FOCUS by Charlene Anderson Chair - Editorial Board
Featured Writing Topic for this Spring 2021 Issue: Strange Times (see the Editorial Note below)
Strange Times indeed:
During the last year or so, we’ve had wildfires that turned the sky dark in the morning, a pandemic which went on and on and on, during which everything was boarded up, closed, open, partially open and closed again . . .. There were also ongoing demonstrations for racial equality, an election, an insurrection and, count them--two—impeachment trials. Then, after long waiting, a vaccine.
In this eleventh issue of Vistas & Byways, we offer 14 contributions on our special theme, Strange Times. The thumbnail descriptions in the Table of Contents will guide you to the works on that theme. The first offering, by Carla Pasion, “Last Night I Dreamed of Dr. Fauci,” is a semi-surrealistic, semi-comedic poem where the author muses, “a sense of vague disorder bled into the day.” Steve Surryhne’s “Strange Days” takes us to a semi-deserted downtown where the poet feels he is living on a “different planet from a different point of view,” and Roberta Greifer tells us that “Inside the Pandemic,” “Today is written with invisible ink.” Denize Springer’s “Palette of Catastrophe” asks many questions, all of them in color, including “If the sky is orange, will my house catch fire?”
In “Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” Vivien Zielin sits at her Seder table zooming rather than being with relatives and friends, thinking, “Everything was the same, even the differences were the same.” Diane Frank (In “Prayer to the Invisible”) honors the victims of a synagogue shooting by reciting Kaddish, as the mourners “sit all day, and name the dead.” And during these strange, strange times there have been far too many dead.
In “Falling, November 2020,” Kathryn Santana Goldman leaves us with:
This is a time of falling, releasing the world as I knew it to allow new growth.
We can only hope it may be so.
Besides our timely, wrenching and sometimes even humorous pieces on Strange Times, this issue features many other excellent works. Our Nonfiction Section, with no intention on our part, seems to focus on place and travel, possibly because so many of us have been unable to leave the place where we are to actually travel. Cathy Fiorello reminisces about “A Snowy Day” in New York while ‘stuck’ here in lovely San Francisco. Bernard Catalinotto, a new contributor, takes us back to 1965 on a roots-finding tour of Sicily, where he discovers interesting facts regarding the number of towns with the same name and the number of siblings his grandfather had. In “Why Niagara?” Kathy Gilbert asks why, considering she grew up there and it seemed ordinary to her, there is so much interest in a waterfall. And in “Afghanistan,” Mary Noel Pepys, another new contributor, describes her unsettling and sometimes dangerous stay in that country.
And don’t miss our small but intriguing Fiction Section. It includes a rousing tale, “Mexican Hat,” by Linda Zamora Lucero, told in first-person by a man who wants to travel but isn’t sure he can do so without ending his marriage. Then there is “Bel Momento” by Joe Catalano, who does travel in France and finds a strange and magical moment to be remembered . . . at least for a while.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, beat-poet and long-time owner of City Lights Bookstore, passed recently at age 101. We’re grateful to Elsa Fernandez for paying homage to him in “What Did Saroyan Say?” The poem describes her experiences coming to San Francisco in the time when, as Ferlinghetti says, San Francisco was a “far-out city on the left side of the world.” Find her poem and other interesting pieces related to the Bay Area in the Bay Area Stew Section.
We have a number of excellent poems in the Poetry Section, including “Dirty Dishes” (Roberta Greifer), about dirty dishes but with a humorous overtone hinting at more, “The Life of a Poet” (Vivian Imperiale), a light-hearted look at what it means to be a poet on a practical, hectic, daily basis, and “The Ouija Board Says” (Angie Minkin), which presents an intriguing juxtaposition of goofiness and tragedy during the poet’s teenage years. And don’t overlook Tom Davenport’s sardonic “Strange Food” which postulates how our ancestors came to discover what was edible and what was not, and learned to say, “’I’ll pass,’ to toadstools but ‘let’s try some’ to mushrooms.”
In our photographic essay Section, Bay Area Landmarks with a Twist, you’ll find 2 wonderful photo-essays on San Francisco landmarks by Fred Goldman. There are also beautiful photo-essays on foliage and wildlife (Hari Huberman and Richard Giardina, a new contributor), a wild look at tangled trees in “Twist and Shout” (Barbara Applegate), and Pamela Pitt’s startling photographic vision, “Quarantine Dreams.”
In the Inside OLLI Section, we have 5 pieces: 3 book reviews, an interview with OLLI instructor Nicholas Jones and a profile of OLLI instructor Karen McSorley. You’ll learn about the books and the OLLI members, turned authors (Thomas O. Davenport, Elinor Gale and Heather Saunders Estes), as well as things about the instructors you never would have guessed.
We’re pleased to introduce 6 new contributors this issue: Bernard Catalinotto, Richard Giardina, Carla Pasion, Mary Noel Pepys, Lynne Rappaport and Karen Rhodes. Thanks to each of them for thinking of us.
We hope you can join us for our Issue 11 Zoom Launch Party on May 7 from 3 – 5 PM.
The submission window for Issue 12 will be August 2021, and we REALLY hope we can all get together in person in November 2021 for the Issue 12 Launch party: in-person readings, slideshows, food, wine, clapping, laughing, talking. Wine. As somebody surely must have said, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous?”