BY IRIS A. LAW
As this issue goes to press, the bright edges are beginning to wear off another new year. We’re a few weeks into 2023, and for many of us, our resolve has begun to soften: the unread emails are piling up again, the workout gear is gathering dust, the house plants we bought in a decorating frenzy have started to droop. We’re often encouraged to see the turn of a year as a time to cull; to carve away; to get back to the stark, clean bone of whatever is making our lives imperfect, unfulfilled, unbeautiful. And yet when it comes down to the messy reality of living, our glossy intentions never seem to reflect the actual truth of our human experience.
In Issue 44, we encounter a body of work that refuses to shy away from truth embedded in the unvarnished, the ugly, the everyday. In the opening poem, “Cathedral,” Kwame Dawes reflects on the work of the artist, proposing that we find truth not in chasing a pretty image but in leaning into the humanity of a moment: “that people will carry a secret unto death, / that a good night’s sleep … / … is as clear a truth as there ever / will be,” he writes. In fact, the truest works may be those that are comfortable with discomfort, with “truth that startles us— / the truth we uncover in the dark grotto / of a cathedral.”
Indeed, the writers and artists in this issue shake us awake with uncomfortable truths time and time again. In the poetry section, Diné writer Kinsale Drake addresses colonialism’s receipts even while celebrating truths about the desert passed down through Indigenous stories. Alexa Patrick meditates on America’s erasure of the stories of Black women who run away—and reimagines the choice to disappear as not just an act of survival but as a reclamation of one’s own truth. In Kim Addonizio’s “In Assisi,” the speaker admits the unglamorous truth of their desire not to suffer as the martyrs did (“I know my soul is small, it just wants a decent hotel room / & the man who lies down to sleep so trustingly beside me / to open his eyes & love me”), and Diane Seuss closes the section with her equally remarkable poem “An Aria,” which insists upon singing the “murdered world” in both its beauty and its brutality.
The fiction section, too, is populated with characters wrestling with uncomfortable truths about themselves and their worlds. In Marisa Crane’s queer Peter Pan–inspired tale, the narrator weighs the cost of abandoning the stable everyday truth of their relationship for the glitz of perpetual adolescence. Meanwhile, in Aysel K. Basci’s brilliant translation of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s lush, winding story, a man finds himself trapped at the seam of dream and reality—while myriad creative possibilities are birthed in between.
Finally, in this issue’s Enlightenments (where we’re delighted to welcome a fresh incarnation of Lisa Russ Spaar’s “Second Acts” column after its long run at The Los Angeles Review of Books), Jennifer Givhan remarks on the importance of keeping her heart open on the page “even where [she’s] noting injustice and rage and pain, even where [she’s] wry and wary,” while Sabrina Imbler muses on the importance, when using the natural world to contextualize one’s experience, of leaning into metaphor in the places where it feels truest to life.
This is the first issue I’ve had the honor of editing for The Adroit Journal—and what a joy it has been to work with all of these texts. The job of the managing editor is not to select the work but to prepare it for publication, and yet—even as the editorial ops team worked behind the scenes, building out calendars and checklists, restoring missing italics, coding in caesuras, I felt privileged to be elbows deep in such a sharply crafted and courageous body of work. I hope that the real, human truths embedded in this first issue of 2023 might be a source of comfort and transport for you. And I hope, too, that in reading, you might be emboldened to seek out the “truth that startles”—in life, in art—no matter what the year may bring.