I think the best writing relies heavily on the imagination of the reader. If the writer takes care to leave a very light thumbprint, then that allows the reader to make the work his or her own and it takes on additional richness and texture — a life far beyond even what the writer had imagined.
– J.A. Batty

This is the power you have been given as readers in this Spotlight – to enhance, to apply texture, to enrich, to shape, to mold, and to surrender. To read this poet’s writing is not merely passive entertainment. For a writer such as she, the reader is given far more responsibility. You are a poet, just as she is a reader.

Picture this: a low light flashlight illuminating a moonlit scene, both shining and outcast by darkness. This is what her poetry is to me. Written in shadows as much as anything. It knows the fundamental importance of mystery and abstraction in communicating the edges of spirit and emotion. Through short descriptive images and overcast dialogue, J.A. Batty pencils together a philosophical exploration of the unfamiliar and the familiar:

“We need to talk,” it said, “Have you decided on a name? There must be a name or how will we know what to call you, how to treat you, what you should do?”

Solace thrives in the absence of meaning, spirituality in the spaces between…

Let the shadows seep into corners; sweep across chairs, faces and shoes…

But, you will also find, in each of these poems, lines that read like aphorisms. A single line can hold the heart still, give pause, and if taken in, resonate inside like truths always do. We can find ourselves there with her in each poem, standing in a room, watching the moon, hearing a voice, loving, afraid, wishing, believing. Feeling with fullness the present moment. For it is time present which is the concern of the poet here. Through her eyes, we are given only a limited view. We are not offered characters and scenes that expand for miles. We are not given new worlds to travel in and explore. We are only given the here and now. And, in having much of the flesh cut away, we stand looking at bone. The rest is yours to imagine.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
— T.S. Eliot

In preparation for this Spotlight, we asked the author a little about the writing process:

Writing lets me explore moments in time — shaving them to a pinpoint or widening the focus to see how far the ripples travel.

She adds:

I am inspired by words themselves — how they sound, their origins, how they can be layered together to create different meanings.

I find inspiration in love, loss, myths and fables, in the language of what is spoken as well as what is kept silent.

I carry a small notebook with me to jot down ideas. There are pieces of paper and sticky notes all over the house with the beginnings of poems or bits of stories. 

Among my favorite authors are T.S. Eliot, James Thurber, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W.H. Auden, David Wroblewski, Katherine Anne Porter, E.E. Cummings, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Michael Ondaatje and Isabel Allende.

Living and writing out of Arlington, Virginia, J.A. Batty is the kind of writer that we, at Rust+Moth, created our journal to publish. When we first came upon her work, almost a year ago, in August of 2009, we all knew we had to publish more of her writing. Over the next few months, we published two more poems. And, after more correspondence, we are proud to present this collection of those previously published poems and new works.

Much time and thought has gone into representing her poetry in a way consistent with the content, showing the boldness, the depth, the space, and the color. It is one of our proudest issues to date, and we hope that you, as readers, will find as much in these poems as we have.

This is a true privilege for me to be able to have you turn this page now and begin reading her works.


Matthew Payne