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Unpacking My Library Redux: A Foreword

Alexandra Davies

I’m unpacking the contents of this issue, Yes, I am. While I am not Walter Benjamin, I do take pride in mulling over the collection of writers and artists that this magazine publishes. There’s something marvelous about taking the time to look over our literary and artistic selections. As a book collector pours over their collection of aged spines of their library, I, too, find gazing over the table of contents a riveting experience. It’s a personal pleasure to see the works that we love to read published on our digital pages. I’m sure the writers of this second edition of Leavings feel similarly, as achieving a publication is no small task.

I know you’re eager to move forward to see what we have in store. It’s never easy deciding what will go into each issue. When we begin the process of selection, before each title is argued for and accepted, each submission is reviewed with joy. No poem, short story, or artwork is overlooked or under-analyzed. In fact, I’d say that we at Leavings enjoy reading your submissions a little bit too much. We’re driven by that old-world desire to collect, to acquire new things, and share them with the world.

Now the selected authors' names are organized on our digital shelves. I’m asking you to join me in the disordered order of our line-up of artists.  (Aesthetically utilitarian, if I may say so myself.) We begin and end with Aylin Sophia’s two pieces: “Back Garden” and “Birds”. Somewhere between surrealism and sci-fi, Sophia’s work is a wave of lush colors and textures that capture the attention of any passing eye. William Fargason’s “Strike” urges the reader to keep moving, to persevere despite the pain of the present and past. Fargason’s white space is a relentless demand that in our small breaks there is still more to read and accomplish. “Orpheus,” by Anna Newman, is a stunning piece of prose poetry. Her embodiment of Orpheus as a metaphor for the desire to leave memory behind is haunting as it is brilliant.

Valentina Rosales’ pieces𑁋 “Eggs” and “The Antichrist'' 𑁋blend into each other as works of freezer-burn surrealism. The tired peering eyes of “Eggs” watch over Rosales’ short story on intense fascination and God. Sanni Oluwatimileyin follows with “Memory as a Measure for Grief''. His work cradles the multigenerational pain of colonialism and racism, harking back to Fargason’s poem and the urge to “strike” back. I am stunned by the lines “I mould words into pebbles to hurl at the sky / in hope that heaven hurls back my father / as rain, his scent filling the place of petrichor.” Next is Paul Brennan’s “Letter to Counselor Hildegard,” a near-medieval reimagining of the slow days of summer camp. His lines embody remorse and the desire to return to what once was youth. Summer is long over, but we still have our homegrown herbs.

At the heart of this issue are two short stories we couldn’t be happier to publish. The first is “The Tooth” by Katie Moritz. A story marked by a biting irony, it caught the attention of our collective for the way the two characters, Odont and Rosemary, begin seemingly unaware of one another, and yet gravitate toward each other over the course of the fifteen or so pages. The tension building, the twists and turns of every paragraph, will leave the reader undoubtedly surprised again and again. Rocio Iriarte’s “Mother Earth” acts as a divide between the two stories. It’s a vision of nature that we wish we saw on our hikes. While black and white, it is not hard for the mind to fill in the rich greens and vivid blues that flow off of the page and wash out onto the shore.

Lisa Latouche’s “The Year I Got Pregnant with Timmy '' lays bare the struggles and psychological weight of motherhood and the passing shadows of love. There is a longing, an unattainable feeling of stable ground. Olaitan Humble’s  “Porto-Novo, 1983” is a poem of love and existence for battlefield lands of West Africa that was once home. Can you return home when home becomes a foreign land? It’s a struggle, but a worthy one. Caroline Murphy follows with “Self-Portrait with Black Ice,” an elegy that endures the winter and its endless snow. Her fear of loss and an impulse to cling to comfort under ice pierces us like a low windchill. Next is Victoria Helen Loftus’ “Isolated Self.” Her short work on the anxiety and self-consciousness under covid provides a nearly universal feeling for the suffering souls of those stuck inside.

How many ways can you read “Disperse Me Like I'm Raining or Let Me Be Celestial”? Nicholas Alti’s poem embodies the desire for the body to be something more. It strikes back and screams that I am more than the sum of my parts. Finally, we reach Chelsea Dingman’s “Sublimation,” a distortion of family and faith. Akin to an old fairytale, we are within the pages of a quiet storm that grows cold and foggy.

Now I have emptied the contents of our issue. It’s too late to continue talking, possibly past midnight where you are. I should close this foreword here before the dust fully settles. But I’m filled with thoughts of winter dreams, god, war, and passion. I’m drawn to the intimacy of the language and description laid before us. Technicolor dreams and textures swirl behind my eyes. I’m thinking about the past, of lost loves and chest-beating anger. Of isolation and foreign lands. I’m standing in dusty libraries and ancient collections of real book collectors. In the second issue of Leavings, the words of these writers come alive before my eyes like phantom limbs. Strike that.  It’s I who live in the words of others. These words are building stones, a dwelling made of a compulsion to create, and now we must disappear into it, as it is only fitting.

Maybe this is what Walter Benjamin wrote about as he ran his fingertips over the edges of endless books that brought him joy. 

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