As I sit here in the breaking beauty of my body, trying to capture the immensity of being alive and befriending so many others in the course of launching a journal, it’s not the words or the art, but the relationships—and the ways in which our shared creativity establishes and strengthens relationships—that stand out to me like fireflies in the dark.
I focus on one luminous flash and it takes me back through the lineage of human development, showing me how, perhaps, a species is a single body we’re slowly living together, as the earth is a single body living us, together. I focus on another flash, and I see how the past doesn’t fade into a nebulous void of was, but inheres in our hearts, minds and cells as active vectors of influence, regenerating, recycling, reincarnating even, one might say, from one emotion and sensation to its sibling—or are they offspring?—others.
Taking the two fireflies in tandem, I see consciousness both shared and split between body and body, and I’m reminded that beneath our humanness hums a commonality that causes us to shift into more inclusive forms of being—a man who dreams himself a wolf and gives up hunting, a woman who thinks like a bee in order to save it, a dog who takes on the role of mother cat—then shifts us back to our given forms, and we marvel at what we accomplished, the range of what we felt.
You may be wondering what this has to do with a journal, and the usual answer applies: everything and nothing. To step back, Rascal, a journal of ecology, literature and art, was conceived in 2015, launched in 2017, and born of four loves: 1) a love of the earth, 2) love for a dog named Rascal who was my boyhood brother and guardian, 3) a love of literature and art, including a book named Rascal by Sterling North, and 4) loving devotion to a woman named Safora, a fierce ecological protector, my wife and the journal’s chief advisor.
Without any one of them, it’s unlikely that Rascal would be here today. And the same holds true of the amazing family, friends and acquaintances who’ve helped us off to an auspicious start—you know who you are, and Team Rascal is lucky to have you. And let’s not forget our brilliant contributors, without whom the journal would be so much wishful thinking; we received over 2,500 poems, images and essays during our open call, and of those, we chose 50—let the math speak to the excellence of their craft.
There’s large consensus that we’re undergoing a momentous ecological shift, the impact of which we’re only beginning to experience in our daily lives. I believe that art is a means to make us more attentive, to ourselves, to our fellow creatures (inner and outer), to our ecosystems and our ecosphere, which in fact we are, and my hope for Rascal is that it plays a small, helpful part in offering solace and relief, in softening the blows and attending to the health of the whole in the years ahead. As creatures and creators, we’re participants in creation, and health seems to me to be the urgent aesthetic call of our age.
Signing off, a humble request: if you like what you find here, please spread the word. Rascal is free, charges no submission fees, pays its contributors, and is offered in a variety of formats, including e-books and an audio version for the visually impaired. We extend a standing offer to critique contributors’ new work, and in the coming days, will establish a community channel by which contributors may collaborate and deepen the bonds we’re beginning to form.
A wholehearted thank you to the readers, writers, listeners, artists, photographers and fellows, in all of your forms, who made this issue of Rascal possible. The hundreds of hours that went into its cultivation, even when they proved difficult verging on exasperating, flew by in an inspiring haze. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and that we’ve many more days together to come.
Ricky Ray, Founding Editor
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. He is the founding editor of the journal Rascal, and his recent work appears in The American Scholar’s Next Line, Please; Matador Review; Amaryllis; Concis and One. His awards include the Fortnight Poetry Prize, the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize, a Whisper River Poetry Prize and Katexic’s Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a Labradetter; their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded.