With the holidays seeming a distant memory at this point, we are making final preparations for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference in Washington, D.C., February 8–11. All of us from The Southern Review will be at the conference, eager to talk with both old and future friends, so we encourage you to stop by bookfair booths 608 and 610, where the journal and LSU Press will be. There you can browse our publications and show your support for great literature by taking advantage of the special offers we will have on subscriptions and individual issues. Coeditor and prose editor Emily Nemens, business manager Leslie Green, graduate assistant Kathleen Boland, and I will be at the booth throughout the conference if you’d like to talk shop or just say hello.
Emily and I both have additional events at the conference. Emily will be reading her fiction along with seven other writers as part of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop event at Upshur Street Books (827 Upshur Street NW) on Friday, February 10 at 5:00 pm. I will join journal editors Sumita Chakraborty, George David Clark, and James Smith on the panel, “The Craft of Editing Poetry: Practices and Perspectives from Literary Magazine Editors,” which is moderated by Anna Lena Phillips Bell on Thursday at 9:00 am in room 209ABC, Washington Convention Center, Level Two. I’m looking forward to hearing how other journals work with submissions, edit poetry, and generally shape their publications.
More than anything, though, I enjoy being at AWP because it provides the opportunity to talk with so many writers and readers about literature and what we are doing here at The Southern Review. Our latest issue will be available for sale, as will some recent back issues, and all are filled with great writing. The winter issue shines with a story from previous contributor James Lee Burke. Set primarily in South Louisiana, “The Wild Side of Life” is replete with infidelity, murder, corruption, and oil field workers, all wrapped in snappy dialogue and vivid detail of the Atchafalaya Basin and Gulf Coast. We also have a story from new contributor Qais Akbar Omar that is set in northern Afghanistan. “The Small Statue of Lenin’s Head,” takes place while the town awaits the arrival of the Taliban, and the story brims with the tension of mistrust and fear both among and between neighbors. In addition to these and other stories, we have essays about running, the refugee crisis in Europe, and, from Nicole Cooley, a love she shared with her grandmother for clothes.
And, of course, there is plenty of poetry from writers who are new to our pages as well as previous contributors. Jessica Goodfellow makes her The Southern Review debut and opens the winter issue with three poems from her series about an uncle who died while climbing Denali and whose body was never recovered. Another newcomer to the journal, Joelle Biele, has two poems from her forthcoming book from LSU Press, Tramp, about female hoboes along the rail lines in the early twentieth century. And in “Twelve Pieces of a Concubine,” first-time The Southern Review contributor Aza Pace revisits a tale from Judges, in which a concubine is raped and, as punishment to the men who raped her, is cut into pieces by her owner and distributed throughout Israel. The poem presents retribution: “While the men slept, we sewed her back together,” so that she could return to the living and “haunt / their shattered sleep,” and stresses the importance of telling “her story” so that “she may never die.”
As always, it’s a pleasure to have familiar names return. This season we have poems from David St. John, Wendy Barker, Chloe Honum, Joe Wilkins, Charles Simic, and many others. All of this fine writing is accompanied by Sally Mann’s photographs of Cy Twombly’s studio. Finally, I’ll note, for a midwinter treat that is sure to warm you, visit our audio gallery to hear contributors read their works. I hope you enjoy this season’s offerings and that, if you are attending, we will see you at AWP.