|From the Guest Editor
Working closely with senior editors Mary Troy, David Carkeet and Howard Schwartz, founding editor Steve Schreiner introduced the first issue of Natural Bridge in 1999. Since his purpose was to find and publish work that entertained and delighted as it revealed some basic human truth, he wanted the journal to remain flexible and open to diverse kinds of writing. Each of the first nine issues fulfilled admirably the mandate of the founding editor, and Natural Bridge has established itself as a lively literary journal, reaching writers and readers all over the U.S. and in Europe.
When asked to serve as guest editor for issue 10, I readily accepted and welcomed the opportunity to offer my ideas and to introduce a different group of writers to the readers of Natural Bridge. Since I’ve had a relationship with Natural Bridge as a contributing author and a reader/subscriber that dates back to the first issue, I felt I had a handle on how to remain true to the vision of the senior editors and true to my own vision.
My staff for issue 10 of Natural Bridge included co-editor Amy Debrecht, Eve Jones, Bob Lowes, Rebecca Pastor, Rebecca Qualls, Ryan Crider, Linda DiMeo Lowman, Ron Hughes and Jason Rizos—with the exception of Rebecca Qualls, all writers in the M.F.A. program. Like most literary journals, Natural Bridge is a labor of love—each issue representing hundreds of hours of labor by a handful of dedicated people, and together we scrutinized about 3,000 poems, stories and personal essays. Our process of selection was democratic, each of us having a vote and equal say. Each piece that was chosen went through numerous rounds of readings and discussion.
The process would seem to be simple: Choose the best work. As a writer and reader, that’s what I demand, the best work, but as an editor how does one make that decision? What criteria do you use to make that judgment? Should the magazine reflect a certain stance toward fiction, poetry and essay or should it be a true miscellany, representing any and all points of view? Is the second approach even possible?
Over time the criteria for decision-making became clearer. The work had to move us so deeply that it would remain fresh in our minds long after reading it. The poem, story or essay had to haunt the depths of the reader’s imagination through powerful writing, and the power should have its source in the charged interaction of form and content.
As we read and reread the submissions—solicited and unsolicited—we built a base, a solid core of pieces. Subsequently, we began to consider how the pieces fit together, and that too played a part in final selections of the magazine. After we accepted several translations of poems by Eastern and Central European poets, we decided to put together a section of translations of poetry from Central and Eastern Europe and solicited work from several translators. Issue 10 features Romanian poet Liliana Ursu, Ukrainian poet Natalka Bilotserkivets, Polish poet Halina Poswiatowska and Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef and several other notable poets. The translators, Tess Gallagher, Adam Sorkin, Dzvinia Orlowski, Sarah Luczaj and Mike Castro did much more than a literal transcription; they found a voice for these poets in English, and gave their work life in another language.
Along with Christopher Noel, Joan Larkin, Cecilia Woloch, Chard deNiord, William Doreski, Jim McKean and Sharon Dolin, writers who have had distinguished publishing careers, this issue includes several emerging writers such as essayist Diane LeBlanc, poet/translator Sarah Luczaj, story writer Sybil Smith, poet/essayist Ken Smith and poet Celia Bland, whose first book of poems is coming out next winter.
The editors of Natural Bridge have committed themselves to remaining open to all writers, so I felt it was important not to just solicit work for this issue. About one-quarter of the work that made it into issue 10 was solicited. The rest came to us through the regular submission channels. Of course, no selection process is error free, and we rejected many fine pieces that could have gone in to the issue, but that’s a given.
When I read a literary magazine, I love to discover pieces that make me a fan, hungry to read more by a particular writer. If you feel the same way, you’ll find this issue more than rewarding.