If your Winter holidays were anything like mine—part endless revel, part madhouse shopping spree, part blessed opportunity to simply (by choice, this time) shut it down—then this period of celebration was also dominated by the pandemic’s Omicron wave, one in which it seemed the number of degrees of separation between you and the disease were reduced—if you managed to not get sick yourself—to one. And even from my layman’s vantage point, less than two months since the variant was first identified, at least some of the causes of this current wave’s virulence and sweep seem so obvious: there we were, in mid-November, vaccinated or boosted or full of antibodies post-infection, living semi-normally (depending on our respective comfort levels), pandemic fatigue having set in no matter which side of the political/scientific spectrum we were on, and we were gearing up for the great season of gathering in spite of the warnings. Though some of the holiday parties were canceled when things got real, plenty weren’t, and many of us attended, even if it felt like we were pushing it. And then the kids came home from school, they went to movies and had sleepovers and milled the mall, we took our rapid tests before heading to this or that fete, we were negative (or not), our magical thinking about our invincibility was dashed or encouraged, we submitted to PCRs if we were sick and if those tests came back negative (just a cold!), we posted the results on Instagram, gleefully announcing the holidays could safely commence. The rest, as they say, is history—albeit still unfolding.
Will we look back on these past few months, and these first weeks of the new year, as the beginning of the end, the season when the pandemic lurched toward endemic? Or does no such final wave exist? Who can say for sure? I’ll instead bring good tidings and preview our Winter 2022 issue, which features our Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry prize winners from last summer’s contest—Allen Bratton, Sarah Matsui, and Lance Larsen respectively. All of the poets appearing in this issue of the magazine—Laura Joyce-Hubbard, Michael Mlekoday, and Matthew Olzmann—are new to our pages, as are fiction writers Jane Delury and Matthew Jeffrey Vegari. We also welcome Christopher Spaide, who reviews a quartet of poetry collections, along with National Book Award-winner Sigrid Nunez, whose craft essay, “Life and Story,” explores that oft-asked question: What motivates the writer to write? Of course, we are just as thrilled to share work from former contributors—in fiction, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Ben Loory, Cally Fiedorek, and an essay by poet and translator Will Schutt.
“But soon I discovered,” Sigrid Nunez observes, “as all writers do, that writing was an ideal way to escape the world and to be a part of the world at the same time.” Consider this issue a gathering then, for you to enjoy, wherever it happens to be that you are riding out this New Year: with family, with friends, safely hunkered down.