BY CHRIS CROWDER
A common revision practice asks the writer to look at the beginning, then to identify where we’re first saying what we mean to say. What comes before is “clearing the throat,” or, coughing, so we can speak more clearly. The “clearing” is often removed from the poem or prose in later versions, but necessary. Without it, the writer wouldn’t have reached the words they’ve gifted to us.
With that in mind, the poems, prose, interviews, and art in Issue Forty-Seven of The Adroit Journal do double work. They get straight to the point, immersing us with intention, while referencing the behind-the-scenes—the processes of making, writing, and speaking. This has been a common thread in books I’ve read lately, most of them being translated texts. Circularly, reading translated works has led me to witness the word translation as an exchange in many forms in this issue—the translation of writer to writer, a writer explaining themselves, and an author having a conversation with the reader: this is what you’re saying. Definitions and interpretations abound—
You’ll encounter Monika Cassel’s translation of Daniela Danz’s “Landschaft mit Rebhühnern” (“Landscape With Partridges”) and a character translating (understanding) another in an excerpt of Amanda Peters’ novel The Berry Pickers: “She didn’t ask about the scars; she didn’t need to.” Amanda Machado’s essay centers around experiences, reflecting on a Phil Christman quote: “Masculinity is an abstract rage to protect.” Adroit Prize for Prose winner Kelly X. Hui invokes etymology:
The past tense of wind is wound, as in: after Iphigenia’s father killed her for favorable winds, for glory in war, he set in motion a cycle of violence that destroyed their family. The past tense of wind is wound, as in the slam of a kitchen cabinet door. The way the shadows of a spindle dining chair move in the late morning light.
The practice of translation involves breaking speech into smaller parts, adding context. Cintia Santana’s “multitudes” begins with “I / am not yo / nor am I / you,” unpacking the different faces a self can have. Adroit Prize for Poetry finalist Ash Anderson’s “Has Been” uses footnotes and a graph as a means of further explanation, while Jack Davis’ “(Lies)” incorporates parentheses to tell the whole story, the truth.
What can expressing our thoughts and realities look like? It could remind us of technical glitches and memories of radio stations, with which Rosebud Ben-Oni’s poems dazzle us with. Adroit Prize for Poetry finalist Christian Butterfield’s “Father as Circular Logic Puzzle” plays with repetition, mirroring, and clarification. Ahmad Almallah’s “Wood” tells us, “It’s true, the architecture / of discovery is a strange one.”
But where do these discoveries of language lead us? What could recognizing language be for? Kinsale Drake’s “Theme for the nautical cowboy,” our 2023 Adroit Prize for Poetry winner, offers an answer of reflection, considering the histories of ourselves and the earth:
There was once a prehistoric ocean all around us,
even whales. We puff out
the great swimming shapes
of their bodies.
This layer of rock, trilobites.
This layer, some ancient eel. How small we are,
These lines remind me of how the world develops around us. Before us. The catalysts of change. In our Enlightenments section, Dana Levin and Brian Teare mention what it looks like to “face the future while deeply aware of our pasts, moments of fraught becoming,” crossing over thresholds, and metamorphosis—and how much it can involve agony. The theme of transformation continues with Thomas Hobohm, Adroit Web Editor, interviewing Richard Siken. They cover topics such as instinct and gut feelings, the importance of answering questions, and poetry as a means of guidance.
As Adroit’s Managing Editor, I’m excited to be a part of a team working behind the scenes, helping to bring narratives to the world that can assist us in navigating through communication with others and ourselves.
The work housed in this issue has taught me so much—especially the 2023 Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose winners and finalists, who are featured within. We express great gratitude to Ocean Vuong for selecting the prose winner, Kelly X. Hui, and to Natalie Diaz for agreeing to judge the poetry contest. Unfortunately, due to the loss of a loved one, Natalie was unable to proceed with judging the Adroit Prize for Poetry as planned. This year’s Adroit Prize for Poetry winner, Kinsale Drake, was selected by our poetry editors and supported by Natalie. We’re sending warmth, light, and prayers to Natalie and her family, and we’re hopeful to connect further with her in the future.
Everyone, take care. Thank you for being here with us.