Welcome to Issue 7.1

A Note From the Editor:

As a Biology major, I often work with DNA, which is known as a set of instructions that uniquely characterizes every living thing. DNA is, essentially, a rambling list of base pairs, of A’s and T’s and C’s and G’s, a code that always starts with the same simple building blocks that somehow manages to reach limitless possibilities to create the life all around us. DNA is tricky to work with; it’s incredibly delicate, so even the slightest error can damage or destroy it completely. Even now, scientists don’t know the meaning of every combination of bases, the way that every gene interacts and acts. This masterlist is carefully designed and carefully tucked away, leaving only the sum of its parts to be seen: the creaky tree by the park, the birds flying by, that kid on the swings, her parents, the grass, fish, plants, animals, humans. We learn a little more every day about DNA and what it does; we write and rewrite our understanding with every new discovery, finding new ways to frame and view life as we know it.

Biology is the study of life, and in writing, we can further study our lives. As humans, we write and rewrite the way the world works in our minds, craft living stories that tie the meanings and events of our lives together in complex, tangled strands. We don’t simply experience a concrete reality, just like we don’t simply understand each fragment of a DNA strand as a direct message with a single purpose. We build our worlds around us, trying to clarify our reality. In The Rappahannock Review, we pull together the pieces of many writers and artists, like the smaller parts of an entirely new being. Jacqueline Doyle’s “Octopus Dreams” invites us to explore our dreams as part of these little narratives, tracing the connections we make from reality to surreality. Sam Rebelein’s “The Curse” shows the way these narratives can bind and freeze us as we struggle to work past these understandings. Lois Dubois’s “Aqui por Ti” shows that we can untangle these belief fragments to find a better path, a new perspective. Devon Miller-Dugan’s poem, “Mary Talks About Breasts,” is a sharp confrontation of reality warped by society’s expectations, the way that a woman’s DNA is expected to conform to an ideal without respecting the life behind it. C. L. Bledsoe’s “Iceland” moves along, into and out of these worlds and beliefs as time goes on, progressing gradually, as we begin to understand more about ourselves and our world.

Literary journals, including ours, are the sum of many hidden parts: the way each piece presents our reality, how the pieces interact as part of the greater whole, and the hours editors spent working and reworking every detail. Everyone who worked on the issue held an important role, just like how the genes in our DNA work together to create a greater whole. We chose the pieces in this issue with great care and deliberation by analyzing how all of the pieces fit together, the tone, the rhythm, the way each editor understood a piece. I especially loved seeing how they were all gradually brought together to form something greater than any single piece, a collection of different ways to understand our reality. I’d like to thank all my fellow editors, our advisor, Laura Bylenok, and everyone who submitted their work for us to read. I hope you enjoy our living literary journal.

Jenna Johnson, Editor in Chief