In the beautiful “Deus Ex Machina,” Peter Gizzi asks, “may I keep this promise?” The question — nestled near the end of a poem of startling, agile tenderness — is, of course, aware of the vulnerability of intention. But it also challenges the notion that the commitments we make to others or to ourselves are truly our own, in our possession — something we can keep. Can a promise be preserved? Can it be lasting? Gizzi seems to pose these questions to love, about love, but, to me, he also wants to know if the emotion that went into the promise can be felt again at a later time to remind him of what it was like to make it.
I like to think of poems and stories in this way — cairns that writers build out of words, not stones. They remind us that something worth preserving, something lasting, is buried beneath them. And, also like a cairn, they show us a way beyond them; they etch into the air a change in direction.
There are many such cairns in this, the sixth issue of Tupelo Quarterly. There are poems and stories within this issue that present us with the opportunity to be reminded of what it was like for their authors to make their promises. And I do, by the way, mean re-minded. Caesar Pavese, via Leslie Fielder in No! In Thunder, writes, “[literature] moves us because what it reveals to us is felt as remembered as well as discovered, felt ‘for a second time’; yet the ‘first time’ is known only by implication, in a sense never existed, except mythically, for it occurred before time began for us, in childhood when we do not know our experiences but are them.”
So, with that, welcome to the new issue of the Quarterly.