BY JENNY TINGHUI ZHANG
Three years ago, I was charged with writing the Editor’s Note for Issue 27. It was around the same time as this current note—right at the turn of the new year. I would like to believe that this is pure coincidence, but perhaps it is also a cruel reminder. In my previous note, I waxed poetic about the idea of “new year, renewed you,” a way to enter into each new year with the goal of regenerating and evolving, rather than discarding. Oh, past self! How naive you were.
Indeed, it is hard to look back at that note in light of everything that has happened over the past few years. It has been impossible for many of us to “regenerate” and “evolve” while crushed by the weight of everything that has happened. With the surge of Omicron, many of us spent the end of our year in isolation (myself included). Either we had Covid, or we had been exposed to it, or we were simply trying to prevent others from getting it. It was a difficult time, yet another unwanted capstone on an unimaginable two years.
My present-day self is a bit more hardened, I’m sad to admit. It is difficult to think about entering the new year with anything other than apprehension and uncertainty. In “The Search,” poet Aldo Amparán asks:
where has joy gone to
in this country of sand?
The work in Issue 40 seems to echo these sentiments, whether directly or indirectly. There is revulsion, anguish, impatience: “Death is a god/damned thief,” Patrick Phillips tells us in “The Leash.” “The party. The people. I can’t digest it,” laments Mark Kyungsoo Bias in “Space Music.” There is longing and mourning, too, a sense of inexplicable loss. “I miss the days when I was bigger;” Gustav Parker Hibbett writes in “Oxalis Triangularis.”
But there is also freedom and power that comes from excavating our grief. In Issue 40, you will find pieces that aren’t afraid to play rough. Take the frenetic energy of “Thank God for Sade” by Marcus Ong or the admirable scumminess of Ann-Marie Blanchard’s “SCUM”. Then, float in the tender heartbreak of Erin Sherry’s “Star Cycle.” Bask in the brilliance of new work by poets Chen Chen, Rick Barot, and Sarah Kay.
There’s fantastic artwork and photography here that prioritizes self-preservation. See Scarlett Cai’s Fool’s Paradise and the haunting relevance of Maximo Guerra’s Satirical Stereotypes series. Witness Jalynn McDuffey’s Lookalike and the unflinching loneliness of Alyvia Luong’s photography series, The Sin(ner) I Cannot Forgive.
Finally, revel in this issue’s Enlightenments, which shines with a conversation between Ashley M. Jones and Lesley Wheeler about place and the importance of music. Paisley Rekdal talks to Jim Whiteside about the epistolary form in her stunning new book, Appropriate: A Provocation, and what excites her in contemporary writing. Equally luminous are conversations with Victoria Chang, Keenan Norris, and Tomás Q. Morín.
We’ve also added to our roster of talented editors and readers. Some new faces include our managing editor Dolapo Demuren as well as poetry editors Francisco Márquez and Eugenia Leigh (whose sent us incredible poems before she joined the team). On the prose side, we welcome editors Eric Shattuck, Caroline Fairey, Kalpana Negi, and Katerina Ivanov Prado.
It was not the new year we hoped for, but it is a new year, nonetheless. What remains in the wake of everything we have been through? Will we ever feel whole and healed?
“I want what comes next,” writes Arielle Kaplan in her poem “Everything I Know About My Body.” Regardless of what has or hasn’t changed, time moves on. Perhaps it is this unsympathetic, unromantic truth that can offer us some hope as we reconcile with the last two years and look to our future: this—whatever this is—will not be forever.
Let us embrace, then, what comes next.
Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a Chinese-American writer from Austin. Her work has appeared in Apogee, CALYX, Ninth Letter, Passages North, wildness, and The Rumpus, with essays in HuffPost, Bustle, The Cut, and HelloGiggles, among others. She is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the VONA/Voices and Tin House workshops, and holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming. Her debut novel Four Treasures of the Sky is forthcoming from Flatiron Books on April 5, 2022. She is currently working on her second novel.
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