I don’t read many submissions that I immediately want to reject. There aren’t many inexperienced (or how else might I say this? clueless?) writers that submit to this magazine. Most of the stories I read are good. This makes my job as fiction editor difficult. What I find is that the majority of stories I read are competent. Therein lies the problem: they are just competent. When I come across a story that jumps out at me, it does so with a glow. It’s as if the digital page on my computer screen shines a brighter white.
I’d never heard of Leonard Kress before I read his submission, the stories contained in this issue of Atticus Review. From the first sentence in “Polish Oratorio” I knew I wanted to keep reading, that I was reading carefully crafted sentences, that this was the language of a writer in touch with language. Turns out that, indeed, Leonard Kress is a writer intimately engaged with language(s). Kress has for many years been known as a poet and translator. His own volumes include The Orpheus Complex, Orphics, and Sappho’s Apples. He is the translator of the Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz, which was published in 2001. Still, I remained unfamiliar with Leonard Kress until I read the stories he submitted to Atticus Review.
Man, am I glad that he did submit. A new literary frontier has opened for me. This is what a truly fantastic working writer can accomplish: not only am I now in pursuit of Kress’s books, but in the course of interviewing him he mentioned many other writers that sound fantastic. Certainly, I need to brush up on my Polish lit. Americans have an embarrassing tendency towards anthropocentrism, and I’m no better. I read almost entirely writers native to the Americas. But having met Leonard Kress gives me the opportunity to expand my reading, thanks to his inadvertent suggestions.
The stories we usually publish at Atticus Review are likewise very “American.” In this issue we broaden our expanse with a fluent Polish speaker’s fictive landscape. Yet, despite Kress’s more international worldview, his fiction is still very “American.” As a writer myself, reading Leonard Kress inspires me to be more than me, to expand my own landscapes, and at the same time maintain my “American-ness.” I think you’ll experience a similar reaction when you read his flash fiction. So don’t go without knowing Leonard Kress any longer.