This week I’d like to highlight the recent release of the latest issue of Salamander! If I’m being honest, it’s still surreal to me be in the position of Editor-in-chief. A literary magazine is a confluence and meeting ground; it is also a lot of work, often in solitude.
I ruminate and say as much in my editor’s note, excerpted in part here:
I have lived and worked in Boston longer under the pandemic than not.
This means, I have edited more issues of Salamander under the pandemic than not. I share these details in order to give an impression of how my experience of Salamander has been framed. The emphasis on survival and perseverance that colors and shapes my personal, teaching, and writing life also has its place in the work represented by these pages. The hours of reading submissions, followed by the hours it takes to organize and order the contents of an issue, and then more hours in front of the computer working out the layout and design, these hours have happened across a wide range of moments of my life. Hours talking and writing with friends and loved ones affected by Covid-19 as well as grieving for those lost; hours of preparing lesson plans and answering emails to students navigating their own unpredictable lives; hours poring over the news for updates about vaccines—these hours all blur together and live around the work put into this issue.
The fraught nature of these hours is one of the reasons I’m excited to share the artwork of Shannon Miguela Dillon. Her piece “Begin Again” featured on our cover struck me right away for its balance of vibrancy and depth. In the colors of the flowers there is a feeling of life and hope, of flourishing. Such sentiments are currently running parallel at the moment in the U.S. as folks think of returning “back to normal.” But under the flowers are the human hands that are a stark contrast in their shades of gray and black. This contrast brings me back to the title, how the flowers feel like they represent the word “begin” and the implied promise it comes with, while the hands represent “again” which has the implication of time and effort. The word “again” reminds me that we have been here before, that life is not new but continuing. This nuance reflects further the nuance of human life. While some are eagerly removing masks and setting aside protocols, others remain vigilant and brace themselves, still living lives of compromise without the privilege of any concept of “normal.”
Dillon’s work is also a celebration of the body and the self, of presence. And really, this is what I am hoping to emphasize in these opening words. By asking that we not forget the lessons of the pandemic—a pandemic that is ongoing and which continues to affect lives in irrevocable ways—that we not forget the power and necessity of protest in the face of systemic racism and oppression, I am asking that we remember what is at stake, that we exercise the search for nuance through art so that we do not miss out on it in ourselves and each other.
Writing such things in my role as EIC, much like my time in the classroom, has me practicing what it means to speak authentically. In the face of the capitalistic framework of literary publishing, I feel it’s important to always underscore the humanity and heart behind the work done. If any of this matters, it’s because we matter–our emotions, trauma, happiness, obsessions, presence, insights–matter.
I encourage y’all to check out the issue. On the site at the moment we have poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston, Alixen Pham, Maria Zoccola, Sarah Marquez, Leila Chatti, and Leah Umansky; a creative nonfiction essay by Andy Smart; fiction by Jake Maynard; as well as reviews and more artwork by Shannon Miguela Dillon. Check out the issue to read more!