Letter from the Editor: Fall 2005: Issue 56

Brenda Miller

As of this writing, we’ve just returned from the annual Associate Writing Programs conference, held this year close to home: just over the border in Vancouver, B.C. Over the course of four hectic days, thousands of writers, teachers, editors, publishers, and students swarmed through the Hyatt and the Fairmont hotels in the downtown core of this vibrant city. The atmosphere at these conferences is one of giddy pleasure, a giddiness that can easily shift into frenetic activity, as you hop from one panel to another, one reading to another, scurrying through the hallways and exclaiming with surprise to meet up unexpectedly with old friends and colleagues. It can be exhausting, even a bit mind-numbing, so it’s important to find a “center,” a place where you can hang out and take measure of what you’ve learned.

For me, this place is always the Bookfair, the pulsing heart of the conference, where hundreds of literary magazines, small presses, and writing programs set up their colorful tables, with bowls of candy set out to entice browsers to stop and chat a while. It’s invigorating to saunter through these aisles and see the denizens of literary publishing alive and well; out in the “real world” we may be an endangered species, but you wouldn’t know it here, with table after table loaded with a cornucopia of books and magazines, all of them offering a hearty feast within their pages.

I’m never happier at these conferences than when the Bellingham Review has a table reserved, and I can stay there—a place of rest and observation amidst the chaos. This year my Managing Editor, Rose Metizen, did an extraordinary job setting up our little haven, and as person after person came up to offer their greetings and congratulations on our 28 years of publishing “literature of palpable quality,” I felt a great deal of pride, certainly, but also a sense of being part of something bigger than any contribution I could ever make myself. The Bellingham Review, like our compatriot journals standing beside us, is nothing more or less than the concerted dedication and generosity of the writers who grace us with their work. This came home to me most strongly at our own event, listed in the program as “A Reading to celebrate the Bellingham Review.” Late in the day on a Thursday afternoon, six stellar writers from our past pages read their work to an appreciative crowd, and for me (there’s no other way to say this) it felt like magic: our magazine literally came to life before my eyes and danced upon the stage.

While I can’t always have the writers in person to incant such a spell, each issue of the magazine holds a sense of the sacred to me. This seems especially apropos of this issue you now hold in your hands. Among our usual congregation of vastly sophisticated poems, stories and essays, you’ll also find three interviews with leading writers of our time: Gretel Ehrlich, Gary Snyder, and David Suzuki. Each of these writers approaches writing as a kind of sanctified act, and as you listen to their voices I hope that you, too, feel blessed.

Enjoy your browsing at our table.