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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: 13 May 2020
Commentary: 1186 words
By Clare MacQueen, Publisher

Intro: Issue 3


Welcome to our Summer 2020 issue! Well yes, I guess we are a tad early. The June solstice is still a month away, and a polar vortex over Mother’s Day weekend delivered snowfall from the Midwest to the Appalachians, with ten inches in northern New England and flurries in Manhattan. Snow hasn’t been documented this late in the year in Central Park since 1977.

Meanwhile, the out-of-whack jet stream caused record heat, thunderstorms, and fire weather in southern Florida, as well as heat waves on the other side of the country in California and the Southwest. Temperatures reached 95°F in downtown Los Angeles and 106 in Phoenix and Tucson. To the north 3500 miles, the mercury approached 80°F in Fairbanks on Mother’s Day, 20 degrees warmer than “normal.”

A different sort of “n” word, as John Olson writes here in MacQ-3, in Running for Cover, where he asks if we’ll ever return to normalcy.

Which becomes ever more elusive as swamp creatures in capitols across the USA perpetrate political crimes and humanitarian outrages by the hour it seems.

Somehow, that term “swamp creature” brings to mind the invasion of a brute even closer to my home in Washington state: the Asian giant hornet—with its honey-bee-decapitating mandibles and voracious appetite for honey-bee larvae, that have earned it the unfortunate nickname of “murder hornet.” As a former beekeeper, I find this both horrifying and distressing.

And the greater tragedy: people panicked by the slim chance of being attacked by giant hornets here in the USA are indiscriminately killing all bees, including honey bees, bumbles, and others that pollinate our crops. Oh, what freaked-out fools we mortals can be!

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 64 Americans die each year from hornet, wasp, and bee stings. For perspective, here’s a 2016 State Farm statistic: an average of 200 Americans die each year in auto collisions with deer. Killer Bambi?

And the most lethal insect is actually a tiny wispy creature, the mosquito, which many people in this country don’t think twice about. Compared with the searing sting of the giant hornet, mosquito bites are downright nanoscopic, yet they transmit diseases that cause more than a million human deaths each year (World Health Organization).

Pandemic Preoccupation

Dwarfing the hornet insanity, of course, the coronavirus pandemic is a far more immediate and fatal threat to humanity. The pandemic death toll rose above 294,000 worldwide today, 13 May 2020, and above 84,000 in the U.S.—where the first death occurred just 14 weeks ago, on 6 February (and in California instead of Washington state as previously thought).*

Confinement, quarantine, and the horrors and heartbreaks of COVID-19 remain much on the mind these days, around the globe. And this issue of MacQ cannot help but reflect our collective preoccupation.

From creative nonfiction and prose poetry, to lineated poems like When I Get to Heaven (John L. Stanizzi’s homage to John Prine), to poetic hybrids like haibun and tanka prose, and even a special feature of micro-poems (yes, COVID-ku), MacQ-3 includes about three dozen pieces under the category, Climate Crisis and Pandemic. (After all, the two themes are intimately connected.)

One of those works receives the Editor’s Choice Award for this issue, and another wins the Magician Ekphrastic Writing Challenge.

Highlights: Fiction and Hybrids

MacQ-3 offers 15 micro- and flash fictions for your entertainment, plus three haibun stories, the latter of which combine elements of fiction + prose poetry + one or more micro-poems. Very cool, at least I think so, but judge for yourself.

A sampling of our fictions:

Lost Parrot by Heather Bourbeau [micro-fiction]

Training and Comfort by Jeff Burd [flash fiction]

Leaky by Kyle Hemmings [haibun story]

Nunworld by Mary Hannah Terzino [flash fiction]

Savor some more thru our fiction menu.

By the way, I’m thrilled to report that a haibun story by Rich Youmans, After the Dream, the Dream Remains, which Jack Cooper and I published last year in KYSO Flash, is among the works that will appear in The Best Small Fictions 2020.

And a haibun story by Stella Pierides won MacQ’s ekphrastic challenge for this issue. Among the three Finalists, you’ll also find flash fiction by Paul Negri, and among the Semi-finalists, small fictions by Guy Biederman, Ann Fisher, and Madeleine Lascelle.

Featured Artist and Ekphrastic Works

A quirky-cool ceramic sculpture I fell in love with almost 30 years ago inspired both the selection of this issue’s Featured Artist, Aggie Zed, and the creation of the Magician Ekphrastic Writing Challenge.

MacQ-3 includes the top ten entries from that challenge, as well as a chapter from The Seeing Machine, an exceptional ekphrastic novel about French painter Georges Braque by poet and essayist John Olson.

Our ekphrastic line-up also includes Bach in Vienna, a prose poem by Robert L. Dean, Jr., author of most recently The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing. What a gorgeous collection, inside and out, with poems and short fictions written to paintings by Chicago artist Steven Schroeder, several of which first appeared in KYSO Flash and MacQueen’s Quinterly.

Amazing books, Dean’s and Olson’s, and I highly recommend reading them both.

Also not to be missed here in MacQ-3, splendid pairings of poems and visual art such as these:

After Blossom by Robbi Nester (with etching by Phil Greenwood)

Waiting for the Future by Neil Hulme (with poem by Gary S. Rosin)

Sky Spoof by Ellaraine Lockie (with photograph by Alexis Rhone Fancher from her series Sunrise, San Pedro)

It Looks Like Manet to Me by Charles D. Tarlton (with Ann Knickerbocker’s painting Thursday Night Thunderstorm)

And More Visual Arts

I’m also honored and happy to present Five Oil Paintings by Robin Rosenthal, along with links to her galleries and her fascinating blog.

Please be sure as well to see MacQ-3’s selections of haiga, taiga, and photo-poems for wonderful works by Roberta Beary, Mark Meyer, Carol Raisfeld, and Alexis Rhone Fancher.

Last But Never Least: Creative Nonfiction

Writers rarely send us CNF to consider for publication, which is why you’ll find a dearth of this genre in the first two issues of MacQ—only two CNF among 164 written works that appear in MacQ-1 and MacQ-2 combined.

And only a relative handful of CNF appeared in KYSO Flash, i.e., 30 among a thousand written works we published across 12 issues.

On the other hand, I’m surprised and delighted to present here, in a single issue, a veritable bouquet of creative nonfiction works: Five of them in fact!

Fingers crossed that this trend continues. As one who admires CNF, I do hope that folks will send us lots more to consider for future issues.

A World of Thanks!

As always, my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of our lovely contributors and readers.

I deeply appreciate your ongoing support of our little journal and your visits here. Please continue to drop by often, and bring your friends. Here’s hoping you all find much to enjoy at the MacQ smorgasbord...


* Note: 1st Known U.S. COVID-19 Death Was Weeks Earlier Than Previously Thought, at NPR online (22 April 2020)

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