Letter from the Editor
Welcome to Triggerfish’s Issue #29! This issue has a lot of returning friends, some long-time and others more recent. One of the things that’s important here for us is to strive to foster a poetic community, not only through publishing individual poets but also through the contributor review process where poets within an issue are reading and commenting on each other’s work, and this includes editor participation (Jared, Massimo and myself) offering reviews as well. To some extent with repeat contributors who continue to submit new work to us, relationships become ongoing. I’m happy to admit–no I’m thrilled–that contributors often return to submit new work. It means they’ve enjoyed previous experiences with us and I find this validating. There’s also another facet, which is that I actually have in-person relationships with some of the folks who are in this issue (including featured artist Diane Corson) because they live close enough geographically and we have not only work-shopped together in person which is how we met, but then we also served together on the board of our state’s poetry association. That actually could be said about three contributors in this issue, which points to a broader network of connections in the larger poetry community. I know what you’re thinking: partiality, poetic nepotism? No, it’s just relationship and awareness of the work being done in your backyard, that’s all, and wanting to share good work with others. Another layer of connection that I find even weirder are the folks published in this issue whom I’ve known as friends for decades, but have never once met in person, like Zeke Sanchez, because we used to work-shop together online at Critical Poet. This actually is not so different a variant as some contributors who’ve submitted work to us over time and we keep publishing, except that Zeke and I have also corresponded closely over many years. To the extent that a journal can be hub for relationship and not just art, we try to do it. This journal can be an excuse to bring people together?! And also, we hope be its own literary and artistic artifact on display offering to a readership a diversity of experience and excellence. This may actually start to sound like I’m bragging, but I don’t mean it that way. What I’m trying to suggest is an attitude and an attempt at openness and hospitality as a goal and methodology. Do we fail sometimes to succeed. Hell yes, but we also try to hold to a standard and live up to it with intentionality. Is art possible without friendship, relationship and connection? Yes. Maybe? It’s possible? Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in prison. Dante and Joyce and so many others wrote in exile. And there are good journals who don’t take the time to offer hospitality but still remain excellent in what they do.
Might art and its practitioners not flourish and thrive even better amongst intentional community? To this I’d say, no question. The idea of an artist as a genius working in a vacuum, apart from others and outside influence is a myth we seem to find attractive. I’m not sure why–because of ego? I doubt it’s possible and I’m not sure it’s desirable even. Even talent and genius need support. As an editor, I’m always on the lookout for fine work either coming in through the submission file or via friends I’m interacting with in poetic community. I’m like a magpie–if I see something shiny, what better than to bring it back curatorially to gather it here into this nest? I get and take great encouragement and support from our editorial board who volunteer a fair bit of their time and energy to Triggerfish and its submissions and contributors.
On a slightly different tack, I know there is always an argument to be made that the purpose of art is to shock and move the reader, hearer, viewer out of a comfort zone and to challenge and instigate self-examination? And there is plenty of that right now. However, I also think there is something to be said and gained from art that makes conversation and offers hospitality. It doesn’t have to be chocolate milk. But maybe beer at a pub near closing, or perhaps even around a dinner table? Or maybe a morning meeting with strong coffee with friends for conversation and hot marionberry scones? Doesn’t have to be light fare or chit chat but neither does it have to be Howl or The Wasteland. Sometimes even a hot chocolate is in order. It just depends on what is required.
I will tell you another story. A colleague from another literary journal and I were discussing a contributor’s poem from this very issue. We had both accepted it around the same time. And we discussed who would get to publish it and have first rights. We both deferred but finally I took it. It also gave us an introduction to each other and what we were doing mission-wise through our literary journals. I discerned that her mission was to be a harbor or haven and offer hospitality to the reader, all the more so now in uncertain and uneasy times. It occurred to me that we are trying to do that here too in our own way with Triggerfish. The other editor’s name is Amanda Marrero and her journal can be found here: https://thefieldguidemagazine.com/. You might enjoy checking it out.
As poets we submit work through Submittable to journals never really sure who reads them out there on the other side, sometimes waiting up to six months to hear back a verdict and gain at best a spot in a journal at some remove and never get any sense of who is seeing or reading our work, or even worse get a kindly but generically warm rejection–we read your work carefully, but upon consideration… One can begin to question what this game we call poetry is really all about. Is it to go through the step of publication, to fill out an acknowledgements page to better your chances for a book manuscript publication? And then do readings on Zoom or in person? And then what? Most of what we do as poets and writers is pretty solitary. Personally I don’t know how poets manage who either aren’t work-shopping locally or online with a group of others or aren’t at least supported through academia and its networks? There are people I imagine with grand trunks working at textile companies in Lisbon like Fernando Pessoa, with no communities or support whatsoever. He at least created a multitude of personas to keep himself company. Even Hopkins had Bridges, and Dickinson had her friends to whom she mailed poems as a kind of news and eccentric’s lifeline of contact. Turns out there are lots of Pessoas. But of course usually we have no idea who or where they are. They might be bringing you your eggs and coffee at the Black Bear Diner, or changing the oil on your car at Jiffy Lube. Perhaps passing you on the street outside the Dollar Tree or sitting next to you on an airplane. Maybe they’re homeschooling their children, or installing the dry-wall for your bathroom remodel or they happen to be Dean of a small university overwhelmed with admin duties. Or possibly God forbid–and this is a longshot–hauling trash at the local dump!? I want these people to send us poems, and some of you do.
I believe there is an undeniably spiritual component to poetry (and, I would even argue, to language itself), and I’m convinced a good internal life of the mind is always a positive thing no matter the specifics and that sometimes a poem can be a tool to tear down something that needs to be torn down in order to make room for a new thing to be built, or perhaps to simply affirm and give voice to thoughts that are strangely familiar you never articulated, or poems just as easily form a bridge–maybe poetry is always a bridge between minds even when it’s job is to bring discomfort or startle us out of complacency.
So again, welcome to the issue!! And Happy New Year! Lift up a glass of something with me to this idealism–in a world made up of suffering this is how we win.