Definitions and usages of the word “time” as a noun take up two tightly printed, small-font columns in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. I’m not sure exactly when this 2,127-page beast (not including various appendices) came into my possession, but I do remember the hot summer morning I dropped it, tearing the skin on the top of my foot open and tearing a chunk out of the book’s spine. We both survived.
Here is definition 8: “a period or periods necessary, sufficient, available for something; as, I have not time to speak with you now” and “I have resolved to take time, and in spite of all misfortunes, to write you, at intervals, a long letter. —Swift.”
Time has been on my mind. Hours at work, hours at home. The length of time Salamander has been around—twenty-five years—and its time so far at Suffolk—twelve years. The amount of time it might take to write a poem or a story, or resolve a small problem or a large one, or to rear children and launch them into the world.
The pieces in this issue have many different ways of conveying time. There are the moments that seem—in their singularity, their strangeness—to step out of the flow of time, as in Sarah Rubin’s poem “Grandmother,” Suzanne E. Berger’s “Annunciation,” and Kristen Bulger’s “Marian Apparition.” There are travels in time, illuminating a not-so-distant past, as seen in Derek N. Otsuji’s “Deliverance” and Laurence O’Dwyer’s “The Patriotic Blues,” or centuries further back, as in Cindy Veach’s “Mary Easty: Hanged September 22, 1692.”
An onrush of memories over the course of a parent’s life and a child’s, dizzying in speed and intensity, animates Beverly Burch’s “Invocation to Time/No Time” and Martha Collins’s “In Time.” The attempt to preserve the lineaments of an individual’s history plays out in Craig Blais’s poem “1996: A Novel” and Gary Sokolow’s “Two Nests,” and the charge of preserving a collective one forms the basis of Erica Eisen’s story “The View from the Necropolis.”
And then there’s the elasticity of time. Each year it seems that the summer simultaneously slows way down and races by. During our fiction contest, held between May and July, our team of readers and final judge enter multiple worlds, immersed in and transported by them. I am appreciative of the deep concentration the team brings to the task. This year’s final judge was novelist Christopher Castellani, who wrote us about his first- and second-prize selections:
Of the many fine stories I read for this contest, “Girls Girls Girls” and “Mastermind” stood out for their consistency of vision. Both stories are fully committed to the tone, thematic structure, and familiar but vivid world the authors establish from their first pages. Both also take us to unexpected places. Though “Mastermind” deceptively cloaks itself as a simple boyhood adventure, it ultimately becomes a poignant meditation on a son’s relationship to his father. What distinguishes “Girls Girls Girls” in particular are not only the risks the author takes with both content and form, but the layers of meaning and complexity provided by its invocation of epigenetics, class, and the narrator’s buried cultural heritage. The author has complete control over this increasingly anxious narrator, who guides us through a suspenseful series of events with pitch-perfect voice, insight, and humor.
Insight, humor, and time—all are in play when a reader encounters a new text, a new vision. We always enjoying hearing from you about the pieces in Salamander that strike you most directly, so please be in touch with us. And if you’re planning to attend the AWP Conference in March, in Tampa, we’ll see you at the bookfair, table #1405.