Compared to print, an online journal moves at breakneck speed. The staff of a print magazine might select the contents of the winter issue in the summer, but the pieces for our winter issue were selected in the winter, in the last month of an old year and the first month of a new one. It’s a time of transition, I guess; that’s what it should be, the changing of the years, but what really changes I couldn’t tell you.
When I began working on this issue, I was thinking a lot about the business of writing. Maybe I can blame the short days or the ice on the inside of my bathroom window, but my thoughts were kind of dark: sometimes writing seems much too business-like indeed. As writers, we worry over our publications and our CVs, our bios and our careers. If we’re lucky enough to finish a new poem or story, we wonder if it’s any good, if anyone will ever give it a second look. Maybe this isn’t true for you: I shouldn’t try to speak for everyone. I’ll speak for myself and say that I often worry about these things. Most of the time, I wonder what I’m doing.
But when I think about it now, I realize that something did change for me between December 1st and today; somehow, as I sat immobilized beside the space heater, reading and reading, selecting pieces for this issue, I remembered something I can’t believe I managed to forget: the business of writing is the business of reading. And reading’s what got us all here, I suspect. For me, it’s one thing that can always stop my mind from wishing for another season. It never makes me worry.
For writers, reading is the main event, the reader the one necessary element we can’t conjure up on our own. In his essay, “The Writer’s Workshop,” Frank Conroy writes, “The language statement ‘yellow pencil’ can carry no actual color. The reader must add the color with the mind’s eye for the full image to emerge. Likewise, the reader’s energy is needed to hear the tones of voice in dialogue, to infer information that the text only implies, to make full pictures from the text’s suggestive sketches of the physical world…the reader is to some extent the cocreator of the narrative.” This is what I return to as I read and read and even after I am finished reading, when I try to remember where I was when I saw a moth in a dish of oil. Soon enough I realize I didn’t see it anywhere, only read it. The effect is ultimately the same.
That’s one of the best parts about reading for New World Writing. I am forever remembering people and events, images and rhythms so real they feel like part of my own life. They are part of my life. There are countless articles and studies, arguing about the point of literature, the worth reading poems and stories. That’s fine. For me, as a reader, I am rescued from meaningless worry over business, from hating winter, from the most limited parts of myself. My experience expands.
So, readers, these are for you. Here are the pieces I’ve enjoyed reading most of all, the ones I am most grateful for. I hope you’ll enjoy them also, that you’ll enjoy your collaboration with these fine writers, and the winter we have left.