Summer 2011

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Jerry Dennis, perhaps our premier nature writer of the Great Lakes, says in the shorter of his two essays near the beginning of this special issue that, when he is writing about the lakes, “I don’t know if I’m writing a love song or a lament.”

We have picked Dennis’s phrase as the title to this special issue of Michigan Quarterly Review because so many of the essays, stories, and poems here reflect an uncertain response to this spectacular natural landscape. At one time we can be overwhelmed by the physical presence, the massive amount of fresh water in a world where fresh water is in growing and often desperate demand. At another point we can be awestruck by the beauty that comes from this environment, a sunrise over Lake Huron or a sunset on Lake Michigan, the summer light around the water on the western end of Lake Superior which seems like something found only in Impressionist paintings, even Lake Erie and the parks along its edges that mediate between the water and the industrial cities along its southern and eastern coasts. But we don’t have to think about the lakes very much or explore them very deeply before we are confronted by the devastation of what we have done to them.

Something like this, a special issue of an academic and literary publication, cannot hope to do much more than contribute to the ongoing discussions of the issues that swirl through the waters of our Great Lakes, and to do so by offering narratives and descriptions. But if anything written here can remind any of us of the necessity for action or even of the presence of the natural beauty of this watery region, then the effort is almost certainly of some kind of use.

Essays by Jerry Dennis, Anna Vodicka, Keith Taylor, John Knott, Alison Swan, Tiya Miles, Julia Gibson

Poetry by Albert Goldbarth, Margaret Noori, Holly Wren Spaulding, Ruth Joynton, M. Bartley Seigel, Terry Blackhawk, John Repp

Fiction by Steve Amick and Devin Murphy

Color portfolio: full-color photos of the Great Lakes basin selected from the exhibition “The Primacy of Water” curated by the River Gallery of Chelsea, Michigan

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