Priscilla Long in the Quarterly

Bill Caraher |

Yesterday, I sent the last pieces for issue 87.3/4 out for copy editing ahead to get a bit of a jump on what will likely be a hectic fall semester here in North Dakota Quarterly-land. 

To celebrate, I had planned to make a short announcement that we would be observing the great European tradition of taking some time off in August to recharge and enjoy the last of the “frog days” of summer. Instead, I found myself reading back issue of North Dakota Quarterly and writing up a short blog post.

Last fall, we were really happy to publish a piece by Jim Sallis not only because it was a good story, but also because Sallis was a long-time contributor to NDQ from the early 1980s and had returned to the journal’s pages after over a decade away. We posted his story here with links to his other pieces in NDQ.

Issue 87.3/4 will include another such contributor, Priscilla Long. We’ve just accepted her short essay “Holy Shit!” and I can’t wait to share it with our readers in a few months. In the meantime, check out these past contributions by Long to the Quarterly starting in the mid-1980s. 

Her works not only touched me personally, but they also are more than just a little prescient. The first piece she published in NDQ 55.1 (1987). It’s listed in the table of contents as a story, but it clearly draws deeply on Long’s childhood on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s called: “Snapshots: The Eastern Shore of Maryland. Having grown up in Delaware, the Eastern Shore has always fascinated me. It was so rural compared to the suburban bustle of northern Delaware and so remote, but it also seemed so close. It was a reminder, maybe, that our past wasn’t really that far away. She alludes again to her childhood on an Eastern Shore farm in a 2002 essay from NDQ 69.1 (2002) titled “Writing as Farming” and, it’s hard to escape Long’s interest in character in her own work as motivating her essay in NDQ 59.3 (1991). Here she critiques Mavis Gallant’s “Overhead in a Balloon” through the lens of Chekhov’s “The Darling.”

In issue 56.1 (1986), she published a poem titled “The Return,” which could serve as an epigram to this post. The opening lines are lovely: 

This sleep will wash me back
to where I used to dream

In issue, 57.3 (1989), she published an essay (or maybe a story) called “Solitude” which speaks so obviously to our current condition that I’ll simply link to it. And in the next issue, published a story called “Old Man.” 

When an author returns to the Quarterly, it reminds me that people submit multiple pieces to the same journal over time (and with each piece endure the risk of rejection) because they feel a connection. And this makes literary journals more than just little magazines. At their best, journals like NDQ create a sense of community (or maybe even family) among their contributors and readers through a shared past that shapes a common present.

As Long wrote in “The Return”:

So I wait to wake
I hardly feel the coldness
of the deep. This night is not
as long as childhood was
As then, so now,

the earth is dreaming darkness
towards the blazing sun.

~

Bill Caraher is the editor of North Dakota Quarterly.

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