River Teeth Print Journal

Editor’s Notes 9.2

Spring 2008

By Daniel W. Lehman

Recently we heard the sad news that a writer we like to think of as one of our own, R. Glendon Brunk, died in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We published Brunk’s “The Rage of Men,” a sometimes disturbing and always engrossing chunk of his memoir Yearning Wild, in the Fall 2003 River Teeth. A hard-charging champion Alaskan dog musher raised as a pacifist Mennonite in the rural Midwest, Brunk probed puzzles of hard-shell anger and inner rage, of spiritual reckoning and private tenderness. We thought, then and now, that Yearning Wild should be read by many more of us who care about such things, who might wish to join Brunk in his promise that with hard-honed honesty, “the rage we carry can be released—released like taking off a suit of armor or dropping a weapon.”

Brunk’s friends—spanning the years from high school chums to dog-sled racers, from bluegrass pickers to wilderness soul mates, from fellow defenders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to his creative writing alums from Prescott College—have written some eighteen pages of testimonials and memories on a Web site set up by Brunk’s daughter Cara. Its power and poignancy testify to the power of impromptu nonfiction narrative and its ability to evoke the essence of character. We recommend them, even as we would urge another look at Yearning Wild. You can find them both by searching R. Glendon Brunk’s name.

Sniffing out Brunk’s book, tracking him down, and convincing him to let us publish some forty pages of Yearning Wild in our journal illustrates the sometimes iconoclastic approach that we have taken over what is now a decade of publishing this journal. Not content to rest on the manuscripts that flood our mails, we search out writers that we love, convince them that River Teeth makes a difference, and then publish their work as a labor of love. From the beginning we have tried to blend the best of narrative reporting with memoir, essays, and the occasional piece that reflects on the nature of nonfiction in more theoretical terms.

That approach has stood us well over the decade because the journal you hold in your hands is never predictable, always edgy, usually surprising. In any issue you are likely to read a leading African writer that we’ve managed to talk into sending us a piece in the same company as a Pulitzer Prize winner or the occasional undergraduate creative writer or small-town reporter. We’ve got a managing editor now, Sarah Wells, who helps to keep us honest and on deadline, but she stands aside and even eggs us on when we dare each other to follow our hearts and to push boundaries.

For our decade celebration, we’re planning a double issue that will showcase all the best that River Teeth has to offer as that precocious ten-year-old that you might sometimes want to slap around but never ignore. We’ve got some plans to make it the best one ever, but we’re holding them to ourselves for now as we do what we always do—track down good writers and convince them to give us a try, open our mail and our minds for the unexpected, rub pieces together in quirky combinations to watch the sparks fly.

—DWL

 

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