|From the Guest Editor
This new issue of Natural Bridge, coming to you from the MFA Program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was edited from late-August to mid-December 2011. We began our deliberations towards the end of a summer that many considered a scorcher when the air, to recall Harold Brodkey’s memorable description of a St. Louis summer, felt like wet noodles. We ended in a mild week, the temperatures rising and thunderstorms expected, the shops seeming more crowded each day, another year winding down.
Our journal comes to you from one of America’s most notable literary cities where our contemporary writers, many of them notable themselves, write in the shadows of giants: Sara Teasdale, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin, T. S. Eliot, William S. Burroughs, Marianne Moore, and others. In the manner of living and writing, many writers who were raised in St. Louis have made their homes elsewhere while others without connections to the city have found their way here, put down roots, and found the city congenial to the writer’s craft.
Of course, a city like ours, where the great rivers meet, is a natural setting out and stopping off point. Though people no longer travel across the United States by boat to any great degree, most are still attracted to the cities and towns that are strategically placed on riverbanks. Clearly, a river informs the narrative of a town, entering and informing the artist’s imagination. And, the lighted, enticing, and quite mysterious quays call artists to the city. Visitors to St. Louis soon learn that the written word is important and part of the city’s multi-faceted fabric. Today, Natural Bridge is but one of a number of literary journals headquartered in St. Louis and, most nights, you will be able to attend a reading or two in a café, bookstore, or college. We have established writers in our city and many younger writers who are pushing to be heard. In a city at the center of things geographically, we find writers at its core.
This issue of Natural Bridge, like its predecessors, was edited by a bright, astute, and energetic group of MFA students. From August to December, they read hundreds of submissions. Each submission was read by two students and by me, serving as guest editor, and I am certain that we gave each poem, story, essay and translation our honest attention. Those submissions we considered strongest were shared with all of the editors and many long and spirited discussions ensued. I was greatly impressed by the passion that underlined these discussions and by the courtesy that was a constant even when the debates were at their most intense. Often, the tone was lightened by humor. Overall, I had the impression throughout the process that we were enjoying the work and each other’s company. Of course, it is a privilege to be able to spend hours of time reading and discussing creative work, particularly with younger writers. As lovers of writing, we could ask for nothing more. Also, the writing process can be quite solitary and isolating, so this coming together as a group to edit a literary magazine served as a way to connect us with other writers and with the literary world beyond St. Louis.
A great deal of the work we discussed in class was of a high-standard; though, given space and time constraints, we were not able to publish everything we considered well-made. Thanks to all of the writers who submitted work to this issue, and I hope you enjoy these selections as much we do.
We are also delighted to include an interview with Kevin Wilson in this issue. Last year, Mr. Wilson spent a few days on campus as part of our visiting writers’ initiative; he gave a reading and master class and met with our MFA students. He is remembered fondly at UMSL for his warmth and generosity. Kevin Wilson is the author of two well-received works of fiction: The Family Fang: A Novel and Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, a collection of short-fiction.
Natural Bridge is the literary journal of the University of Missouri-St. Louis MFA program. Each issue is compiled by a guest editor and jury of astute graduate students from our writing program. These students are listed as Editorial Assistants on the masthead of the issue, but they worked largely as equals with great dedication and generosity.
– Eamonn Wall, December 12, 2011.