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Introduction

Joshua Dickinson

Remember those situations where your words and intentions were not getting through to another person? It might have been an everyday conversation or a deeply important debate. For all its flair and usefulness, language frequently plays the trickster with us. As quoted in Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, the noted mythologist Heinrich Zimmer once said, “The best things can't be told; the second best are misunderstood; the third best have to do with history." Art resembles that provoking conversation where words do not suffice. Too often, we approach it like history when it's actually showing (but not necessarily telling) us those "best things."

The arts implicate us in the meaning making. Looking for a pretty picture, we may uncover a wondrous horror shop. The Romantics attempted to express—literally to press out—such extremes into art. Texts were to encompass the sublime, a greatness that couldn't be imitated or even calculated. ("Get at what cannot be gotten at?" I'm sensing a paradox there.) It makes a certain amount of sense, though, if only audiences can seize this invitation to experience.

Romantics captured fevered emotions in search of the sublime—even if, nowadays, Sublime refers only to a punk ska band from Long Beach—and The Romantics were a one-hit 80s band. Meanings shift. Romantic art's point is one we should remember: the sublime and the beautiful are mutually exclusive, though pleasure can result from each. Sublime ≠ beautiful! It may be beautiful, but not necessarily.

While there is no ska punkery in this volume, you may experience both the beautiful and sublime. At times, they share a work, as in t.s. ozula sioux's "f(x)." In poems by Jessica Pierce and Christie Grimes, though, a ratty, discarded plant evokes ideas beyond beauty. This Black River Review is more brooding and serious than most, though not without its promise of " Jalapeño Poppers" or even a "Fajita Fiesta."

Finally, Amanda Authement's cover reminds us that, like art, "Life As We Know It" works on multiple levels. Enjoy as you see yourself seeing!