Welcome to Issue 71 of the Bellingham Review, our fifth annual online Fall issue, the second published on our new website, and the first released under the leadership of new editor-in-chief, Susanne Paola Antonetta. Inside, you’ll find an exquisite collection of prose and poetry from 17 different contributors, as well as photography from David Scherrer, whose Cape Flattery is the cover image, and whom our own Cindy-Lou Holland has had the chance to interview. But though it’s usually the task of the editor’s letter in a literary journal to highlight the work that’s featured within, with this one I’d like to say just a little about what’s not visible here.
Despite the proliferation of platforms for sharing great writing, the rise of digital journals, first book contests, MFAs, self-publishing, cross-media promotion, poems and prose posted straight to Facebook, so much free content, and a few stalwart pay walls, the fundamental task of the writer remains the same. It involves simply a giving of self, a giving of great amounts of time, and a forgetting of how many hours it actually took to craft a work of art which connects across time and space. Forgotten in those hours—and here, with publication, hidden from view—there is so much you will not see. The following is a short sample:
There are the thousands of revisions, pounds of paper, boxes of spent pens. Or forgotten digital drafts: 40, 50 even, saved (just in case) in a folder hidden deep in your Dropbox. Uncountable rejections, all the “retired” work, and the cover letter which your Submittable history shows as having been so hopeful three years ago. Then there are the friends tapped for revision suggestions. The emails unanswered in which you hoped to share your latest work with them. The courage it took to share the first time. The readings to half-empty rooms or in venues where people did not actually come to hear literature. The two (or three) jobs from which you’ve been able to steal but one hour a week with coffee and that same poem which has taken you a year, and might take another. One poem!
But then, there are the joys:
The first full draft. The first person who said she recognized, or sympathized, or felt, or laughed, or nearly cried at this line, at that ending. The feeling of a piece coming together as if by miracle, as if by a force greater than your own hand. The feeling that you might be—strike that—that you are actually getting better. The first not-form rejection. The first useful advice in a not-form rejection. The first time an editor said “it was so close,” and quoted a line of your piece back to you (your piece!), and said “it killed us.” The first time a journal said “yes.”
All of us at the Bellingham Review are writers, writers who know the joys and the long list of sorrows which come from loving and doing this work. In speaking for our group, I’d like to say simply that we are so proud to be publishing this group of excellent writers. As you read Issue 71, even if you can only see the fruits of all their great and hard hours, it is my hope that perhaps here and there, a sense, a feeling of the craft and care within and behind each piece becomes palpable.