From the Editor’s Desk

Issue 9 of Mistake House Magazine, like every edition, asks our readers to consider the nature of a work of art as “a space between ordinary and odd.” The magazine continues to publish diverse works that express a range of ideas and approaches.  The contributors make no attempt to sugarcoat their observations on subjects that are often difficult to see, understand, and experience. Instead, the work published here brings immediacy, intelligence, and compassion to the creators’ observations of their own lives and the lives of others.  

The poetry section encompasses a wide range of perspectives and experiences. There are poems that detail landscapes of memory and surreal cities, and poems that speak to the hurt within everyone. The fiction section focuses on human experience from historical to realistic to abstract. Each of the selected stories describes a sense of searching for and gaining control and autonomy in situations that range from the substitute teacher’s classroom to cobalt mining in Congo. Each of the authors uses simple, crisp language that allows their unique and powerful voices to shine through. The photography selection centers around the idea of the individual entity, whether it be person, bus, or boat. Themes of identity, neglect, and positionality come through in many of the photographs. While focused on the individual subject, many of the photographs also portray the individual having a difficult time interacting with their environment, while others offer moments of buoyancy and respite. 

This is the third year that Mistake House Magazine has awarded Editor’s Prizes to recognize the most outstanding student work published in the issue. This year, the prize winner for Fiction is DeWitt John Makengo’s “Promising Eyebrows, but Odd.” Makengo’s fiction, including the suite of his stories in Issue 9, all return in one way or another to Congo, to its history and culture and to his own family’s memories and experience. “Promising Eyebrows, but Odd” combines a documentary approach with a compelling and sometimes humorous surrealism, a perspective that reframes the vision of an immigrant’s experience.  Stevie Habern’s poem “Pawnshop Rosary,” the prizewinner for Poetry, is an emotionally rich piece that expresses a sublime coming together with the helpful aspect of repetition found within the practices of religions. Lastly, the winner for Photography is MakenLee Martin’s  “Unmounted,” a black and white image that depicts discarded items, including a deer mount left on the floor that seems to stare into the distance from its forgotten place. The image evokes a poignancy within the jumbled detritus that remains in human lives though often lost to sight. 

This year’s Soap Bubble Set—graphic novelist and cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner and poet Carl Phillips—represents an emphasis on strength, psychological nuance, and integrity. Both are prominent artists and masters of their respective crafts. Gloeckner’s work is deeply personal, intelligent, and emotionally unflinching, with themes that confront complex human appetites and needs and the messy emotional and physical fallout that can follow.  Gloeckner’s work asks viewers/readers to approach these human longings, collisions, and traumas without fear—to see in works of art the healing power of the confrontation with the self, its imagery, and its history. 

Carl Phillips’ work, too, arises from a deeply personal space that offers readers images of the natural world and the body, of love, death, fear, and intimacy, metaphors for awareness that permeates the everyday with a transcendent richness. In this issue, he has curated for us a collection of poems that span the course of his career. Presented in chronological order, the reader has the opportunity to consider the range of this significant poet’s work and the wide span of his explorations as a poet.   We were thrilled to learn that on May 8, Phillips was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)—and Mistake House Magazine sends our heartfelt congratulations. 

Mistake House Magazine, Issue 9 contains a wide variety of thoughtful and compassionate work that will take readers through each writer’s and artist’s attempt to navigate an always complex world. Welcome to Mistake House. I invite you to come into our space and explore the honest and engaging work you will find here. 

Caroline Bumbaugh
Editor in Chief