To us, it seems fitting that two writers in Portland would edit an issue of this magazine so closely aligned with our city’s greatest clichés. It’s true—Portlanders have an interest in reusing almost everything. Throw a rock and hit a thrift store. Sit down in the bookstore cafe and watch a man making flowers out of paper towels. Even Portland’s garbage trucks gather four separate containers in front of each house—for glass, yard waste, recyclables, and trash—on a weekly basis. We see our neighbors collecting large drums of rainwater from the yard to use later on their summer gardens.
Writing nonfiction, we think, mimics this process of reuse. Remembering. Reimagining. Researching. Rearranging. The writer places an impractical moment from the past on the mantelpiece of the present–and then they stick with it, perhaps for the sake of discovering something new.
The nine pieces in this issue speak to permutations of reuse that far surpass sustainability or recycling. Whether through writing, fine art, or research, each contributor approaches the theme in ways both evident and subtle.
In “A Patient History,” author Verity Sayles uses a standard patient medical form—the kind we’ve all filled out many times—to ponder a past relationship with a medical student. The tension and growing distance between the two, perhaps ill-suited, lovers is palpable in every line: “If I tell you my heart will break when you leave,” Sayles writes, “you’ll say, it’s not my heart, it’s the limbic system.”
Oftentimes, something as seemingly innocuous and routine as a garage sale can represent a larger family drama. In the five, brief scenes that make up “The Hagglers,” author Ashton Kamburoff offers a touching yet honest portrait of his mother—whose categorization of what is an heirloom and what is junk to be sold—operates on an unspoken, and ever-fluctuating, system: “You could begin at the tired level of tchotchke,” Kamburoff writes, “and work your way up to something meaningful.” It’s clear he isn’t just talking about porcelain owls.
Artist Jeremy Okai Davis uses reclaimed and repurposed wood in his portraits of family and friends, to represent the tenacity and enduring beauty of the African American community.
In “A New Myth of the Moon,” Patrick Mainelli laments modern society’s abandonment of cosmic mysteries and storytelling, and makes a personal, impassioned argument for us to rethink, or reimagine, our relationship with the esoteric and unknowable.
Storytelling can also be way of remembering. In “Mountain Words,” Kayla Queen revisits stories and anecdotes from her Appalachian upbringing, and Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein’s essay “The Village,” brings us inside a Chicago thrift store and her family’s legacy of junking.
In “California Calling,” Natalie Singer repurposes narratives–be it news reports, FBI actions, stories she’d heard second-hand, fuzzy memories, or mainstream mythologies–in order to answer her own questions. By engaging in the poetics of re-imagination, she seeks to deny silencing and change the story.
We were even fortunate enough to “reuse” Jon Tevis’s fitting essay, “Hammer Price (Song of the Auctioneer)” in this issue. Tevis finds new purpose for old things auctioned off at an old hotel, but she’s not just interested in the objects for sale. She wants to know more about the man that sells them, the auctioneer who communicates value through a certain kind of cadence and speech. “I feel we’re on the same team,” Tevis writes. “We need each other.”
And, in “Lost and Found,” Shasta Grant looks for her mother through the people, places, and things she left behind.
A special thanks to co-founders and editors Carrie Kilman and Maggie Messitt for their editorial assistance and bringing this collection to life on the screen. We hope you enjoy encountering these pieces as much we have.
Santi Elijah Holley and Erica Trabold, Guest Editors