The going wisdom seems to be that this spring we will emerge from our year of pandemic—from what has been, given the staggering loss of life and ceaseless political strife, a dark winter—into “something like normality.” I beg to differ.
Don’t get me wrong. At the moment I find myself full of hope. I got my second vaccine this week. I’m writing this at sunrise, on a brilliant and cloudless morning, at the beginning of what promises to be glorious day here in Sewanee, after destructive storms rolled through the region until late last night. Tulips have pushed up through the wet leaves. The cherry trees have exploded like popcorn. The jane magnolia’s flowers look as big as coffee mugs. The redbuds seem to rename the color. The birdsong is riot. The pileated woodpecker plays percussion.
But the longing for normality is akin to nostalgia—it can be a deceptive and dangerous desire because it can dislocate us, fracture our sense of truth. Perhaps Rachel Cusk, who appears in the Review for the first time this spring, puts it best in her remarkable essay “A Forgery”:
I never saw any of the things I had lost again, which cemented the meaning of the new things, fake though it was, and perhaps created the necessity for remembering them by heart; and thereafter, I suppose, I was like someone living with a forgery and choosing or wishing to believe it to be the original.
Spring reminds us that to embrace the new season is to dwell in uncertainty. Because continuous and radical change is already occurring, is constant. The leaves bud in spite of us. The flushed-out worm, after a night of work, becomes a meal. Nature, that juggernaut, finds a way. In the meantime, nobody knows what’s coming. Consider last spring.
This is why bringing new contributors to the magazine is so vital. They don’t simply reinvigorate our sense of the truth but relocate us in the world—right here, right now, and in all of its terrible beauty—with their writing. So we welcome Paisley Rekdal, whose craft essay "Iphigenia in Afghanistan: Notes on Women and War" explores the presence and the erasure of women who appear in (and those who write) war poetry. Brandon Haffner, runner-up in last year’s fiction contest, and whose story “Omnipotence” Garth Greenwell roundly praised, delves into the meaning of fraternity and sibling rivalry. David H. Lynn, longtime editor of the Kenyon Review, writes about a British inn that has managed to reinvent itself since the sixteenth century. And we welcome a raft of poets who are first-time contributors to our pages: Shane McCrae, Michael Prior, and Corey Marks.
We welcome back poets Katy Didden and Daniel Anderson, as well as Brandon Taylor, whose “Honorarium” appeared in our previous issue, and here gifts us with a story from his upcoming collection Filthy Animals. Longtime contributor John Psaropoulos writes about the legendary battle of Salamis. Merritt Moseley, who stepped down from covering the Booker Prize since 1993, shares his “Best of the Bookers” survey after nearly thirty years of reading that award’s shortlists.
Finally, Lorrie Moore, Sidik Fofana, Elliot Ackerman, and historian Monica Black contribute Notes on the Interregnum. Late last year, I asked each to write about the period between the end of the Trump Administration and the beginning of Biden’s, sure it would be a period of tremendous conflict. As with what spring will bring us, even then, I had no idea.