I wrote once about my college Italian professor, an astute observer and a diminutive but vigorous wearer of very tall leather boots, who told me in class: “Guiseppe, you are like a star. Sometimes you shine real bright, and sometimes a you just go away.”

This story has gotten a lot of laughs over the years, but as I think about stars this morning, I’m struck again by my professor’s take.

We seem to admire stars because they shine. They twinkle. They stand out from the darkness around them like a hopeful thought. When we call people “stars,” we mean they appear on TV or in movies, either as actors or in the news as we track their foreign policy or descent into lawlessness.

My professor called me a star, not so much for my luminosity, but because I was inconsistent. Stars, the kind in the sky, often hide behind weather (at least around here) or smog or ambient light. They can appear suddenly, bright and newly-washed, through a crack in the gray clouds only to disappear for nights on end.  Some have even burned out already, their light still threading down to us from a cold distant source.

I guess I like stars for being mercurial. They certainly aren’t out on this soggy morning, but I sense them pulsing up there behind a comforter of rain. Starlight, or the notable lack thereof, has been my writing light for these Atticus editorials, of which this is the last before I take on a new career challenge. Full-time work and small children have joyfully pushed my art into the middle of the night, and now they (and a necessary return to grad school) shove it again into the unknown. As they should. I invited them.

The writing life for me has lived outside academia since graduate school, and editing for this fantastic journal, while often filling nearly every extra minute, has been an important connection to the minds of other writers. Beth Gilstrap, a new editor, will now have the chance for that connection and more, which is exciting. To Beth, I’d say you have a great team, and that the best part of this gig has been praising a little of each and every piece I’ve been involved in publishing.

Because the writers are the stars, of course, the visible kind—luminous and distinct and flaring with all they’ve got. To them I can say only: Thank you.


Nancy Bevilaqua launches our “Stars” issue with “One of Several Dreams and the Requisite Dream-Poem About Kurt Cobain. Bevilaqua’s sub-conscious and conscious imagery feature similarly dazzling specificity, wakefulness and sleep locking arms. A devastating rocker of a poem.

“Returning from the Mountains,” a poem by Steve Klepetar, unfolds its beautiful phrasing at a gentler tempo, arcing from serenity to an effective menace. This richly sonorous poem seems to almost hold its own breath in wonder until the haunting finish.

Movie stars Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, and Jackie Gleason argue at the start of Roy Bentley’s ekphrastic poem, “Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).” The actors outside the frame and the action of the film itself create moving worlds that complicate the poem’s context and entangle the reader. This poem shows all the toughness and resonance of a punch-drunk fighter.

Tara Laskowski’s flash piece, “Vanna,” enters the world of a game show star and makes of it something triumphant and humble and smart. The piece ends satisfyingly on the set of The Price is Right with a fabulous last line/image. I hope Vanna White reads this. I hope everybody reads this.

With an array of memorable lines and connected images, “Relampago del Catatumbo,” by Emily Koon, takes a look at the feelings of a Chief Meteorologist. This piece, unpredictable as the weather, takes a surprising and powerful turn.

“May-Belle’s New Look,” by Georgina  Parfitt reminds us of how we remain, amid our ruin, the people we’ve been. Parfitt charms with this proud, honest picture of longtime companionship.

“The truth was disappointing. I was hopeful he’d give us a chance to merge topographies.” From this beginning of her piece, “Honolulu / Colorado,” Susanna Speier merges topographies and the inner workings of a relationship and a lot of incredible astronomy and geology-driven prose poetry. Speier’s writing burns like a comet entering the atmosphere.

In Kevin Wilson’s brilliant “Phylum Cordata,” the vulnerability and strange depth of middle school love find great purchase. The blunt force of Wilson’s sentences are matched only by the awkward grace of his characters, in particular a seventh-grade girl with “horrible perm-burned hair” and stars in her eyes.


Photo By: Sean Stayte