Meniscus

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Meniscus Volume 7, Issue 1

Editorial Comment

When the Australasian Association of Writing Programs decided in 2013 to establish a literary journal, those of us who took on the role of editors settled on the name Meniscus and drafted the explanatory statement that is now located in the ‘About Us’ section of the website:

Meniscus is named for the curve that forms at the top surface of a container of liquid. The curve is caused by surface tension, which not only holds the fluid in, but also allows the passage of objects through the surface. It creates uncertainty for anyone attempting a precise measurement because of the parallax effect. The combination of tension, openness and uncertainty can be read as an analogy for creative writing.

While Sandra Arnold and I were working on this issue, the shattering news of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand emerged in the media, and this grim, heartbreaking evidence of xenophobia, hate speech and cultural supremacy coloured the remaining time we spent selecting, editing and preparing the issue for publication. It also hardened our resolve, as editors, to remain firmly committed to publishing creative works that are open to differences and possibilities (like the meniscus itself, which affords both a border and permeability); that allow nuance and complexity (avoiding any ‘precise measurement’), and are able to express, and even celebrate, the ‘tension, openness and uncertainty’ that are so much part of human society.

Well over 300 poems, flash fictions and short stories were submitted to this issue of Meniscus, from across the globe, and together they showcase a remarkable variety of form, genre, voice and creative concerns. Of those, we have selected 75 works, from 57 authors. Rejecting submissions is always a difficult process, but as US comedian Steven Wright has it: ‘you can’t have everything; where would you put it?’

It took a considerable time to decide which of the submissions should be included, and our selection was based on a combination of elements. Primarily, these included: language, image and/or story that captures attention, and has sufficient traction to retain that attention; a voice that is curious about the world, and respectful of other cultures, other values; a work that is doing something fresh with the form; and—dare we say it—beauty. This is always a contentious criterion, because ‘beauty’ is an empty signifier, meaning what it is made to mean, and always highly subjective. However, there is a framework for ‘beauty’ in the literary arts that steps aside from the ‘well-made’, the decorous, the tame, the tidy; that cuts to the visceral, the impact of natural and cultural phenomena; that arrests the reader. The Pushcart Prize winning poet Carol Frost explicitly adopts this notion in her 2003 collection I Will Say Beauty, and it is exemplified in a poem in that collection, The Part of the Bee’s Body Embedded in the Flesh’:

            Whatever it means, why not say it hurts—

             the mind’s raw, gold coiling whirled against

             air currents, want, beauty? I will say beauty.

Beauty, in this definition, is a characteristic of the poems, flash fictions and short stories in this issue. They may prove to be like the sting of a bee, or like the mind’s coiling; they may be about want and need; in each case, they are worth the reading.

As always, we acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of the Copyright Agency of Australia’s Cultural Fund, which provides a ‘prize’ for the best prose work and poem of each issue. This issue, the prose prize is shared by Chris Muscardin, for his short story ‘The Dream Dispels on Waking’, and Jenna Heller, for her flash fiction ‘Haere rā’. Each takes the reader somewhere else, somewhere a little bit strange, and pushes at the boundaries of language. Kathryn Hummel’s ‘Gentillesse’ was selected for the best poem, with the judge remarking on its quality of ‘quietness’ in a noisy world.

Please read and enjoy these works; please pass them on to others; and please submit your own creative writing to future issues of Meniscus.

 

Jen Webb

for the Meniscus editors

  

Author Index

  • Sudha Balagopal
  • Fleur Beaupert
  • Paul Beckman
  • Tony Beyer
  • John Brantingham
  • Ruth Brandt
  • Sue Brennan
  • Owen Bullock
  • Alasdair Cannon
  • Brent Cantwell
  • Gayelene Carbis
  • Paige Clark
  • Ken Cockburn
  • Aidan Coleman
  • Mary Cresswell
  • Jane Frank
  • Ian Ganassi
  • Frances Gapper
  • Nod Ghosh
  • Michael Gould
  • James Grabill
  • Oz Hardwick
  • Jenna Heller
  • Jon Hoskin
  • Kathryn Hummel
  • Paul Ilechko
  • Peycho Kanev
  • Yael Klangwisan
  • Wes Lee
  • Elizabeth MacFarlane
  • Anthony Macris
  • Michael Mintrom
  • Chris Muscardin
  • Gemma Nethercote Way
  • Eve Nucifora
  • Thuy On
  • Jane O’Sullivan
  • Moya Pacey
  • Diana Marietta Papas
  • Sarah Penwarden
  • Simon Perchik
  • Antonia Pont
  • Arna Radovich
  • Vaughan Rapatahana
  • Duncan Richardson
  • Peter Roberts
  • Hester J Rook
  • Gerry Sarnat
  • Anum Sattar
  • Robert Scotellaro
  • Melinda Smith
  • Martin Stannard
  • Paul Turley
  • Isi Unikowski
  • Amelia Walker
  • Francine Witte
  • Marjory Woodfield