Hope and Beauty, Purpose and Light
The litany of crises and concerns that anyone with an iota of social, political, and environmental awareness is coping with these days needs no repeating here. It is delivered daily through our televisions, phones, radios, newspapers, and computers. It is chanted in the streets. It fills the air above the forests, pushes the oceans ashore. It is inscribed in the darkness above our beds.
This issue of the magazine was put together during another stretch of stressful months by the talented people on the masthead and in the table of contents a few pages back. Nothing I write here can do justice to the creativity and teamwork on display during the production of every issue, but perhaps because this is the last of the year—the majority of which was spent working remotely—I felt it more acutely. A joy. Which is exactly what drives Camille T. Dungy’s approach to the opening feature of our special section on independent publishing. A poet, an essayist, an editor, and a professor at Colorado State University, Dungy converses with five Black editors about the business of bringing new writing into the world—the same world plagued by the calamities I mentioned above. Still, as you’ll read in her very first question, she chooses to begin “with abundance, with joy.” I don’t recall the news cycle on the day I first read those words, but her perspective arrived like a benediction. Lest it be overshadowed in my mind by current events, I asked her to elaborate. “I find it a necessary practice to look for hope, joy, and possibility in most of the situations I encounter,” she replied. “I spend a lot of my life as an environmental writer and thinker, and another large portion of my life as a Black activist and student of American history. There is a lot to be terrified about in these pursuits. So much to be despondent about and frustrated by and so much that infuriates. But I would die a lot sooner than I choose to die if I lived only in the horror of it all. The awful truth would eat me alive, from the inside out. And I will not give that power to what I fight against. I must, as a necessity of my survival, find ways to sustain my own sense of hope, of beauty, of purpose and light. That’s why I want to start with joy. That’s why I am always looking for possibilities, for sources of nourishment and abundance.”
As we enter the final fraught months of this year, let’s try to follow Dungy’s example. Every time we sit down to write: possibility. Every sentence: purpose. Every word: beauty. Thank you for being a writer. Fill this world up.