Among all of spring’s emergent beauty here in Sewanee, I find it impossible not to also see the destruction wrought in Ukraine. I cannot give myself over completely to the sight of the larkspur’s purple flowers without associating it with bruises. The dogwoods’ explosions are just that—detonations, tipped in red. The yellow petals of wood poppies and daffodils put me in the mind of that embattled country’s flag. Like our cover’s image, bare branches appear at once as if they are about to bud and also shatter like glass. Unless one’s heart is made of granite, it is inconceivable, in this season of wartime, to be of one mind about this time of renewal, and to not also have restored to oneself a more powerfully reinvigorated sense of what courage is. So that the words of Roger Reeves, in his essay that appears in the current issue, seem as apropos as they are prescient: “In order to save our lives, we must risk them; some silences must be sung into or subverted with silence; some bombs laughed at even as they fall around us.” We pray for the soonest possible end to this war and for the Ukrainian people.
In the meantime, there is singing by authors new and returning to our pages. We have made it a tradition to publish the lecture given in honor of our annual winner of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American poetry, and in this issue, you’ll find Phillip B. Williams’s essay on the work of honoree Vievee Francis, who has also given us five new poems to share with you. Also making their first appearance in the Review’s pages are fiction writers Sarah Harshbarger, Cherline Bazile, Sara Freeman, and Ashley Wurzbacher. Spring marks a return, and we welcome back some of our favorite authors: Carl Phillips, with an essay from his upcoming essay collection, My Trade is Mystery, plus fiction from Lisa Taddeo—her story collection, Ghost Lover, publishes in June—along with poetry from Matthew Olzmann, Michael Prior, and Erin Adair-Hodges. The issue is anchored by Garth Greenwell’s craft essay: a brilliant meditation on a single sentence from Raven Leilani’s remarkable debut novel Luster.
Enjoy the issue. Keep the people of Ukraine close to your hearts. Hopefully, very soon, the only sound they’ll wake to is birdsong.