What an honor it is, to be asked for my selections for the Editor’s Eye. As instructed, I looked for pieces that received only a couple of likes or comments. Although the following selections were viewed by many, they received little critical attention or feedback.

When making my choices, I looked for writing that struck an emotional chord in me or created a visceral response. I found in each of these some moments of illumination and grace, something more deeply resonant than clever wordplay or technical proficiency.

I hope you will take another look at these gems that went largely unrecognized the first time around. I applaud each of the writers I’ve chosen for their beautiful work.

He Brings Things Closer by Steven John Horay

I like the way this piece jumps almost immediately into a difficult situation and then slowly unfolds, building tension all along the way. The narrator doles out information gradually, allowing us to form a clear picture of what is happening in layers of understanding. Perhaps most gratifying was the way I, as a reader, learned something about how to manage a particularly challenging encounter right alongside our protagonist, who is surely being forced to think on her feet. I found myself reflecting on how delicate a thing it is to communicate effectively – at any given moment, a wrong perception or an inaccurate conclusion can plunge one into even worse circumstances. And yet, somehow, we humans blunder on, figuring out how to help each other get what we need, against all odds.  I really enjoyed this tightly written, delicate tale of discovery.

This is a Tender Ache by Han Kondabalu

I will admit. I have a soft spot for the intersection of the sacred and the profane as well as that crazy place where science flips over into spirit. This short blast of writing vibrates intensely between opposites. I see someone who is at once utterly lost, yet somehow tapped into some universal truths. How can that be?? I feel the narrator’s pain – of elusive satisfaction, of truth slipping beyond grasp, of a numbed slide towards destruction. And yet, even though there are signs of depravity, I am rooting for the narrator, who seems to be, underneath all the rock-n-roll, yippee ay yay, muthafucka affect, a real human being. I was compelled to read this one again and again…

Sunday in Dogpatch, circa 1990 by Angela Kubinec

This short, stream-of-consciousness piece in the voice of a young girl establishes an entire world in the space of one paragraph. Living within the swirl of a chaotic, most likely abusive, at the very least neglectful environment, she somehow manages to maintain a sense of childlike curiosity and appreciation for small pleasures like Fruit Loops without milk. One has to wonder how long this child will maintain her innocence in this toxic environment. In the meantime, it’s a thorough portrait, one that could go off in any number of directions for a more developed narrative.

The Ego Rises by Samuel Derrick Rosen

Again I found myself captivated by a piece of prose that explores a paradox of opposites. In this piece, the narrator inhabits the smallness, the solitude in the face of a mountain’s grandiosity, even as he tracks a path to something greater. He paints a vivid portrait of the landscape, the air, the psychic space of the climb, a portrait of “a passionate descent to something high above them, a rapturous lament…”

I found this piece evocative for its suggestion of a rising consciousness, a rising sense of self in the face of the almost unimaginable scope of nature. Perhaps it is the poetic homage to nature that softens what would otherwise be, to my sensibilities, a self-absorbed, narcissistic need to conquer it. In this rendition of the climb, there was more than a little grace and reverence, rightfully expressed. I particularly enjoyed the framing of the entire piece in opposites – starting with “I submit to you,” ending with the plea, “… accede, to me.”

unsettling by Helen Yung

This poem, inspired by a dream, evokes a lush world of desire and loss. I was carried through the landscape of random elements by the evocation of familiar ties and missed connections. This dream journey, at once sensual and heady, managed to leave me with a sense of longing and regret. I love how I felt transported through an entire world, pulled into something intimate and vital, only to be left at the end, unsettled indeed…

I was impressed by how well this piece evokes the way a dream can create an all-encompassing fictional world. It really conjures that sense of something deep and ancient that I’ve experienced in dreams, the kind of connection that leaves me feeling rather desolate upon waking. In this piece, there are so many levels – the family background to the romantic relationship, the natural world in all its danger and fury, and the heady drama of a loss at sea. A couple of reads left me awash in feeling.


The Life, Death and Art of Rachel Wetzsteon by Con Chapman

This essay caught my attention, as I had never before heard of Rachel Wetzsteon – surprising, considering her stature in the literary world, but then my knowledge of writers and their work is idiosyncratic and arbitrary. Reading about her life and her death by suicide made me want to know more of her work. I felt immediately compelled to get beyond the notion that she was “not pretty” (do I agree? I think not…) in comparison to Sylvia Plath, the more iconic suicidal poet, and learn more about her as a woman and a writer.

This essay raises questions of perception and appearance and how they intersect with the quality of a female writer’s work. I’m also led to wonder at the way she, a single woman in New York City, may be perceived, with pity, or even disregarded in death, and how this may contrast with male writers whose suicides might be seen as more robust statements of suffering. There is a significant group of poets who have committed suicide. It would be impossible to read their work now without seeing it through the lens of this knowledge. But somehow, learning about Rachel Wetzsteon, I feel compelled to try.

Deborah Oster Pannell is a freelance writer and editor. With roots in music, theater, filmmaking and holistic health, she engages in a variety of collaborative projects, ranging from publishing and online content development to event production and promotion. An experienced blogger, interviewer and essayist, she writes about the arts, audience development and entrepreneurship. Her online portfolio can be found here. She is currently working on a collection of short stories about grief, parenting and sexuality, which, she is happy to report, are not mutually exclusive. She has had work published in The Miscreant, Her Kind at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and Negative Suck.

  1. Matt Paust

    I very much enjoyed this Editor’s Eye, an example of writing that enabled me to appreciate–borrowing Deborah’s phrase in one of her comments–“how delicate a thing it is to communicate effectively.” I felt the easing of a certain tension that often comes with critical writing, both mine and that of others, which I suspect springs from the self-consciousness of writers weighing in on other writers. Altho I know we all try to interact in a spirit of collegiality here, Deborah has brought it off for me most helpfully. I’ve read some of the posts she’s chosen, but I can’t wait to read them again, having seen them now thru her eyes, and to read those I believe I missed altogether. Thanks, Deborah.

  2. Gary Hardaway

    Enjoyed the presentation and the selections, Deborah.

  3. Deborah Oster Pannell

    Gary, I’m glad you enjoyed both the presentation and the selections…

    Matt, thanks for your feedback. I don’t think of myself as a critic. My job is not to cut down. I like to be more of an enthusiast. If I’m excited about something, I like to share it with others, maybe ignite something in them. I hope you found something new in the pieces upon rereading them…

  4. Matt Paust

    I feel the same way, Deborah. As a writer I’m loathe to criticize any piece of writing unless I find it intentionally offensive, and even then I’m more apt to remark on the message than the form.

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