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“Oh Baby!” She’s Arrived

August 9, 2013

coverTo extend the metaphor, the overdue “Oh, Baby!” has finally been delivered and she is a darling. Here is a glimpse of her: The editor’s note that reveals much of what awaits the audience in the form of poets, essayists, & issues.


During the course of assembling this issue of dirtcakes—which is focused on the health & wellbeing of children—20 of them were taken in the Newtown Elementary School killings by what was arguably still another; my three-year-old son entered the hospital and kept on oxygen for a week; and a cousin I hadn’t seen in 30 years—whose earliest years included juvenile hall & drug addicted parents—hanged himself from a tree in his yard.

It seems the tragedies & traps that wait for our children can spring from the safest of havens, lash out with unexpected force, or lay dormant for decades. Regardless of their specificity, such physical & psychological traumas always appear unjustified.

But during those same months, my older son started to get his 1st grown-up tooth; dirtcakes Art Director Jessica Quadra traveled around the world to see her brand new niece; and a baby girl in Mississippi, given aggressive doses of medication at birth, was diagnosed as HIV-free, apparently completely cured of the disease that has run rampant for half a decade.

It seems also the wondrous renewals that accompany children wherever they sprout—meaning everywhere—are just as unjustifiable, joyously so, freeingly so. Children are illogically liberating in their infant enthusiasm & heartachingly fragile on this whirling world.

That is why here in “Oh Baby!” the giant span of childhood is explored, from the modern woods filled with new wolves to the unbearable lightness of giggles.

Often the darker dangers seemed to take focus in the writing & artwork. There is shocking abuse that comes in the form of other people—not always strangers—in writing by Elizabeth Weaver & Hannah Webster; accounts of cultural abuse that (mal)form the populace by Sean Patrick Dougherty & Brian Glaser; and the deeper, more unbelievable betrayals that come from within, as in the haunting psychological study of imagined pregnancy by Anne McGrath, or the cover of this issue.

The doctored image of a favorite, fun-time childhood food, the candy bar—specifically Nestlé’s Baby Ruth—is not just a visual pun; it is a calling out of the camouflaged confectionary. Nestlé sits atop a network of non-chocolatey endeavors, such as the recent horsemeat scandal and relatively recent poisoned milk discovery.

Specifically regarding it’s duplicitous actions towards children, The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) pins Nestlé to the top of its list of ethics violators regarding the marketing & manufacture of breast milk substitutes. Naming Nestlé the “market leader” in its 2010 report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules, IBFAN records instances of Nestlé  & other baby formula companies aggressively & fraudulently marketing to mothers across the world to supplant their natural breast milk for supposedly healthier processed alternatives.

Western hospitals are often complicit in this, sometimes unwittingly or contradictorily. When both my sons were born, my wife was visited by a lactation specialist to help with latching & other new mom & baby needs. At the same time, we were given a swag bag stuffed with baby goodies including a few months supply of premium formula. The insignia sewn on the bag read Gerber, which is owned by Nestlé.

In developing countries the issue can be more dire: access to water needed to mix the formula can be limited; that water can be contaminated; poorer mothers may mix less formula than is required to stretch the can; directions for the formula are often in English or other non-native language. Yet supplement are aggressively marketed across the globe.

Much like the witch who lives in a candy house & devours Hansel, Gretel & other little children, Nestlé has been growing fat for decades off the corporate malfeasance that takes place deep in the shade of today’s scary forest. According to IBFAN, “global sales are expected to reach up to
US$42.7 billion by 2013.” How much gets spent on promoting the healthy, totally-normal-since-ever method with proven chemical & psychological benefits to both mother & child?


Not that we are all doomed from the start. The marvelous fun of 1st sensory stimulations is also present in these pages. Emma Townley-Smith recounts the birth of her inner Indiana Jones as she climbs a neighborhood tree; Bill Neumire revels in the enchantment his new child brings.

Not fatAnd then there is the transformative prayer from Sinta Jimenez that weaves its way through the journal, links it together from start to finish like a vital spine. Dedicated to her own daughter Chloe, “Nine Months” brims with majesty, magic, reverence. Divided into nine radiating stanzas, one begins one of the nine sections, which have been provided titles we hope accurately connect the elements of the stanza, that month of pregnancy, and the writing in the section.

Whole, fragmentary, in English, or original tongue—three poems, precisely, appear per section. Usually, they take forms you would readily recognize. But sometimes they come within other texts, as in the Naomi Shihab Nye excerpt from “Someone I Love,” Tricia Casper-Ross edgy, but charming account of decades-distant mirroring violent actions by first her brother, then her son.

Translations by Wendy Burke & Liang Yujing represent more than single voices, too. Where Yujing’s translation is of a different person—Chinese poet Xidu Heshang—and presents with spare somberness an equally quiet & condensed revelation, Burke’s inspirational interview with Nature summons once again those ancient forests we pillage & replace with an industrialized wild—their old stories ignored, language allegedly lost.

Finally, each section is also prefaced by a dirtcakes-procured ultrasound, a window to the writing inside provided by a literal glimpse of the unseeable. We hope all of it buoys & deepens your individual experience of “Oh Baby!” As always, thanks for choosing dirtcakes.


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