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Fall 2008
vol. 63 no. 2

We regret to announce that Mennonite Life will suspend publication as of this issue.

Over the decades of its existence, Mennonite Life has mostly focused on a particular niche for its readership. We have attempted to reach a literate, well-informed audience, but not a narrowly specialist one.

One of our major strengths since the beginning in 1946 has been in the use of visual materials. No other Mennonite publication has done this so extensively. In the web era, since 2000, we have also been able to add a good deal of audio excerpts. Related to this has been our ongoing focus on the arts.

We have intentionally covered a wide variety of topics across several disciplines. Thus one might call our approach "Mennonite studies."

During our paper publication era, 1946-1999, we were able in certain ways to measure our readership, simply by counting the number of subscribers, and by sending out occasional paper-based surveys to subscribers. In the web era, 2000-present, measuring is more difficult. We regularly send out an announcement of each issue to a list of around 275 email addresses. Some of those addresses are themselves lists, so that an unknown number of recipients (at least several hundred) are told of each issue when it becomes available.

One other way to measure our situation is in our contacts with writers and submissions. Here the situation is gloomy, and it was so already ten years ago, before the transition to the web format. We do not receive enough submissions for real viability for Mennonite Life.

Although we do have enthusiastic readers, and hear from them, it appears that our publishing niche is no longer viable in the Mennonite world. Mennonite publications have split into two segments—those intended for the broades possible audience, and those consisting of academic specialists writing for other specialists. Readers and writers for a niche in between these don't seem to be a critical mass in the Mennonite world anymore.

Although we are suspending publication, we do intend to maintain our web site so that past and recent Mennonite Life issues remain easily available.

In this issue

In this abbreviated issue, Melvin Epp retrieves the aesthetic experience of a Mennonite garden in the Vistula Delta (today's Poland) and Kansas more than a century ago. A hybrid, this article includes familial, communal, and botanical historical notes and a sort of social history of gardening as part of the documentation of immigration. Intriguing crop comparisons occur: “The plot in the southeast corner had two rows of maple seedlings, presumably for hedge replacements. This plot also was reserved for growing feed for the chickens. The sugar beets would have been given to the chickens in wintertime, one per day, to provide something fresh to augment their grain diet. Corn was also grown for chicken feed, but not for human consumption. Prior to immigrating, in West Prussia corn was only a curiosity plant from the Americas grown in flower beds as a novelty with no commercial value.”

The Heritage of a Garden: Replicating a West Prussian Garden among the Tall Grasses of Kansas

by Melvin D. Epp

Poet Jean Janzen offers an essay on an intersection of pearl metaphors and women's experiences in Russia and Ukraine in times of revolution and oppression.

Three Women and the Pearl

by Jean Janzen

We also hear from four newer, contemporary Mennonite poets of the western United States.

Four Poems from Emerging Voices