Editors’ Notes – Ephemera(l) (First Lines)

In recognition of the fleeting things of the world, we will simply present our favorite first lines of books or individual works of art, in lieu of an editors note.


Nicole Callihan, Guest Poetry Editor

“This is a female text, composed while folding someone else’s clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows, tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores.” ―Doireann Ní Ghríofa, A Ghost in the Throat


Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Guest Poetry Editor

“Many people have described the Famous Writer presiding at his dinner table, in a clean neckcloth. He is famous; everybody remembers his remarks. He remembers his own remarks, being a writer, and notes them in his diary. We forget that there were other people at the table–a quiet person, now muffled by time, shadowy, whose heart pounded with love, perhaps, or rage, or fear when our writer suffled in from his study; whose hands, white knuckled, twist an apron, ghost thoughts raced.”  —Diane Johnson, The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith and Other Lesser Lives


Mitch Ginsburg, Fiction Editor

For me, for the sort of story that I most enjoy reading, the sort that feels urgently whispered in the semi-dark of a tavern, beer-sweetened breath on your face, I’ll take either Norman Maclean’s, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” (A River Runs Through It) and Raymond Carver’s stone-dry, “My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.” (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love)


Anat Hinkis-Atzmon, Assistant Fiction Editor

“Just when I most needed important conversation, a sniff of the man-wide world, that is, at least one brainy companion who could translate my friendly language into his tongue of undying carnal love, i was forced to lounge in our neighborhood park, surrounded by children.” — Grace Paley, “Faith in a Tree”

“Reality is water-soluble. What we could see, the rocks, the shore, the trees, the boats on the lake, had lost their usual definition and blurred into the long grey of a week’s rain. Even the house, that we fancied was made of stone, wavered inside a heavy mist and through that mist, sometimes, a door or a window appeared like an image in a dream.” —Jeanette Winterson, Frankisstein


Nadia Jacobson, Fiction Editor

“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide—it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.” —Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides


Karen Marron, Creative Nonfiction Editor & Production Editor

“In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” —David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

“I was on my way across King’s Cross station concourse dodging the crowds and talking to you on my mobile when Death nearly walked into me.” —Ali Smith, “Being Quick”


Jane Medved, Creative Nonfiction Editor

“My strongest memory is not a memory.  It’s something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened.”  —Tara Westover, Educated

“We live in time – it holds us and moulds us- but I’ve never felt I understood it very well.” —Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


Marcela Sulak, Managing Editor & Poetry Editor

“Now / make room in the mouth/ for grassesgrassesgrasses.” —Layli Long Soldier, “Whereas”

“I see the lines of our ancestors laid out in filaments looping here and there bifurcating disappearing; there are breaks in the thread and dead-ends into the dark where this or that sister took a boat from Greece and was lost forever from the fold; men and women who found each other or for reasons of circunstance were thrust into each other’s arms, radiating out along the great line in pairs; for however much they loved each other or same or other sexes or lived apart, always in this long arrow stretching back to our first humans hungint in the bush somewhere on a far continent in an inscrutable time, it was and is a man and a woman, two by two, each representing a small electrical hyphen of human intelligence and endeavor illuminating the path that leads to me sitting here–; men and women, each with eyes lit up for at least one moment in their lives; loving each other in the dark before the advent of writing; or a brief encounter, maybe forced, that led to the continuation of a line; these packets of genes waiting, and that uncontrollable animal urge toward making things—love, babies; the ranks forward and forward, branching and fucking, splitting, until they reach the edges of history; and forward, farther, till they hit the periphery of family lore.” —Eleni Sikelianos, You Animal Machine


Table of Contents for Ephemera(l)