeld’s provocative novel excerpt “Fallout,” launches TCR’s First Look series for memoirs and novels in progress.
We introduce also our new book review section for fiction. Associate Editor Heather Scott Partington kicks things off with a stunning review of Heather Brittain Bergstrom’s debut novel, Steal the North. (We really like Heathers with three names.) As Partington says, Bergstrom writes about a world where secrets matter, where one cannot completely leave behind the landscape that shaped her.
During the past few years, The Coachella Review has emerged as a very fine showcase for poetry, publishing favorites like Marvin Bell, Jim Daniels, Amy Gerstler, Quincy Troupe, and Charles Harper Webb. We continue that tradition here with new poems by Joe Wilkins, Colin Dodds, Rosebud Ben-Oni, and many more. Traveling TCR’s pages, we pull back the oars, step ashore, detect footprints, and stare at violet skies. We watch canyon shadows from Adirondack chairs. We hurry to Brooklyn weddings, Quiet Mountain burials, and Los Angeles appliance stores. We hear, in the distance, a guitar being tuned. And we return, again and again, to the desert.
Diane Lefer’s short fiction never fails to leave me in awe. In “Our Lady of the Mineshaft,” Lefer takes us to Bolivia, to the Carnaval celebration Día de las comadres. Her stunning story is accompanied by Stephen Schurr’s photograph of Valle de Dalí. Commonly known by American travelers as the Salvador Dalí Desert, this barren valley of southwestern Bolivia is characterized by landscapes that resemble surrealist paintings.
In our mind’s eye we tend to see the desert as still and colorless. Yet—as with the prose and poetry celebrated in this issue—there are textured layers of light and meaning. There is vulnerability. There are surprises. One of the beautiful things about the world, the visual artist Francine Matarazzo once told me, referring to her years in Iran’s central deserts with the U.S. Peace Corp, is that where you might expect an absence of color, you get every single one.
On behalf of TCR’s editorial staff and the writers and artists featured in this issue, I thank you for supporting our magazine. We welcome reader feedback and hope you will continue to follow the careers of the talented writers you meet here.
Enjoy your journeys,