|From the Guest EditorMy job as editor of Natural Bridge, a journal of contemporary literature, consists mainly of providing oversight or advice to the other UMSL MFA faculty members who take their turns as guest editors and select work for the book we put out twice a year. I also have the privilege of working with our managing editor, invariably a talented MFA student with a bent toward publishing who does all the real work. I also oversee other of our talented and hard working MFA students, the advanced ones, who serve as assistant editors, readers of all the work submitted. Sometimes, as we did for this issue, we allow MA students to join in the selection process, and they make the job that much more stimulating. Oversight of all those listed above is easy, is fun, is uplifting.
But every fourth semester, I’m given more fun, for it is then I have the privilege of serving as guest editor, and, along with the assistant editors, I read and sort and select from good work submitted by talented and emerging writers. This book, number 29, is not the result of call for a themed issue, but when I look at what we accepted, I see a theme has emerged: Ways we navigate through ourselves to a relative safety. Broad, yes, but not less fascinating for that.It’s no secret that no matter the harm others or outside forces do to us, we can be our worst enemies, can wreak as much or more havoc, often while trying to control our worlds. For as Joe Betz says in the poem, “Summer Almanac,” “…everything we touch/ leaves a mark, like the telescope makers/ taking thumbs to lenses to remove microscopic/ pieces, and the wait after for the glass to cool…”
So we learn to work around ourselves, to improve or deny or ignore the danger we pose, and as many of the writers who give voice and life to the stories and poems and essays in Natural Bridge number 29 tell us, we can find our way through. Wisdom and sense sometimes appear when needed, hang around for a while. The delight in the pieces in this issue, number 29, is in the details, in the amazing ways there are to hurt ourselves–rough sex with clowns at rest areas, envy of an alternate self–and the more amazing ways we survive and even thrive for a time—visiting China with an adopted child, spreading watermelon seeds as homage to a past. These few, of course, are mere samples of the experiences that await the reader of Natural Bridge, number 29.
The publication of this book marks our fifteenth anniversary, number 30 already in production. Each issue has displayed a unique aesthetic arising from the perspectives and choices of different guest editors, assistant editors, and managing editors, but all have been about ways we navigate around and through ourselves, for that is the quandary of being human: we cannot help getting in our own way.
One last thing: I am grateful for the work done over these fifteen years by our managing editors Matthew Schmeer, Angela Hamilton, Ryan Stone, Jason Rizos, Kenneth Harrison, Olivia Ayes, Jamie Nelson, Kenny Squires, Patrick Harned, Kelli Allen, Joseph Grailer, and Lauren Wiser. Many are successful teachers or publishers now. Some have already published award winning books of their own poetry or fiction, but all are writers of high quality with the promise of books, of more books.
— Mary Troy