FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
On November 20, 2015, The Adroit Journal turned five. It is surreal to think of myself as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, and to think of myself now: turning twenty-one, old enough to drink, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, yet still with a lot to learn.
When you start a literary journal as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, a lot of things happen.
But above all, you’re insecure. Really insecure. It’s the tail-end of 2010, and you’re insecure because you’re an artist in tenth grade. You’re growing into artistry as if another body, one people tell you will fit one day but hasn’t filled out. By definition, you’re misunderstood. And labeled. And scared.
You’re an artist. One of many artists—artists you don’t yet know exist, artists in genres you don’t yet know exist, artists in genres that don’t yet exist.
In many ways, this is the way of art, the way of the artists. We are a marvelous yet mysterious pack. And, though you hardly know it yet, this is being an artist: being misunderstood. And labeled. And scared.
You’re fifteen, and still the sort of artist who signs his name across the shower door as if the first blank page of his first book. You even pick out a title: Commonality. A word smooth like silk, but unassuming. You watch each letter patiently dissolve into steam.
It seems silly to wish for permanence. After all, nothing is permanent—not body, not books, not words, not truth.
Wrong. You will soon learn, after you read the first book of poetry that keeps you up at night—The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart by Gabrielle Calvocoressi—that words erase, but thought has no master like that.
For years, your mind will scream things that don’t evaporate. You blame society, then convention, then a vague and misshapen mass you just call mitigating factors. You settle on that term and let it turn your skin blue and cold. You can’t be an artist. Each day, another hibernating beast.
But winter, as we know, may only last for so many months. Then, fingers across your laptop—you say it once, then twice. You organize it based on line length, because what do you really know about writing, and then: poem. Poem of your own. Secret poem in the secret night. Miracle like a candle. Candle in a moonless field.
And people on the news, people in the newspapers disapprove of you. You are so close to them—they could reach right through the screen, right up from the page, and chalk lines across your throat.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re fifteen, and you don’t believe you have a body of worth. A passion that—no matter the desire within it—is not worth its weight in gold. And you aren’t. And it isn’t. This is why you live. This is why you float.
Days are distance and you swim further and further away from the world everybody else lives in. You are fifteen years old, and you’re so deep that the sun looks like a dried pepper speck.
But—simple moon tug—things expand, approach real size. Air. Breaking surface. Poem. You leave a crest, a wake, proof you still exist. Poem. Poem. And thought, glistening snow that answers to no spring.
You study at Stanford University with a Wallace Stegner Fellow (the immediate and, honestly, lasting dream) for a summer, and then it’s settled. Everything tells you to write: the half-eaten apple, the low-hanging branches, the shriek of the school bell after every period.
The journal’s five years may best be summarized in moments. Candid screenshots from the staff group:
Remember when we were babies?
But aren’t we still?
It’s true. A life spent in writing is too long to fear, and too short to regret.
Reader, listener: I plead that you learn from the wonder, the mistakes, the stumbles, and the joy of the work in this marvelous, diverse issue of The Adroit Journal. The staff has worked so hard to bring it to you, and I am deeply proud to present it.
This one goes out to the fifteen-year-old artists who are misunderstood. And labeled. And scared.
This issue, and five years of such value and meaning, have quite literally saved my life.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
The Adroit Journal
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