Volume Five: The Limit of Intimacy
As the Runestone editorial board and I sat down to finalize our choices for Volume Five, we saw a host of reoccurring themes emerging. At the forefront of these images and motifs — among currents, elemental forces, the breath, and lots and lots of water — we saw a collection of writing that was intent on exploring familial love, especially the longing and loss associated with those bonds. This theme extended, even, to our interview with the poet Elena Cisneros, who went to poetry, first and foremost, “as a conduit for grief” and whose losses, in part, informed and inspired her debut collection, In the Shadow Country (Tavern Books, 2019.)
The word intimacy comes from a Latin word that meant “to make known,” and in this way, we can already begin to see where the limits of intimacy might be; we can’t always explain, even to ourselves, what we mean to one another, what we want from each other, or where the boundaries are between ourselves and those we love. We see it in the frustration that Pell lives each day in “Memories of Green,” even as he feels deep love, and in the grief of the speaker in “A Haibun as an Appalachian Goodbye,” whose bewilderment after the loss of her grandmother leads her to plead, “pull me under too.” In the story, “Temporary,” we see it in the inability of Lenore to keep her daughter Janie in her life, despite the bonds that persist between them.
To spend time with another’s work is a further way to be intimate, to experience intimacy with strangers around the complexities of the human spirit, even if the limits of this exchange are part of the contract in the first place. In the poem, “My Identity is Cosmic,” we travel with the speaker as they seek to transcend the limits of how they are perceived and known in a binary-obsessed society, and are let, briefly, into Kateria Rodriguez’s life in, “Things That Can’t Be Helped,” as she falls in love with the Japanese language, only to find her heart broken. While many of the writers included in Volume Five interrogate the experience of loss from the angle of grief, such as in Angela Kramer’s poem, “Unending Smoke,” others such as Damaris Castillo and Emilee Kinney reveal “the golden road to home,” and wonder, “if I dressed in mist and sand, could I make my home/a land that breathes again?”
We take our title this year from Vasantha Sambamurti’s poem, “Culmination,” and thank her for reminding us that there is no way to become an expert at loving, or at losing, and that each new experience with either is brand new. The bewilderment we feel is one of the gifts of being human– “when inexperienced–/you are always young.” We are always learning how to do this, over and over, together.
The undergraduate work that we received this year was of incredible quality and scope, and it was difficult, ultimately, to let go of some pieces. We look forward to reading your submissions in 2019 for Volume Six, and hope that you are comforted, encouraged, and ultimately inspired by the work you find here. We hope you enjoy Volume Five: The Limits of Intimacy.
Yours in Bewilderment,
Gretchen Marquette is the author of May Day (Graywolf Press, 2016.) Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Harper’s, the Paris Review, Tin House, PBS Newshour, and other places. She lives in Minneapolis.