From the Editor
Editing a literary journal is a professional calling, but it is also a labor of love. The editors I know all put in significantly more hours than we are paid to (only a few of us are paid at all) to bring out the best constellations of contemporary work we can find. Different editors have different models in their minds-different metaphorical conceits they use to describe just what they are doing (or trying to do) to themselves and others.
I've long thought of each issue of a literary journal as a conversation: an imbricating panorama of voices. Just as at any party some conversations are more interesting than others, so it is with literary journals, journal by journal, issue by issue. When I was starting out as a poet, I well remember that certain conversations were not, at the time, to my taste. Others enthralled me, but I was content to remain on the edge, a listener and observer. And then there were those that made me desperately want to be part of that particular conversation.
Or not me, per se: my work. I wanted my poems to be talking to those poems, those essays, those short stories. For me, this is still the thrill of seeing a poem of mine in a journal: not seeing my own name in print, but seeing the poem in the context of others' works, seeing how my poem subtly changes (or seems to change) in a new context. Which it to say: how it becomes part of the larger conversation that is literature.
It's common coinage in literary circles today to make fun of just how large a readership most literary journals don't have, beyond a handful of libraries and the contributors' copies that go out with each issue. What has long bothered me, however, is how incoherent, how disconnected some of these conversations seem. One reason for this, I think, has been the move to annual or biannual publication by many journals. It keeps printing and mailing costs down, but it also makes each issue of the journal as an ongoing conversation that much more tenuous.
With that in mind, and with support from our sponsoring institution, we are pleased to announce that as of this fall West Branch is increasing its frequency: from two print issues per year to three, alongside three issues of West Branch Wired, our independent online version. This will enable us to publish more of the work we want to see, the way we want to see it-in conversation with other work we love.
Each year West Branch is pleased to welcome a new associate poetry editor, in the form of Bucknell's new Stadler Fellow. With West Branch 71, Fall 2012, we say goodbye to Diana Park, who has worked on the journal for the past two years. We will miss her! And we welcome Carolina Ebeid, who has just joined us in Lewisburg from Austin, and who will begin reading for West Branch in January. Austin's loss is our gain. We also wish goodbye and hearty best wishes to Caitlin Horrocks, one of our associate fiction editors, who leaves us to become the new fiction editor of The Kenyon Review.
Carolina, continuing Stadler Fellow Jamaal May, managing editor Andrew Ciotola, and our three associate fiction editors (Laura van den Berg, Cam Terwilliger, and Matthew Pitt) all welcome your best work this year. Send us your evidence of wonder.
- September 2013
It's an act of hope to submit work to a journal. We editors, in turn, read with our own hopes: that writers are sending us what they believe to be their best work, that the next piece we read may startle, give us pause, transport us—take off the tops of our heads.
- August 2013
We all have places we want and long to be; as it happens, the place I most want and long to be right now is South Wales. Delightfully, Bucknell University is affording me this opportunity (and many others) as I prepare to go on leave for the 2013–14 school year.
- February 2013
Our editorial staff here at West Branch includes myself as Editor-in-Chief; Andrew Ciotola, our extraordinary (and long-serving) Managing Editor; two undergraduate interns; and-most importantly, for present purposes-six associate editors who play major roles in the process of reading and evaluating manuscripts.
- November 2012
A few interested parties have written over the past month asking, in one form or another, how West Branch operates.
- June 2012
What does it mean, in the world of contemporary American literature, to be an "outsider"?
- March 2012
Each year at AWP, those of us who edit presses or journals compare notes about what we are and aren't seeing in our slush piles, what we are or aren't wanting to see.
- December 2011
As a child, I was terrible with riddles. (As a bright child, I resented my inability to master the form on the form's terms-which only added to my antipathy.) A successful solver of riddles must decode on two levels.
- October 2011
Speaking of translation, some of us suffer from the suspicion that truly great literature is being written somewhere else, by somebody else, in a language we can't read.
- September 2011
It's axiomatic-or should be, and especially in the American poetry of our moment-that in fact there are many poetries, many overlapping constituencies of readers, poets, and poems.