Welcome back to the school year, Rainier Writing Workshop Participants, Faculty, and extended Alumni community. And hearty congratulations to the 2011 Graduates!

First, I’d like to welcome our new Assistant Editor, Monique Avakian (Class of 2014, Poetry/Hybrid) to the Soundings masthead. Monique lives in Yonkers, NY where she works as a Reading Specialist by day, develops performance and multi-media skills at night, and writes with the sunrise. Monique grew up in Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak (and perhaps misses her mountains while living in Yonkers?). With that question as segue, I now bring you unhappy news from the land of triple digit heat.

As I write, the Lost Pines are still burning. The Lost Pines are a botanical miracle—an island of loblolly pine separated from the humid East Texas piney woods by a glacier sometime during the Pleistocene era–which has somehow survived since then in arid central Texas. That is, until a downed power line reduced its size from 6,000 acres to a few hundred over the Labor Day weekend. Lamenting a similar loss in our second in a series of essays on writing about place, non-fiction writer Gary Ferguson meditates on the changes wrought to his place of choice, in “The Edge.” Gary raises the haunting question of what we, as writers, can do in the face of overwhelming ecological disaster. What is a writer’s raison d’etre in the face of nature’s “unraveling?”

This is a vital question for all of us and clearly troubles the waters of our RWW zeitgeist. Those of us privileged to have been part of the standing ovation for Ann Pancake’s stirring craft talk in August won’t forget her words anytime soon: “Literature…is a powerful antidote to psychic numbing,” “Literature resacralizes,” “Literature’s most pressing task is to envision an alternative future.”  To broaden the question: What is our responsibility to respond artistically to the world?

When photographer Donald Campbell Kemp (1889-1975) recorded the impressive remains of ancient mountain pines in Colorado in the 1940s, he was probably not worrying about the death of our planet. But his work still resonates for us today, though in a more terrifying context, reminding us, as Gary and Ann have, that artists and writers have the capacity to move and change people. We have only to take up the gauntlet our teachers have so eloquently thrown down for us. (Thanks to the Denver Public Library Western History Digital Collections for their fair use permission to publish Kemp’s photography in Soundings).

Other items of note in this issue: Journey Herbeck (Class of 2013, Fiction) explores the idea of place and community in his profile of faculty member, David Allan Cates. And those who missed the summer residency may want to learn who has been selected to receive the 2011 Stanley Lindberg Award for Literary Editing; see our story on Dinty W. Moore.


So, though the news be sometimes grim…

Write on, people!

Sidney B.