Editor's Note

The Components of Hopeful Lives

During the final weeks of production on this, our seventh annual Inspiration Issue, as I and the other editors carefully prodded and polished these articles, then relished the themes that emerged—some gently pulled to the surface through the process of revision, others rising unbidden from the quiet spaces between each author’s words—it was impossible (and it would have been unconscionable) to ignore the violence erupting in Paris; in Raqqa, Syria; in Bamako, Mali; and in so many other places far and near. These bloody scenes inspired nothing but anger, fear, and distrust. But here we were—the staff and contributors to this magazine, in our homes and offices located all across the country; in New York City and San Francisco; Iowa City and Saint Louis; Minneapolis and Dallas; Lincoln, Nebraska, and Columbus, Ohio—all taking great care in our attempts to articulate a mysterious aspect of the imagination, or a moment of realization in the simple act of creation, or the stunning power of a well-written idea.

“We tell stories and write poems...to keep awe and aspiration and comprehension and the other components of hopeful lives bright in each other’s hearts,” writes Barry Lopez in the opening article of our special section, Inspiration: The Flow of Creativity and the Feeling of Time. “Storytelling is how we’re moved to take care of each other when we recognize how extremely thin the veneer of civilization we cherish is, and how very hard it is to keep that veneer from shredding in the wind.” There have been too many times in recent years when that veneer seems to have blown away all together, and in those instances I’ve found in the poems, stories, and essays that cross my desk every day a measure of sanity, humanity, and hope. It is something sorely missing in the rants and reports of those who are less careful and precise with their words.

It’s a New Year: There will be unexpected challenges and setbacks, fresh goals and accomplishments. No matter what we encounter, let’s remember what is happening when we write and share our work. Whether thousands, hundreds, or dozens of people might read what we’ve written, or even if we reach just one single soul, we are being given an opportunity to create something bright in all this darkness. Shine.

Kevin Larimer