It is with unexpected pleasure that I introduce Melic XVI, our all women's issue. I say "unexpected" because it wasn't planned. The preponderance of good submissions by women simply led me to embrace the trend, and happily, Val Cihylik, Fiction Editor, had already chosen female authors as well, without any prior communication.

We are proud to have Sharon Kourous as featured poet. She was guest editor of Melic VI and has had more poems published in Melic than any other author of her gender. Unfortunately, every time I've asked her to compete for the coveted "featured" status, she didn't have enough unpublished poems on hand to qualify. This was likely because 1) She is an inveterate perfectionist who works slowly, and 2) Editors snap up her work rather quickly.

Sharon began as a formalist but diversified into verse libre, where the discipline of her formal leanings strengthens form: nothing is haphazard in her poems. Her poem, "Trapped," for instance, is actually a Petrarchan sonnet disguised with off- and slant-rhymes, which to the casual reader might not even register as a sonnet.

As to theme, Sharon grounds her work in nature and the seasons — the spin of the earth and the drop of the sun. For her, nature is not a thing to be analyzed, more a constant familiar, a living backdrop for her thoughts. In "Learning from the River Corrib," she writes:

There is the tension
of water, that mystery of surface,
the distortion of light, fear of separation,
the way one's legs dangling from the pier
look suddenly naked.

Here nature's mystery is neither explained nor dissected, rather incarnated through the speaker's experience of her own body's strangeness.

In "Memento Mori," a necessary mammalian act raises the old question (in the words of C.S. Lewis) of man as a spiritual amphibian:

Pissing in the mud beside the river,
I am of two opinions about my dual nature.
There may or may not be angels
choiring while I attend this necessity…

In "Varnish," the refinishing of an old table leads her to the time-honored themes of beauty, death and immortality:

I need this old wood useful: a table neglected
for seasons, rained on and warped, not for its surface
or my dinner plate's ease or book-holding comfort.
I need the raw grain for its death that beauty outlasted.

Sharon is as accomplished a poet as any who have graced our pages. When I met her back in '99, I was impressed not only by her literary but her self-knowledge. Refreshingly honest, she told me when I arrived, "I don't do hostessing. Help yourself to the fridge—" which made me feel right at home, all pretense discarded.

***

Mary Leary is new to our pages, narrowly missing "featured" status by one poem. Her style is more expansive and conversational than Sharon's, which I think makes for a nice contrast. And like Sharon, who has contributed much entertaining light verse to our magazine, Mary has a fine sense of humor— a quality I prize in poets, who rightly suffer from the accusation of taking themselves too seriously. Here's a passage from Leary's "Logs":

Lesbians don't seem
concerned with logs
but keep a certain amount
of kindling, even matches
on hand. They are
free of log consciousness
and leap in water, hands waving
until a missile or plane
hits a building
and their attention is forced
onto long hard things…

(One nice thing about a women's issue: I don't think a man could get away with these lines!)

In her "Manual for Living, Part I," Mary distills wisdom as well:

Tell your mother you love her even if she never told you:
because she's old, and you can afford it.
Speak to children of rubies that glisten on snow
like painted nipples.

Other new voices include, in no particular order, Valerie Polichar, Danielle McShine, Susan Gorgioski, Judy Clem, Svea Barrett-Tarleton, Sandy Steinman, C. Stell, Beverly Jackson, Lori Williams and Teresa Ballard.

Fiction features Rebecca Clark and Lynn Schwartz.

My thanks to Kathleen Chaffin for proofreading (and weighing in on the occasional poem), Mark Melton for webmastering, Blake Krtizberg for maintaining the boards and archives, and Val Cihylik for editing fiction.

With this issue we have entered our fifth year, fairly respectable for an e-zine. If you would like to help support Melic, you may send a donation, else order a copy of The Best of Melic, or both. Donations can be made through the convenient PayPal feature in the lower right hand corner of our homepage, www.melicreview.com. You may also send a check directly to:

The Melic Review
c/o C.E. Chaffin M.D.
700 E. Ocean Blvd. #2504
Long Beach,. CA 90802

The cost of our anthology, The Best of Melic: Three Years Online, including shipping and handling, is $17 domestic, $20 international. One poet wrote me that we were charging too little for a perfect-bound, 275 pp. book of exceptional quality. But until the second printing is out, at least, we'll continue to sell it at cost. It's a very good collection—just ask anyone who was lucky enough to receive a copy of the first printing!

Furthermore, I'd like to remind aspiring poets that the Melic Poetry Course is always available. The cost is $200 and includes an extensive syllabus, six one-hour chats with the tutor, and a thorough analysis of one's work with recommendations for publication venues. As the designated tutor I have yet to have a student ask for their money back— and the list of former pupils includes many recognizable names. Any interested can write me at melicreview@hotmail.com for further information.

Here's to the artists of Melic XVI!

C.E. Chaffin, Editor