The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

From Helen Losse


A Statement of Clarification From Helen Losse, Poetry Editor Emeritus of the Dead Mule

*Much to my dismay, it recently became obvious that this post was scheduled to appear in 2012 instead of 2013 and I am a dumba** for not noticing. I apologize to everyone. My sincere apology to my dear friend Helen, who has served the Mule admirably, with love and passion unequaled in this world. We love you Helen and hope to see you soon. –Valerie and family

When I found out on FaceBook I was no longer the active Poetry Editor of the Dead Mule, the news stung like a dagger aimed for and striking deep into my heart. Why? I had done a good job editing poetry on the Mule, and although I posted links to my books, a lot of people knew me as the Mule Poetry Editor first and a poet second. Some poets knew me but not Val, even though she started the Dead Mule. It crossed my mind that she might be annoyed about that. And I had written her an unkind e-mail a few days earlier, questioning the timing of her release of a certain piece of information. I never thought it would come to this. Had I over-stepped my bounds? My mind was spinning. The night before the FaceBook announcement, the password to the Mule poetry account was no longer valid, but since I’m neither very suspicious nor very technical, I didn’t suspect I was gone. I always knew the Mule was Val’s baby, and she let me hold it for a little while and that she’d want it back. Should I have seen this coming?


Here’s the skinny: Val sent me an e-mail explaining the change – well, she thought she sent an e-mail – to which she thought I didn’t respond, because I was fuming at her decision to re-activate her own editorship. Truth is, the e-mail was not sent before her computer crashed, so I didn’t know or feel anything prior to the FaceBook post. When I did hear, I was hurt. I was crying not fuming. That is not the way it was supposed to go, but it is the way it did go.


Although the timing was botched by technology, the purpose of the editorial change can be easily explained: it will give Val a more active hands-on role at the Mule and give me more time for my own poetry. Val thought I had worked hard and deserved that. In fact, she had been thinking about this change for some time, but she had not told me. And now, after the way events unfolded, we are not stupid enough to believe that readers did not sense our tension. As things stand, I am not angry with Val, and she is not angry with me; we love each other. Fact is, we never stopped loving each other. We had a misunderstanding and a misplaced e-mail. We will not go into detail, but we have talked the problem through.


If, as I have told every poet upon acceptance of his/her work, “being in the Mule is like joining a big ole southern family,” then being on the editorial staff of the Mule is even more so. Val and I are like sisters who want the very best for the other. Val is the Editor of the Mule, and I am the Poetry Editor Emeritus of the Mule for life. That means, we will talk to each other about Mule business but that I have more time for my own poetry. I am working on a new book, Freedom to Grieve, that will be dedicated to Valerie MacEwan. What started as pain has become a relief.


To put in different word, at the Dead Mule, we are a functional family. We may quibble, but we work things out. Please don’t take sides. We’ll the good guys. Continue to submit with confidence. Don’t forget your Southern Legitimacy Statement. Long live our Dead Mule!