Issue Thirty-One - Winter 2018

The Winter of our (Dis)content

By Stephanie Barbé Hammer

What better moment in our profoundly messed up time to quote Richard III? Shakespeare can really write about dysfunctional regimes. I find myself thinking about the plays that focus on the rot at the top: Richard the III of course, but also Hamlet, King Lear, and even Measure for Measure, where a predatory puritanical ruler tries to blackmail a beautiful novice into having sex with him. A lot of Shakespeare sounds familiar to me right now.

But writing about a country and a world that are a mess is harder than it looks. The bard makes it look easy, but a lot of us are finding it hard these days.

That’s when I turn with pleasure to the work I’ve been invited to undertake here at SHARK REEF, and to the remarkable team of editors who remain in place to make sure the magazine retains its distinctive character. Lorna Reese, one of the founders of the magazine and managing editor for its first 17 years, is pursuing her own writing these days, yet remains actively involved in numerous ways behind the scenes.

Poet Richard Widerkehr continues as poetry co-editor and welcomes new co-editor Linda Conroy; together they have assembled twenty-one remarkable poems for this issue. Publisher Iris Graville is also still onboard to keep us on-track and art editor Judith Connor works with Lorna to select arresting visual work.

Finally, guest prose editor Heather Durham joins me for this issue and the next. Together, she and I have selected the prose work for the Winter 2018 issue. Heather writes wonderful nonfiction while I write (strange) fiction. So we’re a good team. She’s also highly organized. Which helps yours truly stay focused.

Writing is a solitary activity. But editing, thank G-d, is not. Involvement with a literary journal is social, and at times spectacularly chatty. At its best it forms a fellowship of literary friends, because we’re all in it for the same reasons. We’re in it because we love words. We’re in it because we love writing and writers. We’re in it because we have this feeling that word-art matters, and we want to celebrate writers who have the fortitude and the imagination to write under current conditions. Some wonderful writers are published here — poets and prose writers covering an array of topics with grace and grit. As often happens in hard times – the 30 Years War, the Great Leap forward – poetry is in great evidence here. Stories are harder to generate in times of uncertainty perhaps, but the ones in this issue are special, in our opinion.

So I’ll end, not with Shakespeare but with Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the screenplay for Groundhog Day with Danny Rubin. Trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of snow days, recovering narcissistic weatherman Phil Connor notes: “Standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”

That’s how I feel about our editorial team, and I thank Lorna, Richard, Linda, Iris, Judith and Heather for the opportunity to bask in the warmth of their kind hearts and hard work.

May your winter be lustrous and filled with healthy discontent. The discontent that writes letters, goes to Senate Offices, and goes to vote.

Then please write about it. We’re waiting to read you. Cheers.

Copyright 2018 Hammer