- Editors’ Notes
I am sitting at my desk (really, a large old laminate table) at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, with quiet Celtic music and Gregorian chants filling the spaces where I work.
I have pushed myself to—or past—the deadline again. Some people I know are astonished, but most are not. As part of my pre-writing procrastination, I took the dog outside in the first bit of snow that was falling, settling on the rock wall and leftover garden stakes. Huge leaves like dinner plates were falling from the 80-foot locust tree up the hill, drifting down slowly and steadily, with a distinct sound as they hit the brown leaves that had dried and curled and accumulated in the last couple of weeks. Any guilt I might have felt about not having raked them has been dissolved by social media, which these days is all about leaving the leaves alone so that insects can overwinter in their hidden crevices, protected and waiting. I tried to nudge the tomato baskets and shriveled stalks out of the frozen ground, the not-ripe fruit still hanging on, but it’s too late.
It’s a time of endings. Not only all the endings that late autumn and early winter bring, but also recent deaths—within six months, first Ned Stuckey-French, long-time review editor for the journal, and then Mike Steinberg, its founding editor, among them—with all the accompanying public acknowledgements as well as the quiet, private grief.
This is the last essay I’ll have under the heading “Editor,” the last issue of Fourth Genre I’ll have curated.
New staff at a different university have already taken over production and publicity, social media and planning for AWP. I’m sad about it right now, [End Page v] mostly because I’m surrounded with losses, with heavy skies and the drying out of all that was supple and green seemingly only two minutes ago. I’ve always been one to move wherever natural cycles take me—to eat and buy, that is, only what’s in season and local, to let an overcast day lead me to curl up in the low light and let a dark mood take me over, to readily descend into grief in the face of losses, trusting in Persephone, in renewal and resurrection, in seasons and spinning gyres and mystery.
I’m handing over the curating of the journal and waiting to find out what comes next, giving myself over to fallow time, waiting for all that happens in the dark and under the ground to make itself known.
Over the past nine years, essays that have appeared in Fourth Genre have been honored and recognized with Pushcart prizes, Notables in Best American Essays, in Best American Travel Writing, and in Best American Science Writing, among others. Essays that first appeared on these pages have then appeared in books and collections that were published by major presses and given national awards. Someone can compile the numbers for these—Ned would usually alert me to them mere hours after they were announced, and he would have quickly sent me the numbers if I asked—but as important as each award and notice is to individual writers, it isn’t what stays with me about shepherding nonfiction into print for Fourth Genre. What I’m remembering and pleased about is the way I was able to set up the editorial processes as a learning lab for undergraduate students in creative writing and in editing and publishing at my university. And I’m proud of the way we worked hard to cultivate conversations and relationships with writers, especially not-yet-published writers, especially LGBTQ+ writers, to get their work into print in the best form possible. The way we made space and time to give substantive feedback to every writer whose work we considered in staff meetings. The way we fostered bits of community among many of the writers we published, through podcast interviews and conversations at the AWP Bookfair, dinners and off-site readings, and multiple friendships.
I may be sad, but I do not regret passing on the care...