from the Editor
Creating a magazine that’s focused on and originating from the South is a complicated endeavor. The history of the region necessitates decisions—whose voices do we include? What stories can we tell? What stories should we tell?
The South is a region haunted by what Flannery O’Connor called its “well-publicized sins.” These sins—slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow, as well as the prejudice that for many is the subtext of every Southern-accented word—must be reckoned with by contemporary Southern writers. At the same time, the magical qualities of the South—its mysteries and beauties—also demand to be told.
When we, as a staff, discussed what we wanted to be as a publication, we returned to the metaphor of the front porch. The front porch as a symbolic space is integral to the Southern experience. It’s a space common to both rich and poor, black and white, male and female, and it is often where we go to enact that most Southern of traditions: storytelling.
Catalpa is rooted in the belief that the South is the sum of its voices—the weird and wonderful, polite and profane. We believe that these voices are best when they are brought together, whether this results in them complementing each other, confirming each other, or challenging each other.
We want this magazine to be a front porch for our readers—a space to mostly listen, but also, perhaps, to speak up and share their stories as well. Welcome to our front porch; we hope you like it.
When choosing a title for our magazine, we wanted a name that would accurately and ethically represent our publication, a graduate magazine geared toward exploring curious perspectives rooted in the South—particularly Chattanooga.
After much debate, we decided to name our new magazine Catalpa, the term for a flowering deciduous tree commonly found in the South. The word catalpa is derived from the term kutuhlpa, the Muscogee word for “tree” which means “winged head.” It has been called Indian bean tree for the long pods it produces and caterpillar tree because it attracts the sphinx moth, whose caterpillars sometimes ravage the leaves. European settlers, at one point, thought the roots were poisonous and at other times took advantage of the tree’s medicinal qualities (from a snake bite antidote to a cure for whooping cough). Today, catalpas and their hybrid sisters are primarily used as ornamental trees with their silvery green leaves and showy, yet delicate flowers.
The catalpa tree offers a metaphor for the complexities of the South with its deep roots and diverse, beautiful, troublesome history. The South is hybrid place of old worries and new innovations that we hope to explore, along with the Chattanooga community, in the coming years.