by Natalie Satakovski
This summer, news of the death of George Floyd reverberated from speakers all around the world, while COVID-19 took its toll around us. Here in Miami, protestors chorused “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace,” and “Defund the police.”
These events formed the backdrop of our 2020 Summer Contest, the winners and finalists of which populate the pages of this issue. I believe it’s with heavy hearts and anxious minds that submissions were made by potential contributors and read by our team. For everyone’s participation, I am grateful.
The support of our judges was inspiring. Who better to judge the poetry of this nightmare summer than Ashley M. Jones, whose own poetry decries the subjugation of Black people while celebrating their strength? Who other than Dawn Davies, who can move you from humor to pathos in a single sitting, to pick creative nonfiction of emotional variety? And who else but Alex Segura, beloved So-Flo crime writer, to choose the most vibrant fiction on behalf of Gulf Stream Magazine?
What a privilege it was to publish these judges’ selections.
From the poetry finalists, Ellen June Wright’s “I’ve Been Waiting for Hate to Die” mourns our failure to quash hatred while honoring such unrelenting activists as John Lewis. And Alaina Bainbridge’s “I Attend a Pool Party at Some Guy’s L.A. Mansion” comments on the fetishization of women’s bodies…even when those bodies are dead.
Zebulon Huset’s winning experimental poem [START AT THE BEGINNING] took our readers and judge pleasantly by surprise. As you read this piece, a triolet about the aftermath of a traumatic event, you’ll savor its unique and appropriate form.
In creative nonfiction, our two finalists will delight you with their nuanced integrations of languages other than English. “Bayou Oysters, Bayou Oil” by Albert Leftwich transports you into a Cajun home while seamlessly detailing the heritage of an exploited people. Patrick Pawlowski’s narrative in “Waiting” mediates the Polish immigrant experience for an English-speaking readership.
Described by Dawn Davies as a “switchblade,” Natalie Beisner’s “And the Men Like Gods” took the top prize in creative nonfiction. Beware its sharp edges.
Great fiction can tell the truth, and that’s exactly what Marlene Olin’s “A Lamentation of Swans” does. Her piece explores realities that should not still impinge on people within the disability community. Meanwhile, Katie Donnell’s “Wonga Beach” performs a different feat, cuddling you into a warm stoner hug only to leave you paranoid and nauseous.
In Jenny Robertson’s “Sex-O-Rama, 1993” you’ll meet your post-quarantine party buddy, Cher Bebe, and discover why this story won 1st prize in fiction.
As you click and scroll through these digital pages, you’ll appreciate accompanying artwork from homegrown and international artists. For our feature artist, I’m honored to present the esteemed and award-winning Miami local, Charles E Humes, Jr. You’ll find his visual dialogue about the struggles of the African diaspora on the cover page, this editorial, and alongside the contest winners.
While 2020 was the darkest summer I have experienced, the stories, essays and poems in this issue twinkle with hope while we continue to demand systemic change.
Natalie Satakovski is a Sanders Fellow at FIU and the editor of Gulf Stream Magazine. Her literary fiction has been recognized with a Varuna Residential Fellowship, and has been shortlisted for the Alan Marshall Short Story Prize. Her genre fiction has appeared in SQ Mag, Mystery Weekly, Selfies from the End of the World, In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, and others.
Charles E. Humes, Jr. has been a professional fine artist for over forty years. He’s a recipient of multiple grants and fellowships, including the State of Florida’s Individual Artist Grant in painting, and a Smithsonian Southern Arts Federation Print-making Fellow. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited in major galleries and universities, and have received numerous awards and honors throughout the USA.