Here in middle Tennessee, fall has failed to take hold for longer than usual. Even on the Mountain, we hit ninety degrees five times in September, with temperatures failing to dip below the seventies until just last week. Add to these new and disturbing norms—to this no longer unusual heat—an especially extended stretch of minimal precipitation, so that we have been witness to a desiccated fall: foliage whose leaves, crimped and folded as they are, put me in the mind of sleeping bats. The fallen lay on the ground like a harvest of clenched claws; beneath the feet they powder into ash, adhering to one’s soles, their remnants tracked into cars and closets. Even those that cling to the branch sound different in the wind: as they collide, they tick and clack like wind chimes fashioned of bone. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, the change in season brightens my mood, but this autumn I am more mournful, more darkly associative about it. Worse, I am regularly afflicted by an anxiety that reactionary forces, as legion as these leaves, will ultimately overwhelm everything in which we take comfort, changing the seasons themselves into something more uniform and static—into a palled and single state of being some poet has yet to name.
And then I am rejuvenated by the variegated comforts of art, by the naming that poets have already done, some of them right here, in our pages for the first time, like Tomás Q. Morín and Jos Charles. We also welcome fiction writers Robin Romm and Rickey Fayne, as well as Kevin Brockmeier, who penned the craft essay for this issue. There are also returning writers whose work comforts us with their brilliance and continuity: the second installment from poet Carl Phillips’s essays on the art of poetry from his new collection, My Trade is Mystery: Seven Meditations from a Life in Writing, offers this bit of revivifying wisdom: “But if ambition is, as I’ve suggested earlier, a form of faith, then stamina is what comes into play when that faith—as it will, inevitably—gets shaken. Stamina is the persistence by which we move past doubt and return to the task of making.” Pamela Royston Macfie returns with a remarkable piece on her family. Lea Carpenter’s story is freighted with the combination of propulsion and emotional intensity we’ve come to expect from her fiction. Elliot Ackerman, another regular contributor, bring us news from Kyiv in a correspondence from Ukraine. “Who can endure nowhere?” writes returning poet D. Nurkse. That I am not the only one to ask the same question is the sort of salve to solipsism that, even in a such a strange season, literature offers us.