Ecotone no. 24
Review by Annaleah Magnuson
Founded in 2005 at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Ecotone’s mission centers on the concept of reimagining place in all its complexity. Each issue’s first page contains a definition of the unfamiliar noun that gives the journal its title: “a transition zone between two communities, containing the characteristic species of each; a place of danger or opportunity; a testing ground.” Through poetry, visual art, photography, fictional stories and nonfiction essays, each themed biannual issue ponders the many ways we redefine place in our changing world and how we interpret that space as one of danger or opportunity. With its represented diversity of content and contributors, I find this issue captures not only the variety of significance that craft has on our lives, but also its ability to be a power for change and growth.
After running fingertips along the tactile cover imprinted with geographical patterns of bright orange, the reader opens the issue to a similarly decorated and branded bookmark, which contains a quote about craft by one of the contributing authors: mine had the following quote by poet Lauren Camp:
To craft is, beyond all else, to be patient – alternating between attention and respite – which allows the ideas to shift and life to move along, offering new understandings to the creative work.
This quote defines the issue’s mission to explore craftsmanship of all kinds, asking how both place shapes craft and in turn, craft shapes place. Is crafting an act of resistance; of strength? Tradition, creation, and/or community building? How does crafting weave into all aspects of our daily life, with our families and in our work? In its unique exploration of craft, Ecotone has brilliantly combined its mission statement with the extremely personal and relevant concept of “craft” in our complex worlds, lives, and throughout history.
Effortlessly flowing from descriptive nonfiction stories to short but heavy poems, “The Craft Issue” populates each page with work that spans many ages, emotions, and colors. In a beautiful and poignant personal essay titled “Snowflake no. 1”, author Andrea Mummert Puccini explains how she would enjoy watching her mother and grandmother crochet delicate snowflakes as a child. As she grew older and was forced to cope with their deaths, as we all do with our loved ones, these memories became buried within the mundane necessities of everyday life. A source of pain, the snowflakes became lost in the cockles of boxes and forgotten memories. Puccini’s excursion through trying to remember the craft and teach it to her own children caused her to travel, write letters, embark upon a new journey of learning and reconnect with old acquaintances, teaching her in the process that crafting is “a language I am beginning to speak”. The reader is encouraged to reflect and reminisce on their own childhood memories and how they’ve shaped their growth today.
Poems both long and short fill the spaces between essays, varied as much in content as they are in presentation. In the four-part poem, “Speech Delay”, David Macey painfully portrays the whirl of confusion and worry experienced as his daughter wouldn’t speak as a toddler, to her journey through speech therapy, and resolves at the simple yet beautiful moment she crafted a joke all her own, in fluent speech.
Martha Park’s black and white watercolor drawings decorate the handwritten pages of her story “Portrait of a Vacant Lot”, wherein through pictures and words she describes the transition of moving and acclimating to a completely new place. She draws the neighbors she meets and the stories she hears, deepening the view of a small town by describing its history of racial and socioeconomic segregation through the voices of its inhabitants. Her simple yet passionate prose details the nature of both a community’s struggle and the change that stubbornly persists.
The issue reaches its conclusion with the publication’s many contributors offering a single sentence on craft, varying from author Jill McCorkle’s summation “a collage; a crazy quilt of voice and memory” to Rebecca Foust’s description as “the vehicle that carries us where we need to go and tells us what we need to do”. These twenty-five sentences, offering hopes and concerns about the future of craft, thoughtfully left me to question and contemplate my own definition, which has no doubt been impacted by Ecotone’s stunning collection. I’ll leave you with artist Bridget Elmer’s summation sentence, which is perhaps my favorite:
Craft is our antidote.
Visit Ecotone‘s website here.
You can purchase “The Craft Issue” here.