Lately, the editors have enjoyed the latest issue of VQR, a knockout; listened to the music of Daniel Martin Moore, a Commonwealth of Kentucky Nick Drake; and spoken with Karan Mahajan and Garth Greenwell, the authors of two remarkable and remarkably distinct novels.
It’s sunny in California. A thousand poets spin around each other, singing their verses into each others’ ears while spectators, smiling, sip their cocktails. Back in the South, a painter touches up a historic, complex mural—long weathered by thundering spring storms. At the newsstand nearby, the owner opens up the latest issue of his favorite weekly, the Arkansas Times.
Fog settles over the Ozarks. A car, winding through the hills, stops short—a mountain lion is slinking across the road, in patient, determined pursuit. Southward, in Little Rock, a group of Southern film devotees gathers in a basement to view an early screening of Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special. Nearby, a gospel quartet warms up, summoning the Holy Spirit, ready to take their next audience to church.
One evening in Nashville, a man walks down the railroad tracks, singing, and his voice rolls through the heavy air. In Meridian, Mississippi, a child runs barefoot in dry grass, chasing lightning bugs—yellow lights that disappear just as his hands reach toward them.
It’s humid in Alabama. On a makeshift sandlot pitcher’s mound, a lanky kid begins his wind-up to the tune of a song he alone can hear. It’s a lilting number, chaotic and beautiful, clarinets and fiddles weaving intricately. He lifts his arms above his head. He could be the greatest ever, the poet laureate of baseball, he thinks—then he smiles, takes a deep breath, and delivers another swinging strike.
It’s nighttime in Mississippi. A bluegrass legend, alone in the hills, rolls into a familiar lick, catches a wrong note, winces, and sighs a hot, whiskey breath. Letters between lost friends float by, lifted on a westerly wind.