Fall/Winter 2016/2017: The Heart Knows


Red Wolf Journal Issue 10 (Fall/Winter 2016/2017)
Our theme: “The Heart Knows”

Welcome to the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue.

What does the heart know? Which heart? Yours? Mine? It matters whose heart it is. Does it?

I believe that since everyone’s life experiences differ, the kinds of truths one learns through them are different. For instance someone who’s never lived through a war would be quite different from a person who has survived one. The distinctions of race, class, gender, age, geography, income, lifestyle, etc also matter. So while we may empathize with another, unless we’ve gone through a similar experience, we will not really know what it means. I was just reading Langston Hughes’ memoir and in one part he talked about how during a night bombardment in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, everyone had gathered in the hall and the record player kept playing (with the amplifier turned up real loud) “Organ Grinder’s Swing” till dawn to drown out the loud explosions.

A life’s experiences lived, seemingly small moments included, is unique to each person. One’s trajectory of experiences helped shaped one’s world view. So for another person who lives in a remote cold place and hunts seabirds for food, she would have a very different sense of the world. Of course there’s the human imagination and access to film documentaries to get a sense of what it means. Still it will never be the same as any truths arrived at by a person who becomes experience’s living embodiment. Secondary truths carry little weight; primary ones, much.

As said, the multiplicities of experiences make us unique and scintillating in each our own way. The subjects we choose to write about and the way we write about them in our poems ought to reflect this diversity. But of course there’re universal truths and these may be the same values learned no matter the experience or lack of experience. They’re the reason a piece of writing resonates with us if at heart, we accept the truth being parlayed in a poem. In writing that is intimate, we experience something of the author’s soul—his or her truth, his or her way of looking at the world. What Irish memoirist Nuala O’Faolain said was exactly on point: “My despair is my own, their hope is their own. Their spirituality is their own. My way of looking at the world is my own. We each end up differently facing this common fate.”

The heart–love’s dwelling–knows intimately. It knows love and the lack thereof. Its measurement is love. The converse of love is despair. Love isn’t love if it doesn’t know its shadow.  The heart flits secretly between the two poles. And what’s in between–hovering between assurance or indifference, steadiness or uncertainty, loyalty or betrayal–where all kinds of sabotage happens. Love is how one overcomes one’s wounds. If one’s heart is at all filled up with love, joy overflows. And there’re all kinds of loving–loving the way your lover talks to you, loving how your son gets excited over food, loving your pet’s adorableness, loving to dance and sing, loving to see the world, loving art, loving poems…there’s simply no end to loving. It seemed that if you cease to love, you cease to live.

In your poem tell us, how do you apprehend your world? Perhaps it’s through the dazzling precision of science and mathematics, or the way of the observation of the phenomenal world. Or do you also gravitate toward what’s there that’s not really visible or empirical–the noumenal world? That’s a different kind of knowing. A wisdom located in the heart, not the mind. Probably if you have lived long enough and suffered all manner of tragedies, you’re being repaid in small wisdoms. The biggie is this one–that we live in a material world and this materiality is not to be trusted (sigh). Decay and death will do us part.

The mystery isn’t mind
(what else are we, evidently,
besides aware?)

but materiality, intersection
of solidity and flame,
where quick and stillness meet—

Materiality the impenetrable thing.
We don’t know what it is
other than untrustworthy—

Mark Doty, “Notebook/ To Lucien Freud/ On The Veil”

Given that, what will save us? Of course we need saving. The only thing that will save us is love, isn’t it? When we’re stripped of every last thing, and have only the void, our experiences refill us, leading us back to love. Love of what’s lost, but also loving that “there is always something left to love” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). So that in place of darkness, there’s immanent light; in place of emptiness, there’s bliss.


Interpret the theme however you wish. Submit poems to us by email here.


Please review the submission guidelines and then send us your poems in the body of an email.

Poems will be published in ongoing posts on this site. Each posting will be announced on the Red Wolf Journal page on Facebook. Your poem may be published at any time from September 2016 to February 2017 so please check back here. If you do not see your poem(s) appear, you may deem it as not accepted for publication. We will not be sending out any acceptance or rejection letters.

The entire collection will be released in PDF format in due course. An announcement will be made at that point.

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Editors


6 thoughts on “Fall/Winter 2016/2017: The Heart Knows

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