It’s already been a hard winter. Like our cover image, the nation seems to be buried in the impeachment mess, snowed in by snow jobs, blinded by white out. And no forecast predicts a change in this oppressive political weather.
But like an unexpected snowfall, winter is also a season of great beauty. And like an overnight dusting, so much of the work appearing in this issue surprised us and lifted our spirits. Two-time Pulitzer prize winning historian T. J. Stiles was looking for somewhere to place his essay on his sensei, Masataka Mori, an eighth-degree black belt, with whom Stiles studied karate for over thirty years. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience at The Blue Chair in Sewanee during the bi-monthly gathering of the writing group The Spoken Word, where I heard Luann Landon read a remarkable series of haiku, three of which open the issue and mark her debut in our pages. Novelist Maud Casey had the wherewithal to send us her craft essay on the use of silence in fiction, one that she wrote with us in mind and which landed in our laps like the perfect Christmas gift. We had the great good fortune to receive two poems from Evie Shockley—whom we are also welcoming to the Review for the first time—along with prose poems by Caki Wilkinson, fiction from Myla Goldberg and Jennifer Haigh, as well as an excerpt from Madison Smartt Bell’s upcoming biography of the novelist Robert Stone. And while this isn’t the first time the Review has been graced by the work of B. H. Fairchild, it’s this editor’s first opportunity to publish him.
Like the best holiday traditions, we also welcome back Merritt Moseley, who has been sending us annual dispatches on the Booker Prize for over twenty-five years. “Electric,” a poem by Carl Phillips, our 2019 Aiken Taylor winner in Modern American Poetry, precedes the remarkable essay on his work that Garth Greenwell presented at Sewanee as part of the celebration of the award. Cally Fiedorek, recent recipient of the 2019 NYC Emerging Writer Fellowship and whose story “Easy Living” appeared in the Winter 2019 issue, returns with her second story for us, “Fright Night.” Perhaps most exciting are the winners of our 2019 Fiction and Poetry contest, Valerie Reed Hickman and Alan Nadel. Their work distinguished itself out of nearly seven hundred submissions, and we are grateful to our judges, Roxane Gay and Carl Phillips, for choosing the winners from some amazing finalists (several of whom we’ll also be publishing this spring).
So Happy New Year. Our podcast launches January 10 with my interview of Garth Greenwell (you can subscribe on iTunes and not miss an episode). His highly-anticipated second novel, Cleanness, publishes on the fourteenth, and if you can’t wait, read an excerpt from it in our pages. Mid-month, we’ll also be announcing the winner of the 2020 Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry. Meanwhile, enjoy the new issue. If you’re not a subscriber, please subscribe. If you are a subscriber, give the gift of the Sewanee Review. And remember, like the seasons, the weather always changes.