Of uncertain origin (though widely rumored to have been coined in China), “may you live in interesting times” is generally acknowledged to be a politely phrased curse, one condemning its target to a life surrounded by turmoil and beset by difficulties. In this age of continuing struggles for equality, devastating effects of climate change, war in Europe and civil wars in Africa—and increasing dangers to democracy—turmoil and difficulties we certainly have. And we must absolutely confront and overcome these darker aspects of existence. In both this issue’s “Short Takes” and “Persimmon Tree Forum” sections, you will find ample evidence that our readers and contributors are determined to do so.
Yet “interesting times” also encompasses much brighter facets of life in the United States, around the world—and beyond. As I write this, the Webb Telescope, launched last Christmas and successfully “parked” a million miles from Earth, is sending back clearer images of the cosmos than humans have ever before seen. These arresting pictures are helping those of us who take time to look up to better understand not only the smallness and fragility of Earth, but also the immensity and myriad unsolved mysteries comprising the universe in which we float. Here on Earth, scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, and hosts of others are creating and refining systems intended to help preserve the planet and its flora and fauna while making human life more comfortable, sustainable, and less harmful to our spiritual and physical environments. At the same time, musicians, writers, craftspeople, and artists in a variety of media continue to create excitement, raise spirits, explore our relationships to each other and our world—and address the problems we must face.
In this issue of Persimmon Tree we welcome our inaugural Guest Columnist, Mary-Lou Weisman, whose sharp observations and humorous outlook promise both revelations and smiles during her year as a regular contributor. Her brisk approach is complemented by the rich variety of fiction and nonfiction you’ll find in these pages—ranging from the amusing and invigorating to the deeply moving. Poetry Editor Cynthia Hogue introduces Guest Judge Ann Fisher-Wirth, who in turn presents the stunning work of sixteen poets of the central states. Art Editor Greta Berman acquaints us with the life and work of abstract artist Rebecca Allan. And the issue also presents musical performances by several artists, including Persimmon Tree’s Music Editor, Gena Raps.
We are, indeed, living in interesting times—in both the positive and the negative sense of that phrase. My colleagues and I salute the creativity, concerns, and determination of the authors, artists, musicians, and commenters included in this issue. Our contributors inspire us, as we’re certain they will inspire you.