In the simplest of terms, reverb is the sound of a particular space. Let’s say Jonny Greenwood wails on his guitar. Direct sound travels straight to your ears, but some sound also radiates out and bounces back at you—this is reflected sound and the song has transformed from the tune played earlier in sound check. The audience changes the room and the tones. Radiohead in a club is not the same Radiohead you hear at an outdoor amphitheater.
We are bombarded by sound in everyday life just as we are standing in the dark at a rock show—squished, body against body, sweat on sweat; sometimes the noise is overwhelming and we prefer to strip the ornament away, get back down to zero, and start fresh, but most of the time we have no idea how to do such a thing. Reverb is the persistence of sound after an initial sound is produced, how it moves through space, over objects, over you. Reverb is the reason your boots sound different in a warehouse than on your kitchen linoleum. Reverb is how long it takes for that reflected sound to decay. Reverb makes Pink Floyd sound huge on the turntable. If they used the same amount of reverb live as they did on the record, you’d hear nothing distinctive—the music would turn to a wall noise. Sometimes, noise is good. We need noise. We need to slam against each other, throw elbows, and come out at the end of a show bruised, but feeling alive, reborn, a dirt-covered girl willing to yell and fight with the rest of them. We need to smoke our clove cigarettes and lace up our ass-kicking boots and feel our hearts pound in our throats and let the noise damage our future ears. Sometimes you need the noise, but noise is unsustainable. Reverb can, at times, be overkill. Reverb can make a cheap guitar sound complex, but if overused, can destroy tone, causing what was once vibrant to turn flat and distant. Every space has a sonic signature. Every issue of Atticus Review does, too.
This is my first issue as Editor-in-Chief. My goal was to make a little noise, but a Goldilocks level, just enough to get you riled up and excited, but not so much you wish you’d brought earplugs, because maybe sometimes, you start thinking you’re too old to go to out-of-town rock shows in faraway cities on weeknights. Some of these stories and poems were here waiting for me when I arrived—like a mixed tape started by someone else. I wanted to compose an issue that spoke to the work that was already here, the work in previous issues, but an issue that also looks to the future. I hope you’ll find that the poetry, nonfiction, and fiction included in The Reverb Issue make enough noise to linger.
Thank you to our contributors, our readership, Dan Cafaro, Zoe Henry, Georgia Bellas, Michael Meyerhofer, and the previous editors Joe Gross and Jamie Iredell for making The Reverb Issue possible.
Danny Caine’s “Jaycie” kicks off the issue with a playful poem that speaks to the momentous rhythm of attraction and difference, of connection—the feedback of an ordinary woman, an ordinary moment and its potential to get loud.
“My First Cancer” by M. Emmitt Cripps considers the beauty and camaraderie of affliction. Here the narrator listens and watches for an unruly inheritance, a genetic tarnish –the decay that echoes through generations and the pride that turns hardship into a refrain that reminds you; you are still alive.
April Salzano’s “Hamburger Helper and Wine” notices how the noise and contradictions of everyday life can feel like too much to bear, how we sometimes miss the comfort in the usual. Come on, tell me you haven’t had Hamburger Helper and booze at some point in your life and wondered how it all came to this.
Joe Nicholas bangs along with the foreboding of an hourglass –a sense of disconnection, of inaction, and an inability to discern, in his prose poem, “Empty Sea, Empty Me.”
In Lana Spendl’s “Down into Sarajevo,” we see the effect of places that linger, places that have imprinted themselves on us, places where we’ve left bits of ourselves, places we wish we could return to, but we know we can never reach again for like Rushdie says, the past is a foreign country.
Nic Leigh’s “Confidence (demo)” lyrical flash fiction spins us in a loop with its “synchronous flood of syllables.” The prose here bangs its chest, begging you to hear its call. If we pay close enough attention, we can still hear individual voices in our collective wall of sound; individual voices emerge and Leigh’s is one to watch.
In Hunter Sharpless’s in-depth essay “The Resurrection of the Author,” Sharpless considers some of the biggest questions and issues in contemporary literature. What makes something a work of art? He argues against the overuse of irony and “performance-obsessed avant-garde writing.” Influenced by David Foster Wallace, Marilynne Robinson, and Zadie Smith, Sharpless claims, “Mystery is found where chaos, order, and other intersect.”
In her story, “Off the Map,” Anna Lea Jancewicz reminds us that sometimes we underestimate housewives at our peril; the people others might see as frog-like can be dragons, indeed.
Troy James Weaver turns the volume up on the inexplicable suffering we inflict upon each other in “Ears.” What lingers after we commit atrocious acts can eat away at the strongest among us.
We close The Reverb Issue with a story that will stay with me for years. “Cher Ami” by Heather Rounds tells the story of a homing pigeon trained by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the forest of Argonne, France in 1918: “With the fibers in her inner ear, she hears sounds falling far below either your ears or mine. Sound resting below any wind, any weather, any water, any air, any mountains.”
Photo By: David Warren