I was percolating about what to say in this very editor's note when Becky Tuch's Lit Mag News Substack dropped in my inbox. In the email, Tuch asks her readers: "What are we to make of magazines and/or individual editors at these magazines that take a vocal political stance?"
I am always grateful to Tuch for her curation of thoughtful dialogue, and so I read. The last I checked there were 60-something responses to her question, many of them arguing that lit mags should "shut up and sing," as The Chicks were once told to do.
Well, one pauses.
Are literary magazines not by their very fact of existence political? If the personal is still political, as Carol Hanisch argues, when a writer writes a poem or a story and asks someone to read it, when an artist displays a collage, painting or other creation—that's personal is political made manifest. When an editor decides whose work does and doesn't make it into the pages—that's political. When a journal is silent about the news of the day, that's also a political choice, perhaps with its own consequences.
I imagine none of the "shut up and sing" folks are reading West Trestle, a journal founded on the very political idea that women and non-binary writers and artists have been excluded from literary pages for far too long, and it's our gotdamn turn to speak, to be heard, and to amplify the voices of others who have historically been kept silent.
I do, though, wonder at the point of taking a stand on each issue. Is it helpful for me to say that I'm trying not to think of Israelis and Palestinians but of people who, like me, want to sing and laugh and dance and spend time loving on their families, how I hope I am never lumped in with any atrocious decision those in power have made? Is it helpful for me to say there's nothing nuanced about a bomb? Is it helpful for me to say: Cease fire? Cease fire in Gaza, cease fire in Texas, in Maine, in Georgia. Illinois, Indiana, and Florida and so on and so on.
Maybe not. But here I have said it, and I have made donations to Doctors Without Borders and Everytown for Gun Safety as well.
"For a while there were votives and dead flowers wrapped in plastic," writes Jessica Cuello in this issue. "How does one explain / war to a child" writes Erica Goss. "Here / is a prayer." writes Aileen Cassinetto.
These words were not written in response to today's headlines, as most of the material in this issue was written (and even accepted) long ago, but the writers West Trestle publishes regularly direct our attention not only to the pain, not only to the survival, but also to the celebration, and the joy.
In addition to the poets mentioned, we are proud to feature in this issue gorgeous work by Lois Harrod, Judy Juanita, Isabel Cristina Legarda, Moira Magneson, Kaecey McCormick, Susie Meserve, Kathryn Petruccelli, Heather Qin, Rachel Ramirez, Suzanne Rancourt, Amanda Rosas, Amanda Roth, and Maggie Yang, all accompanied by wrecked Polariods created by Patty Paine.
While you're here, check out Jessica Cuello's moving Cross-Tie about Claire Millikin's elegiaca americana, and come back next week for our next Cross-Tie, a conversation between West Trestlers Nadia Ariola and Julia Knowlton discussing their new poetry collections.
Remember, if you read something in these digital pages that moves you, please let our contributors know with a note, a tag, a share, a like. While you're at it, register for our Celebration of West Trestlers, an online reading to be held 4 p.m., PST / 7 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 11.
And, if you're planning to be at AWP, please join us for a no-host West Trestle and Tea 8 a.m., Thursday, Feb 8 at Vested Garment District Coffee, 310 W 8th St, Kansas City. It's a hot cuppa and conversation because we'd like to say hello.
Until then, dear friends, read on!
Founding EIC, West Trestle Review
November / December 2023
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