We have just returned to school, or at least I keep telling myself that, and yet it is already October, well into the new school year. Despite the quick passing of the days, the second half of August and all of September did not go unnoticed, as our submissions period opened September 1, with a robust response. My coeditor, Emily Nemens, and I are excited as we continue our preparations and read potential manuscripts for the eightieth anniversary year of The Southern Review.
The anniversary begins with the winter 2015 issue on which we are currently working. As we plan the upcoming year, we have been aiming for each of the issues to be more special and memorable than usual, with features such as art from Ed Ruscha and a tribute to Larry Levis that includes a suite of his unpublished poems and works from writers who were close to or influenced by him. Additionally, we have several readings featuring our contributors scheduled, including panels at the Louisiana Book Festival and the AWP conference, as well as a reading at the Strand bookstore in New York in May.
While we are certainly busy and thrilled with celebrating the journal as it reaches another milestone in publishing, we are also happy and proud of our work on our most recent issue, which has just come out. The autumn issue’s cover presents a striking photograph by Pieter Hugo of a man lying under a tree that looks brutally contorted by wind. Hugo and the three other local and international artists featured in the journal’s insert are part of Prospect New Orleans’s biennial exhibition, P.3: Notes for Now. The biennial is a citywide exhibition that got its start after Hurricane Katrina, and the impact of the lone, battered tree is eerily familiar to those of us who went through the storm.
The table of contents on our website lists how many fantastic writers are featured this season. I will take a moment here to note that this is the first issue in which Emily Nemens has selected all of the prose, and it is an outstanding collection. But, as everyone knows by now, it’s the poetry that always captures my heart. This issue opens with “The Dissection,” a poem from Dean Rader (making his first appearance in our pages) that incorporates ideas of beauty, art, friendship, and anticipation, all unfolding with the familiar mix of tenderness and darkness found in the children’s classic tales of Frog and Toad. I loved this poem immediately when I read it and have to admit that if I didn’t have a six-year-old daughter, I would have never fully appreciated the work for how closely it captures the tone of those stories my daughter and I enjoy reading and snickering to at night.
Charles Rafferty is back in our pages with four new prose poems. Can we ever get enough of Charles Rafferty’s work? I think not. (Back by popular demand, he also reads them in our audio gallery.) Back again, too, is Jill Osier, with her poems, “Postcard,” “Souvenir,” and “Tenby,” whose image of children plucking shells from the sand reminds me of my time living in Wales: the wind and rain and waterfronts always cluttered with small boats and children shoveling sand. Beth Bachmann returns with two compact, imagistic poems, as does Dana Roeser with a ten-page narrative journey that addresses eye surgery, the death of a friend, and the love of horses, among other things.
We also have several poets appearing in the journal for the first time, including James Davis May, whose affection for 1970s TV icon Dennis Weaver won me over in his poem “Duel,” named for the movie starring Weaver. McCloud along with McMillan & Wife and Columbo were staples of my childhood TV viewing. I have fond memories of piling onto the floor of my living room along with my siblings (we had too many kids for everyone to get a seat on the sofa and chairs) to watch these mysteries each week. In “Duel,” May’s speaker is a man confounded by human nature—as exhibited by the driving tendencies of men and women—and how it compares to that of animals, specifically his “good dog.”
And now the time I have allotted myself to write a few words here has expired. I will close so that I might return to editing the winter issue and reading submissions. These days reading feels like a search for shells buried in the sand, shells that once I find I will slip into my pocket for the long walk home.