Robert Stewart, the editor of New Letters, begins this issue with a note on the kind of writing the journal seeks. In his words, “We want writing….that comes out of something.” Writing that is real. That kind of intensity is felt in the opening work of fiction by Andrew Plattner, a short story entitled “A Marriage of Convenience,” where the reader is introduced to two brothers, Marian and Joe, who are bookmakers with, it turns out, enormous hearts. Marian, the older brother and supposedly the tough guy, wonders at one point, “why he was a bookmaker, why he spent so much time in the shadows, why he liked to keep the odds on his side.” Maybe, he wonders, “it wouldn’t find him, all that people lost.” What is so wonderful about this piece is Plattner’s narrative pacing, which makes the ending feel unexpected and exactly right.
The highlight of this issue is an essay by B.H. Fairchild on “A Way of Being: Some Observations on the Ends and Means of Poetry.” He writes that what poetry does is “verbally illuminate being” and does so by “being the thing rather than being about the thing.” Any writer will be inspired by this essay that leaves the reader wondering about the possibilities found in language, its capacity to “reveal the face of Being.”
Mia Leonin embodies rather than describes loss in her poem “Florida Story”; one of the many treats in this issue. She writes, “I unhymned my mother’s plans / unbuckled her tangle-haired clan from my waist // and walked in the only direction, unbuttoning / every dress I had ever worn, touching each hem for the last time.” This issue of New Letters is full of these kinds of moments: writing that comes from something and takes us somewhere.