by: Aaron Jackson

Eclectica is:

Tom Dooley-Head Editor
Julie King- Co-editor
Kevin McGowin-Review Editor
John Reinhard- Assistant Poetry Editor
Paul Sampson-Non Fiction/ Miscellany Editor
Michael Spice- Travel Editor

To say that Eclectica is simply a literary journal is to touch the tip of the iceberg. Founded in 1996, the E-zine aims to be, in the words of the editors themselves, “the [Inter]net equivalent (in terms of content) of Harper’s, New Yorker, Granta, The Atlantic, and other publications providing quality material for the appetites of a wide variety of demanding readers.” The magazine, which runs quarterly, not only provides an amazing amount of poetry and fiction per issue, but includes a diverse array of regular features as well. They include a featured author in Spotlight On, followed by an editor’s note, and editorial commentary from the editing staff. Each issue includes a music editorial or review in the section Making Time, as well as various essays, cinema and travel reviews. But the real meat of the publication comes in its Poetry and Fiction sections.

The site itself is polished, professional, and amazingly easy to navigate. Each section is clearly titled, and arranged in a uniform order making it easy to find the content you’re looking for. Simple yet appropriate graphics accompany each section. Beneath the section’s title is a brief synopsis of its content, conveying both author and subject. One of the site’s most convenient features is a brief excerpt from the poem, story, or essay beneath its title. This allows the choosy reader to quickly find material that suites his or her taste. Eclectica has adapted itself to its web-based audience very well, catering to their need for convenience and expedience.

The site is well maintained. Over 40 back issues are archived by volume and issue, as well as a convenient catalogue that sorts authors in alphabetical order. Again the staff of Eclectica caters well to its market by making searches quick and easy. The casual reader can meander through back issues at their own leisure, free to discover the secrets of each, while the focused reader can easily pinpoint the information they need without having to dig through link after link.

As far as the actual submission guidelines go, each issue contains roughly 10-15 pieces of poetry, and 10-15 pieces of fiction, not including the author spotlight, which contains anywhere from 2-10 pieces. Unfortunately Ecelctica is non-profit journal, and therefore cannot pay their contributors. But often the piece of work created out of love and dedication makes for the more honest and fulfilling read. Contributors are invited to submit up to five pieces of poetry and three pieces of fiction per reading period. Generally the publication will only print one story per author, but they will print multiple poems from the same contributor. Their preferred method of submission is through email, as an attachment in Microsoft Word, or any other popular text program.

Despite the magazine’s wide range of features, the real meat of the publication lies with its poetry and fiction. The content of the poetry itself is as varied as the overall magazine’s content. Its range runs from post-modern image driven work, like Karla Houston’s “Monuments,” to tight rhymed form like “B-Day” by Mark Chasar, with everything in between. The sampling was diverse, but each piece contained certain common aspects. Almost every single poem, whether in traditional form, or the author’s own invention, were set in some kind of form. There was very little un-adulterated free verse. Mark Chasar’s two poems represent one end of the spectrum. In “B-Day” Chasar uses both end rhyme and internal rhyme to propel the poem along. “Another year older to shoulder, co-solider, dear friend,/ another year shot like the rest./ I’ve seen even the best/ laid flat like this in the end for the lack of an age proof vest.” In contrast Adrienne DiGennaro is at the other end of the gamut. Unlike the last, there is no rhyme scheme in this piece, no uniform length of line. However, there is still a driving force that holds the poem together.

You are a celestial body,
Puzzling as the pyramids,
Precious as amber,
Opaque as milk.

Something the girls admire
While taking in the sky,
Opening then like tulips
To that murderous melt.

Each line break is well though out, each stanza break deliberate. Regardless of the author’s style, the editors seemed to favor poetry that showed at least a hint of restraint.

Although the editor’s may favor form, even in small amounts, their choice in lyrical quality is essentially free of restriction. More than being formal, the editors seem to favor strong images that evoke a response in the reader. The images alternate between surrealistic associations, such as Sarah Sorenson’s “A Lovely Consonance,” to the crafted post modern lyricism of Tolulope Ogunlesi’s “Learning painting.” In her poem, Sarah Sorenson uses color to draw upon common reader associations. “Red means war,” she writes. This kind of imagery is in direct opposition to Ogunlesi’s poem. “The broad, crowded highways of lush,/ forests, rivers, parks and beautiful faces./ Or the steep narrow brush path of lifeless splashes of hue/ meant to be invested with multiple meanings.” At times the editors walk a thin line with their selected verse. The imagery comes dangerously close to melodramatic sentimentality. But in the end it is the reader who decides whether or not the content crosses the line. Often times the emotionally charged image holds a certain resonance for the casual reader.

Eclectica dedicates just as much time and space to fiction as it does to poetry. The fiction content however is much easier to narrow down and describe. On the whole Eclectica’s brand of fiction is conversational, and fast paced. The average story falls in the range of 5-9 single spaced pages. Most rely heavily on quick dialogue in order to provide characterization, and propel the story along. Take Tim Keane’s “Greta Garbo’s Hair Was Made in Egypt,” for example. The story is told through a conversation.

“Where’s your dad hide the Jamesons?”
“Only Ma knows,” Robert says.
Mr. Clancy slides backward out from under the cabinet like a turtle going back under a second shell. “Well, ‘Only Ma knows,’ doesn’t help me much little demon.”

The colloquial tone becomes the central point of attention, through which the plot unfolds. Eclectica’s fiction has a familiar tone. Those stories that aren’t centered on conversation are most often told through first person perspective. This gives the storytelling a sense of immediacy.

Overall Eclectica offers a varied mix of material catered directly to its internet audience. The site is polished and professional. At the same time the editors are not afraid to take chances with the poetry and fiction contained therein.

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