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Editor’s Note

James R. Adair

In the summer of 1862 or 1863, an Oxford University mathematician visited family friends in North Wales. During his visit he spent time strolling around the grounds, gazing out into the bay next to the house, and talking with members of the Liddell family. His conversations with one of the family members, ten-year-old Alice, inspired him to write a children’s book that defied contemporary norms for juvenile literature, employing mythical creatures, silly rhymes, and (gasp!) a wholesale endorsement of children’s imagination. The resulting book was part children’s entertainment, part fantasy, and a work of complete genius. It revolutionized the world of children’s literature. Booksellers couldn’t keep it on the shelves. Proper Victorian “experts” on children’s mental health were scandalized. In this issue of Voices de la Luna we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of that scandalous work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, along with other works of the Oxford don Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known today by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. Some of the poems and stories included in this issue show the influence of Carroll’s work, either in theme or in the use of language. This is scarcely odd (to quote Carroll), since his works contributed more new words to the English language than any corpora other than the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Several illustrations from Carroll’s books—mostly the work of John Tenniel but one from Carroll himself—appear throughout the magazine.

This year also marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of the brilliant Irish poet W. B. Yeats, author of the following unforgettable lines (among many others):

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

As always, Voices is privileged to share the work of both established writers and those without previous publication credits. Our featured poet for July is Margaret Randall, whose poetry reflects a social activism influenced in large measure by her sojourn of more than two decades in Latin America. We present her poem “As If the Empty Chair/Como si la silla vacía,” an achingly beautiful poem about the familes of the desaparecidos, in both English and Spanish, along with several other selections of her work.

Other highlights in this issue include a conversation with local poet and scholar Octavio Quintanilla, award-winning short fiction by middle school and high school students from the San Antonio Book Festival Fiction Contest, and reviews of several interesting books, including Voices co-founder Mo Saidi’s first novel. There’s even an appearance by an erstwhile Texas author known for the surprise endings to his stories. And finally some good news: did you know that listening to Beethoven may be beneficial to your health? I guess Schroeder was on to something all along!

The editors of Voices de la Luna hope that you enjoy reading the poems, fiction, essays, news items, and notices of artistic events as much as we enjoy bringing them to you. Follow Carroll’s advice and take a lazy summer afternoon or two to “pursue / The dream-child moving through a land / Of wonders wild and new.”

 


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Where the Human Spirit Cannot Breathe

Margaret Randall

Some must view the video, some turn away. The prisoner kneels in orange jump suit against sands that hide both place and time. The masked man with British accent wields a knife that glints in desert sun, promising another beheading. Unless a prisoner exchange, unless two hundred million in ransom, unless, always unless. But unless is an illusion when atrocity reaches a place where the human spirit cannot breathe. Terror’s job is to terrorize, and we think there is nothing worse than these images seducing eyes that weep tears of blood and rage. So soon have we forgotten Auschwitz, Morazán, the souvenir shots at Abu Ghraib or legal chokehold murdering Black men on any inner city sidewalk. Women stoned to death or battered from girlhood through marriage are a silent majority who suffer no less for the permission implicit. This is not about comparisons. There is no such thing as worse than or as bad as when inhumanity is the new norm and torture titillates, sells papers, satisfies a cultivated taste.

 

Cut and Paste

Jim LaVilla-Havelin

The Oxford Junior Dictionary is eliminating many words of nature to make room for words of technology. Eliminate: otter, acorn, lark, leopard, lobster. Replace with: MP3 Player, analogue, broadband, blog, chatroom. soon there will be no scissors no paper and certainly no rock hard to imagine a world so full of loss of substitutions if imagining is something we still do does highlight— all blue—color of IBM, never ocean— mean to cut and paste save as kind of blue (digitally re-mastered) a fish nameless now slapped dead on no rock which exists, imagines to change the flow of water in a stream not data or consciousness

 

dead man's hand

Michelle Hartman

she didn’t mind the house work busy hands and all that after all the wee ones had saved her life her feet hung off the bed the little shirts did not fit the ironing board still she smiled and blue birds were drawn to her shoulders she meant to be grateful but one little hand kept venturing under sunny yellow skirt slid inside bright blue blouse smeared porcelain skin with coal dust and worse left grime marks on her only dress she prayed and struggled for a thankful heart turned the other cheek—only to have it pinched she never intended to strike but it was baking day and the rolling pin was in her hand just a thud, such a slight sound and the eighth, and most annoying dwarf Gropey was forever gone

 

Lewis Carroll and a Child's Imagination (excerpt)

Dani Adair-Stirling

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll. While Carroll published many works, Alice stands out among literary circles. Could it be for the words it gave to the English language such as “jabberwocky” or “chortle”? Perhaps it is the fact that so many of the Wonderland characters have become archetypes on their own. The names “The Mad Hatter,” “Cheshire Cat,” “White Rabbit,” and “Tweedles Dum and Dee” carry weight in a conversation.

Before Alice became a scholar’s gold mine and the topic of global seminars, however, the book was simply an adventure story for children. While Carroll may have been using the perception of an innocent child to point out flaws in society as a kind of secret message to parents reading to their sons and daughters, the narrative celebrate first and foremost the endless imagination of children. Unlike Tolkien’s fantasy, this world relies solely on dream logic which does not require the consistency of a world that keeps track of the limits of Gandalf or the orcs. Nothing in Wonderland needs to make sense to adults. Without the boundaries of the dreary world of physics and consistency, a child can eat a sweet and instantly shrink small enough to fit through a keyhole. And what a magical world is one in which we can ask the flowers and caterpillars what they think!

Earlier this year, in “Lewis Carroll’s Dream-child and Victorian Child Psychopathology” (Journal of the History of Ideas 76.1 [Jan 2015]), Stephanie L. Schatz made a connection between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which first appeared in 1865, and another work published five years earlier. In 1860, psychiatrist Sir James Crichton-Browne published an essay, “Psychological Diseases in Early Life,” which defined a child’s imagination as the beginning of delusion. The innocent act of “castle-building” was thought to be a cause of distortion of reality in adults. As a result, the field of developmental psychology began to emerge in the late nineteenth century. Since Lewis Carroll was one who kept up with medical publications, he may have written Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with nonsense and dream logic to make a point: a child’s imagination is something to be fiercely defended and even admired.…

 


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