Editor’s Note

Scenes of a Past and Unknown Future

I once played a game of duck, duck, goose with the distinguished circle of authors Linda Gregerson, Garth Greenwell, Edward Hirsch, Ilya Kaminsky, and Elizabeth Kostova. I should add that we weren’t preschoolers at the time. We had pulled off the road when the small bus we were traveling in for a poetry conference had a minor mechanical issue in the Sredna Gora mountains of Bulgaria. We were killing time. This was seven years ago, yet the memory feels much older. It’s one of those scenes that gets spliced into my thoughts now and then, like a frame jump in old silent movies, and with all the bright colors washed out. But it really happened: That’s me tapping Garth’s shoulder and yelling, “Goose!” So why does it sound like someone else’s voice, and why can’t I see my face?

Recently I returned to the Poets & Writers offices in lower Manhattan for a visit. A strange concept, visiting the offices of the organization for which I’ve been working steadily for nearly twenty-three years, apropos of this strange time—possibly near the end of this strange time or, more likely, the beginning of another strange time. The magazine’s editors have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic over two years ago, and we are making plans for a hybrid schedule to return to the office. But at the time of my visit, my office was in a state of suspended animation. The calendar still showing March 2020, the sad plastic cutlery set still in its wrapper, the succulent still reaching for the window. The frame jumped, two years passed. 

“This feeling of time, the shape it takes in our minds, and the way we see it unfolding around us, is what’s known as the timescape, the temporal landscape through which we move,” writes Frank Bures in “The Shape of Time: Planting Words on a Page.” I’m grateful for his words and those of all of this issue’s writers for helping me feel less alone as my film projector flickers. “Everything, in the past couple of years, has gotten flipped around. I’m still dizzy from it. I still think, How did I get here? Where do I belong in this house?” writes Kristen Iskandrian in “What I Deserve: How to Write Like Nobody’s Reading.” It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one stumbling in my reentry into scenes of the pre-pandemic world, memories skipping, questions surfacing: Wait, who am I again? Where’s my place? I hope you find in this issue much to remind you that, among all the possible answers to those questions, one is paramount: I am a writer among writers.