Riddled with Arrows
RwA 5.3: “Eulogies, Epilogues, & Effigies“
Thank you for joining us here today.
First, a message from the venue: Please note that there are audio and video effects in today’s program. If you are reading this at work or in a library, at prayer or meditation services, next to a sleeping partner, or in any other space or state of mind sensitive to sound, please be sure to adjust the volume of your reading device at this time. Thanks.
Additionally, our program coordinator wants you to know that, as with grief, there are no rules here. Time is relative. We encourage you to experience the program in any order, as often as you like, share as much as you like, and linger afterwards for as long as you choose. Tell your friends! There are no closing hours to this dedicated space.
Welcome to a very special issue of Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal.
Wanna skip to the endings?
We think every issue of Riddled is special, of course. But this one, “Eulogies, Epilogues, & Effigies“, is an invitation to explore creative territories that are, perhaps, as tender as they are dangerous, and surely as personal as they are universal.
Endings can be upsetting to think about, head-on, or at all. Often we need or desire closure, but also endings can be painful (or impossible) to endure. Sometimes we don’t see the ending coming, sometimes we can’t seem to let go.
If nothing else, endings are notoriously hard to write (and even harder to write well).
Endings leave us vulnerable.
And yet, there’s really no avoiding them, is there?
I mean, sure. Every writer in their day is gonna try. We can stop at the cliff’s edge, we play at omniscient POV, we can slip through our clever enjambments like trapdoors, let our participles dangle free, always leave ’em wanting more…
(But every editor worth their ink knows the unclosed parenthetical literally hurts, for good reason.
That’s why we need to go there.
The mission of Riddled with Arrows has always been to spotlight “the process and product of writing as art” as it intersects with various universal themes and aspects of our lives. Often we are wont to dress down, as a journal, but “endings” is not a Call we take lightly. One might even argue that “writing about endings” is a matter of life and death, given the ways these themes tend to intersect in the real world.
When my mother died in 2019 I was too busy being sick to be with her. Afterwards—as with any other trauma I’ve ever faced—it was writing that helped me to be productive and to process, and oh, there are so many things to write about when death comes home, aren’t there? I wrote her obituary. I wrote her eulogy. I picked (with help) the hymns to be sung in church, I picked the text and font of the prayer cards and on the ribbons of the arrangements. Before we closed the earth over her forever I snipped the ribbon from the coffin spray that read “Mother” in ivory and gold. But even then, it wasn’t over. There were still thank you notes to write and letters and emails and we had to write to have her removed from accounts, her status changed, and when I first wrote my name on the signature card under hers at the bank, unfolding the white envelope in the safe deposit box, both sides covered in carefully notated dates and amounts in her familiar hand, her luscious ‘l’s, year after year of a life lived in the balance, I cried alone among a hundred locked metal drawers. To this day I am still trying to dilute that feeling into poems.
How do writers find words to fill empty spaces or to describe what has been lost? Such power there is in the end.
Usually the shape and structure of a given issue of Riddled is an organic (if arbitrary) thing—a response to the poems and stories we select, especially when they begin to speak to each other. This was never more true than with this issue, “E cubed”, wherein we learned that one cannot cleanly segregate “eulogy” from “epilogue” in poetry any more than one can contain grief in poems, or avoid mistakenly writing “epithet” when one means “epitaph”, or keep kittens contained to a room with no windows and doors. They just insist on being both and neither and everywhere at once.
Instead, what we found is that when you ask writers to write about writing endings, they tend to draw on, or at least lend themselves to certain universal images and conceits: water and earth, blood and bone, ash and dust. Thus it felt only right to let the issue group itself that way, in variations on these themes with which human beings have grappled since—well, since the beginning.
As to whether any given written-object invokes a eulogy, epilogue, or effigy: we choose to let you, dear reader, make the call.
When you’re ready: