science, bad ideas, and, at its center, the enduring value of challengingrigid authority and opening oneself to life’s adventures.
In her essay “Exile in the Desert with Sarmi Moussa,” Melinda Smithretraces the past to find something that was missed or not quite understood. It takes her back to her twenties, when, having fled America inthe era of Vietnam and Watergate, she takes a job teaching English inAlgeria. On a break, Smith travels to the Tassili n’Ajjer in the Sahara tosee the famous Neolithic rock paintings. Over six days she forms a relationship with her Tuareg guide, a young man named Sarmi Moussa.Their isolated situation, the rigor of the trip, and a natural chemistrydraw them together in a sublime and austere landscape.
Jennifer Anderson’s Smith Prize–winning essay “The Trailer” concerns the moral complexity of human society. The essay begins with theproblem of an abandoned trailer dumped on land belonging to Anderson’s family. The owner can’t be found, and the trailer can’t easily be disposed of. When a homeless couple moves into it and seems to threatenthe safety of Anderson’s aging father, Anderson resolutely sets abouthaving the couple charged with trespassing and the trailer taken away—but the results end up raising questions for her, and for the reader, aboutissues of addiction, homelessness, and social responsibility.
Heather Treseler, winner of our Jeffrey E. Smith Prize in poetry,reveals the power of magnetic bonds in her lovely “Lucie Odes.” Thespeaker shares a friendship with the sharp-minded Lucie, who wrestleswith rural poverty and a dark history. The speaker, who “feels like a fraud/ teaching adults as old as my mother” is drawn to her new friend, bothof them haunted by wounds from their pasts. With impressive restraintand technical precision, Treseler explores the journey of “two women,determined / not to fear living, the alphabetic rune of scars.” MelissaStuddard’s poems are charged with humor and tenderness, yet they asktough questions: “Is it possible to protect those we love? / To protect anyone?” Javier Zamora’s work deftly explores the realities of immigrationand the endurance of family bonds. He rewrites newspaper “Immigration Headlines” on his own terms and, with keen attention to detail andform, dissects “where power comes from” and the paradox of migratingto “a place with fountains, fire hydrants, swimming pools, & hot tubs.”The playfully rebellious spirit of rococo is alive and well in the workof nine contemporary artists showcased in Kristine Somerville’s visualfeature “Neo Rococo.” The rococo-inspired work captures a central tenetof the movement: “Art has one duty: to be art.”