Front Matter

Below you will find the Contributing Editor’s Foreword for each of our literary anthologies (and in some cases we have included the Preface by the Publisher and General Editor)
[These writings copyright Editions Bibliotekos, Inc. - All Rights Reserved]
PREFACE to Puzzles of Faith and Patterns of Doubt (2013)
Gregory F. Tague & Fredericka A. Jacks
This collection begins and ends in the desert, and such a symbolic setting is appropriate, for the prophet Isaiah tells us that a voice cries out from the desert. Whose voice? We think of John the Baptist preaching in the desert and Jesus in the wilderness resisting the devil’s temptations. Other religious and spiritual leaders have associations with the desert (Mohammed) or have led people literally or figuratively out of the desert (Moses, Buddha).
In part, the voice in the desert is our own. What do we say, and who will hear us? The book opens and closes with first-person narratives, characters searching for answers, and this too is appropriate: in the spiritual realm, we sometimes feel the only voice in the desert is ours, and hence the questions of what to believe and whom to believe in.
The working title for this anthology had been Faith and Doubt. But the more we considered the spiritual journey we realized that there is an incessant pattern of doubt always nagging, tearing at one; yet, faith is strong enough to be seen, to be felt, to be heard. But this faith is like an incomplete puzzle – there is always one piece missing.
Much of the work in this volume is not religious – the doubts that strain one’s faith are questions of character, difficulties in personal relationships, or problems in the family. The puzzle of faith is not really about God, it’s about the human predicament: our sins, our mistakes, our failures (and at times our glories) with ourselves and others.
FOREWORD to Puzzles of Faith and Patterns of Doubt (2013)
Rev. David Rommereim
Though I walk through the Valley of Shadow is a sliver of Biblical poetry that engages many in the Judeo Christian movement. It touches the heartstring of deep memory when we wander off into the puzzle of faith and enter the wild nature of doubt. Even with the persistent menace of a benign atheism that captivates our anxious culture, the self and other grasp hands. They hold one another and stumble together over the presentiment of certainty and its nemesis ambivalence. Each yearns for a difference beyond what is polarized as the real and the mysterious. Each of us meanders toward a home that seeks to share the awe and its incense of an abiding confidence.
The poetry and stories in this wonderful volume shaped by Gregory Tague and Fredericka Jacks remind me that it was when I said “I believe” that I entered that thin space between certainty and ambiguity. When I read the stories aloud, I began to see my faith staring at me like a mirror, with all the wrinkles and crusty wear that my life has offered.
This collection animates my little fingers touching the threadbare material of faith and doubt. These poems and stories remind me of the courage it takes to open my eyes to the things that give life and allow me to notice what is right before my face. This observation, I believe, gives us ability to withstand the awesome experience of mystery and its kindred spirit we have named faith.
Faith grips the thread that separates the two forces of the soul. One hand embraces the plot passed to us from the ancestry of faith, generations we have only met in the common experience of communal living. Another hand grips the delicate thread that offers the audacity to move forward in the journey even when our community struggles with the continuity of values and meaning.
In this volume, you will notice those who have risked observing their living with the delicate venture into what is other. You will wander in the wilderness of the pain caused by misinformed choices. You will see those who turn hallucination into healing. You will enjoy the turning of death from empty religion into the raw gift of grief. You will pay attention to the packages offered in the stories that announce the timely gift of reconciliation and forgiveness; hope from the places of deep pain re-imagined and healed through the telling. Each describes what is beyond the ordinary, as well as what is deeper in the vicissitudes of a faith moving well beyond religion and into the heart songs which religion hopes to honor, but has become limited by its penchant to be above doubt and beyond mystery.
These stories and poems are individuals who will surprise you with the divine mystery and the drama of moral courage sometimes thwarted, sometimes embellished, always noticed when one stops to read and watch.
PREFACE to Being Human: Call of the Wild (2012)
Gregory F. Tague and Fredericka A. Jacks
We are primarily interested in stories that deal with human character. Who are we as a species and as individuals? What is our human nature? While we have constructed, over thousands of years, a vast cathedral of scintillating, rational humanity, we can be primal and shadowy with visceral emotions. We can profoundly love and superficially hate. Though we are by nature social creatures, we can commit acts of aggression (either against ourselves or others). And yet, quite often, we seek through rituals a natural peace with ourselves in unison with our family or the larger environment.
What is our evolved human essence? What makes us tick as a species? At one point in history, as many as ten different hominid species roamed the planet, but only we endured. There is even speculation that seventy thousand years ago only a few thousand of our species were alive. Why do we struggle on, survive, build cathedrals (and yet hurt each other)? Why do we have rituals, and why do we create and sometimes destroy relationships? What is (in the phrase of one of our contributors) the human factor? What does it mean to be (simultaneously) a deeply meditative and a yet a spontaneously feeling human being?
The fact(or) of being human means recognizing that there is in each of us a call of the wild, however subtle. There is something elemental in us that lingers. Who hears the ancestral call? Who answers the call? What is the response of any individual to the force of being human? For most of our human history, we have not lived in cities but have developed from hunters and gatherers (roaming in small clusters) into engineers of sophisticated national languages and intricate cultures. How much of the old nature lingers in us still? Apparently quite a lot.
We are in a natural world from which we emerged; we are part of a large universe of nature; and we wrestle with aspects of our own human nature. Our history is such that we are social creatures who have evolved very complex emotions not only of sympathy and compassion, but also of jealousy and hatred. So the call of the wild does not mean running off into the woods and hunting fish with one’s teeth; it means acknowledging our deeper connections to the earth beyond concrete buildings, and more importantly, our essential connection to each other.
There are aspects of our psyche (feelings and instincts) and of our physical structure (teeth and fingernails) with which we must reckon. While we have evolved superstructures of civilization, there are darker moments in our collective and individual histories, mostly (as this volume investigates) on a personal or inter-personal level. While familial creatures who create loving bonds, we are also capable of inflicting harm.
For this book we received quite a corpus of submissions – well over one thousand pages. We have tried to cull from that mass just enough material to make our literary point, but keep in mind that the stories between these covers consist of many different styles and voices. Much of the writing is poetic, magical, contemplative, and even humorous. We are sure that after having read this small book, you too will be captivated by the question, Who are we, individually and collectively?
FOREWORD to Being Human: Call of the Wild (2012)
Ian S. Maloney, Ph.D.
Being Human: Call of the Wild reminds readers of the varied, wonderful connections and tensions between the natural world and human civilization. There are many difficult questions posed in the book. Why do we kill certain creatures while nurturing others (“The Raccoon”)? When do we draw the line between protecting our property and letting other creatures live and thrive (“Two Foxes”)? What drives people to kill others to protect their land (“Through the Wagonwheel”)? This anthology is about the beautiful mysteries surrounding us in nature. Wondrous images and ideas swirl and circulate through this book. Gold liquid from beehives flows onto the earth (“Four Liters of Wild Honey”). A granddaughter (“Potatoes”) plants with her grandfather and contemplates the passing of life underground into “a formless mass of matter in which all was chaos and confusion.” A miraculous migration of endangered butterflies is imagined to be the transfigured form of lost ancestors (“Annual Migration”). Many of these stories explore the lines cast under the surface of creation, characters looking for a nibble of understanding to make better sense of their place in an evolving world. Childhood memories collide with the progress of time and the varied human attempts to regulate and restrict nature, as seen in “White Kaleidoscope,” “Suspended Lines” and “Writing on the Wall.”
And yet, the precarious balance of harmony and chaos in the wild is met with human tenderness, hope, and courage. We travel along with a spice merchant (“To Zanzibar”) as he leaves the marketplace, his Tower of Babel, to encounter the far off places from where his spices originate. We wander away from mundane order into a magical Garden of Eden, where new cities and universes expand within the human soul through new interactions with minute particles and new people. We are drawn along through humor and pathos into the complexity of human existence, our persistent questions and confusions about our origins, our ultimate place in the universe. Comic interactions abound as we watch Ida Pilcher come to terms with her vultures (literally) in “Swirling Above Her Head” and another narrative voice invites us to hear her talking to a tree in the aptly titled “Conversation With a Tree.”
Ultimately, this volume takes a turn from Jack London’s pitting of nature against civilization; this is not a survival of the fittest, nature red-in-tooth-and-claw anthology. Being Human wonders in the mysterious, and often whimsical, play of humanity as it interacts with, and seeks solace and identification in, nature. In “The All-Knowing Eye,” Garland Duckett finds God in the eyes of a Great Blue Heron. He moves beyond the strictures of his condo committee’s regulations to find companionship with a woman creating a wildlife refuge in her backyard. Garland goes on a journey as we do in reading this volume. Nature continues to find a way to mystify and satisfy us, for it cannot be contained neatly, even as we try to box it off. As the stories testify, such exchanges aid us in our call of the wild to be more human, and thus to be more engaged with the world around us.
PREFACE to Battle Runes: Writings on War (2011)
Fredericka A. Jacks
Battle Runes opens in a child’s voice and ends with a child’s concern; the book begins in horror and terror and ends with care and hope; the collection starts in darkness and ends in color. The stories and poems – while focused on war – include private and public spaces, often addressing family relationships, such as those between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, or parents and children. While there is blood in these pages, the emphasis is on the complex psychological dimensions of war. The individual stories cohere around problems of humanity during war, questions about what is humane and what is inhuman.
Wars touched on in this book (from various perspectives) include: the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the African Wars (South Sudan, C.A.R., Congo, Uganda), the Balkan Wars, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In each and every case the emphasis is on the individual human element, the physical, mental, and spiritual devastation to people who fall victim to social or political forces often beyond their control.
Our editorial approach, considering that this is an anthology of creative writings, has been light-handed: we permit each writer to speak in his or her own voice, with its own distinctive rhythm, syntax, and idiom. We are delighted to present this multi-vocal volume and trust that not only will you find each contribution compelling to read but also will discover how the book (later) is worth pondering in its cumulative emotional and intellectual effect.
FOREWORD to Battle Runes: Writings on War (2011)
Wendy Galgan, Ph.D.
Nations at war – in a world seemingly always at war in one place or another – can lose sight of the cost of battle. A people at war find their perceptions obscured, blurred, obstructed; their focus is too narrow, or too wide. Those caught up in the rush of warfare run the risk of losing their vision, their ability not only to see but also to recognize the terrible cost paid by warrior and civilian alike, by ordinary people facing unbearable losses and witnessing unthinkable tragedies.
The collection you now hold is a remedy to this “war blindness.” These authors possess the remarkable ability to allow the reader to see what they see, to take an unsentimental and painfully clear look at what war – fighting it, witnessing it, surviving it – does to human beings. We experience war and its aftermath through the eyes of victor and vanquished, infantry and insurgent, parent and child. We are shown how a shell-shocked vet’s “haunted eyes, seeing the lake, were seeing things none of the rest of us could, or would want to, see” (“Going Somewhere, or Coming Back?”). How a young German soldier could look at brutally assaulted women and feel that he “had seen it before and would see it again” because this is the nature of warfare (“The German”). How when “time stands still when the bombs drop and the shells strike,” perhaps it does so because “time, unlike you and me, has nothing to lose” and can stand and watch (witness, see) what is happening in the combat zone, which could just as well be in an “open field or the crowded marketplace or the quiet sanctuary of someone’s home” (“Grief Echoes”).
This is a wonderfully varied and extremely powerful collection. We are shown war (and what comes after) in Iran, Africa, Italy and on the Russian front. We see an American medic struggling to save the wounded, the effect of World War I upon a survivor, and shells falling on Sarajevo as a father tries to get his daughter to safety. We are there, witnesses to each battle, observing not from the safety of the sidelines but from the very middle of the action. We watch as soldiers return home to struggle with both the physical and emotional aftereffects of warfare. And we experience the fear of civilians watching their world crumble beneath the machines of war.
These writers are witnesses to the truth of warfare and reveal that truth within these pages. Read on, and see for yourself.
PREFACE to Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration (2010)
Fredericka A. Jacks
Once, after we had picked up our daughter from kindergarten, we found a note in her bag from the school nurse saying that she had a “speech problem.” The Principal insisted this was so, that there was a firm diagnosis, and that we should not delay in seeking professional help. Of course we knew this not to be true and emphasized to the Principal (again) that our daughter had come to the United States (nearly four years old) speaking only Lithuanian. For the most part, we spoke only English. Our daughter had moved from one monolingual environment to another.
Complications that arose because of the clash of languages seemed irresolvable. People continually asked, “How’s her English?” We were also asked, routinely, if she spoke Russian or Polish – “Isn’t Lithuanian similar?” After a few years, many of the same people then asked, “Do you think she remembers any of her own language?” A culture is a country’s language, its customs, and the collective thinking or attitude of the people; our daughter was a little immigrant who had brought with her an entire culture. Not surprisingly, there was no speech problem; rather, there was ignorance on the part of others about the particular word inflections made by our daughter as she moved from one language to another.
Common Boundary includes many varieties of immigration stories. The shifting attitude we experienced over our daughter’s English acquisition (and the loss of her native language) represents a paradox: on the one hand, there is an attempt to accommodate someone from another country; on the other hand, the immigrant person is always perceived as something foreign. There’s a common boundary – being part of and yet being apart from others.
FOREWORD to Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration (2010)
Jason Dubow, M.F.A.
In a post-9/11 world increasingly shrunk by the power of technology and the possibility of mobility, immigration is as much in the news as it has ever been. The details of that news – this bill, that crackdown, a bar graph here, some commentary there – are flat and fleeting. The lasting news, the news that gives depth to our understanding of the world and humanity, is elsewhere – in stories, in these stories: these people, these places, these things. The news is in a young girl’s memory of the “slivers of what had once been her father’s violin” as she flees Nazi-infected Hungary (“They Set Sail in Springtime”); the news is the struggle of a Mexican immigrant to make sense (for herself and others) of a giant Peruvian potato displayed at a Midwestern state fair (“La Santa Papa”); and the news is in the worried father preparing to bring his newly-adopted daughter “home” from China “towards [what he believes is] a future of hope and promise” in Brooklyn (“The Plain Brown Envelopes”). The news is in the spices, the photographs, and the furniture; the news is in individual struggles, memories, and hopes.
My grandmother, Nana Ruth, would have loved Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration (or, as I persistently misread the last word of the title, “Imagination”) because, as an immigrant herself (a Holocaust refugee), she would have found naches (“joy”) in both the familiar (“Wooden Trunk from Buchenwald”) and the unfamiliar. These stories of immigration (and imagination) are about people, like my grandmother, who mentally and emotionally live between places, languages, and cultures. And, really, aren’t we all a jumble of perspectives? Aren’t we all living somewhere between our dreams and our reality, between our fears and our desires, between our various identities? Maybe President Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, at least metaphorically, when he famously said, “We are all immigrants.” Haven’t we all, to take liberties with song writers Simon and Garfunkel, gone to look for our “America”?
If “[being] a foreigner means speaking without being understood” (“Blue Painted Field”), then the writers here are anything but: they speak and you will understand. You’ll like some pieces better than others (who knows, or cares, why). I have my favorites – “Living Between Question Marks,” “An Immigrant’s Deal” – but I can easily imagine why any one of these pieces might be your favorite. As it’s true that we are “nothing if not an anthology of our experiences and the places we’ve lived” (“Beginning in the Midwest”), then this book is really an anthology of anthologies: a collection of stories in which the old inextricably blends with the new, in which the tensions between what has been lost and what can be gained are grappled with (but, inevitably, not resolved), and in which the human capacity to imagine a future and make it real (more or less) is explored from a variety of different perspectives. Here’s the essential question: now that I am no longer there but here, Who am I? The answers, the stories – various, contingent, authentic – have made me, in a Whitman-esque sense, “larger,” and they will you too. And so, when you’re done reading, ask yourself: Who now am I?
PREFACE to Pain and Memory: Reflections on the Strength of the Human Spirit in Suffering (2009)
Fredericka A. Jacks
When we first conceived of the theme medical humanities, we anticipated a collection that would include medical doctors and other health care practitioners. In fact, we did receive submissions from those directly involved in health care, but by far the most gripping submissions were those by people without any medical education – poets and writers who have experienced first-hand the tragedy of enduring pain and then living through the process of dealing with painful memory. These writers recall not only the suffering but also the courage demonstrated by those who are sick and by those who participate in their illness. The writings consistently reminded us, in some ways, of Paul Tillich’s expression (and the title to one of his books), the courage to be. In many of these writings the reader will be grasped by the human need for connection and the desire for existential meaning when confronted with pain and suffering. In pain we suffer a fear of non-existence and want to forget, but in the anxiety of forgetting we risk denying life.
Of course some of our contributors are marginally in health care – a clinical psychologist and a nursing assistant, for example – but even so, the writing in this volume is by far immersed in the sympathetic and empathetic, the literary art of exploring human feeling, and not the medical or scientific art of detached observation. Overall, the time spent reading submissions proved again and again that the emphasis from our original call should be on the humanity and not the medicine of pain and memory – that is what we learned, and so that is what we offer here.
FOREWORD to Pain and Memory: Reflections on the Strength of the Human Spirit in Suffering (2009)
John F. Lennon, Ph.D.
On September 24th at 4:22am, with sweat pouring down Liz’s face and a visible blue vein snaking its way across her temple, my wife poured herself into one last push, sharply biting down on my hand that tightly wrapped around hers, while I, with my other hand, held her right leg crooked and roughly pressed it towards her chest, paralleling a nurse who did the exact same thing with her left leg. At exactly this same moment, a doctor gingerly grabbed at my daughter’s head and pulled Abby, awash in fluid and blood, forcibly into the world. As the nurse quickly pressed tubes down my baby’s throat and rubbed her body with towels, I anxiously waited in silence until I finally heard it: Abby’s loud piercing wail. As my wife exhaled and my daughter inhaled, a scissors cleft Abby from Liz, splitting what was always one forever into two. As I heard my daughter’s desperate cry, I became aware of something that everyone who has witnessed a birth inherently knows: we become ourselves in the moment of that cut.
When people ask about the birth, I, of course, never tell anyone this. Instead, I just usually smile. And even when I get into some of the details – the harrowing taxi ride with the stern Eastern European driver who refused to unlock the doors until I paid him, the laps around the nurse’s station while we waited for a room to open up, the (bad) jokes about the art on the hospital’s walls – I am always retelling a sanitized version of Abby’s birth because, frankly, I blanch from acknowledging that our first moment of life is filled with pain. And so my versions that talk around this absolute truth help create false memories that, while easier to tell and hear, also block me from really ever remembering her birth in all of its beautiful rawness.
PAIN AND MEMORY refuses to shy away from looking at those tender moments of pain. Whether it is unflinchingly writing about the moment of death (“Mack the Hermit”) or trying to come to grips with the loss of a loved one (“Cartography”) or the reeling that happens at the end of a relationship (“Heartless”) or attempting to understand an injury (“After the Accident”) or finding the exact words to discuss the feeling of being abandoned (“Kiribiri”), this anthology does not Hollywoodize pain or sanitize its imprint on those who are affected by it. Instead, these stories pull back the gauze that hides the day-to-day wounds of our lives and, with surgical precision, allows us viscerally to experience them.
In the process, what this anthology will allow us to do as readers is revisit our own stories that we comfortably tell and retell, forcing us to dissect our own memories under the harsh light of truth. And if we are brave enough to look at this pain, as these authors do, what we might discover is a strength that reveals itself at the core of our humanity. After all, if it is true that from our birth to our death we are wrestling with pain, then, as these stories can attest, we are also spending every second of this time persevering as well.