“Do you know where you are at this point in time and space, and in reality and in existence, when you can look out the window and you're looking at the most beautiful star in the heavens—the most beautiful because it's the one we understand and we know, it's home, it's people, family, love, life—and besides that it is beautiful. You can see from pole to pole and across oceans and continents and you can watch it turn and there's no strings holding it up, and it's moving in a blackness that is almost beyond conception.”
—Apollo 17 commander, Eugene Cernan
“IIf the moon smiled, she would resemble you. You leave the same impression Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”
Ancient cultures envisioned Earth as a floating disc and the firmament as a dome beset with the stars, sun, and moon, until Pythagoras formed a theory of a spherical Earth out of the moon’s shadows. In 1972, the first full photograph of our planet was taken from space. The Apollo 17 mission launched from Cape Canaveral at night under a nearly full moon to achieve this rare vantage point. The result was the famous “Blue Marble” photograph. The picture gave human beings all around the world a moon’s view of our world, of us. Uncanny, sublime.
So many of our culture’s models—maps, timelines, books of human lives and history—are discrete objects, with centers and margins, beginnings and ends, implied hierarchies. But, more and more, we’re finding that what we’ve written as edges are actually seams, overlapping and contested space, navigable in-betweens. However, even if they’re ultimately imaginary, these “edges” can be lonely places, and their inhabitants are often left with the tough work of stitching themselves to the world. Language and art are important tools of connection, our “beasts of burden,” and perhaps no other symbol has carried so much yearning, hope, and banality as the Moon.
Paige Lewis evokes the moon as a place of anxious peril, tinged with yearning: “I feel / as if I’m on the moon listening to the air hiss / out of my spacesuit, and I can’t find the rip...” Connection back to Earth is found in a simple apple. The last image in Debbie Urbanski’s The Island focuses on a single reflection of the moon broken by an umbilical cord-like thread that, depending on interpretation, either connects or chains characters together.
With stories like The Island, we are seeing a proliferation of work that folds horror and sci fi into literary fiction. Categories are breaking down as we catapult from the largeness of space to the micro bodies of insects, simultaneously facing grandeur and smallness . As the speaker of The Island explains, “There is a certain pleasure that comes from loving something so far away,” and perhaps a despair in facing something so close as Nadia Anjuman writes, “The burnt wings of a moth, can’t brighten/ Don’t give me hope for spring.” Throughout the issue writers vacillate between hyper visibility and invisibility, “I am the most faded word in the book of life/ written in a small and crooked script that can’t be read.” Anja Snellman shrinks us further as she writes, “In the vessel of your holy house / I was a wisp, a dessicated mouse. / I was a living thing and a pygmy tree / I was an ear and a cavity.”
In a creative art essay, M. Barrett lauds the creative exchanges between poetry and the visual arts. Kemi Adeyemi and taisha paggett discuss the relationships between movement, race, queerness, and the body: “uprightness not being a panacea for knowing,” says paggett, describing spatial degrees “as a way to think about the spatial registers through which blackness becomes intelligible.”
We are also proud to publish the winner of the inaugural Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art Writing. Rex Koontz, Professor of Art History at the University of Houston, remembers Toni Beauchamp as "committed to a strong discourse around contemporary art in Houston. The Beauchamp Prize is a wonderful way to celebrate her passion, at the same time create tighter bonds between those at UH, and beyond, who would continue that passion and legacy." We at Gulf Coast hope this prize is able to create support for young and mid-career art writers who combine scholarship and journalism, a unique voice, and literary excellence.
We, the 2016-2018 senior editorial team, are approaching the end of our tenure at Gulf Coast, ready to hand off the journal and its evolution to an impressive new team. In our two years, we were privileged with an extraordinary vantage point, working with writers established and new, publishing luminous international works, bringing to these pages art exhibitions of innovative mediums (ashes to diamonds, clay to bodies, suffering to monuments of human dignity). We’d like to say that as we wrote this letter we were able to secure our own space shuttle of sorts, with which we properly examined the Earth, leaving you with the many-faceted wisdom of so many talented artists as we depart our editorial roles. However, we are instead all writing amid the glow of Houston’s finest bar, and the city is loud and luminous. We understand that we have had the great fortune of being a small part of this city, a small corner of the literary universe, briefly at the helm of Gulf Coast’s decades-long role within these communities.
Michele Nereim, Managing Editor
Luisa Muradyan-Tannahill, Editor
Georgia Pearle, Digital Editor