Long Time Coming | Editor, William Jensen
Putting out a literary journal isn’t easy. But then, as the saying goes, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. Some of best things about being an editor is getting to discover great voices. It is an honor to give emerging writers, poets, and scholars their first publication. It has been a joy watching their careers blossom. At times I feel like a proud father for all the people of letters we’ve published since I’ve been here at Southwestern American Literature.
Of course, it isn’t always sunshine, lollipops, and yippee-whacky-fun time. There’s a lot of drudgery. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. For every golden story, there’s a dozen submissions that are, to be frank, painful to read. There are clichéd plots, childish poetry, arrogant essays, and there are pieces that are just strange. People have sent us selfies, harassing e-mails, flippant replies to rejections. It has gotten weird. I won’t dwell too much on this. It’s a subjective business. And just because we may not be the right home for one piece, it doesn’t mean another publication won’t sing its praises. But then, even after selecting the best stuff, comes the editing and the layout, the correspondence, then the galleys, and finally we get the journal and mail them out so fine readers like yourself can hold and enjoy.
This particular issue is pretty late. Apologies. Covid-19 gave us a real beating. A lot of institutions struggled, and we were no different. But, I’m pleased to say we’re still standing. Here, at the Center for the Study of the Southwest, we’ve managed to continue presenting excellent readings, presentations, events, and lectures. Some of the highlights include “Feminist Ferment: Women Brewing Change in Texas,” “Locating Race in Mexican Art, 1750-1850: Indigenous and Black Subjects in the Colonial and early National Periods,” and “Power and Political Theater at the Capitol.” Most of it has had to go online, and we’re all familiar with zoom and learning to keep our microphones on mute. Hopefully, as restrictions continue to lighten, we’ll have more face-to-face events and more in-person interactions. Fingers crossed.
Luckily, this issue of Southwestern American Literature doesn’t require a mask. Maybe some social distancing—read it in a room far from the television. Find a comfy chair if you can. Make sure you have plenty of light. Don’t hurt your eyes. This delayed edition features some amazing poetry by Lucy Griffith, Brian Hendrickson, Janice Whittington, and longtime contributor Larry D. Thomas. These poems tackle ghosts, nature, history, and folklore. We are also proud to bring you a fascinating essay by Caroline Miles titled, “The Nation’s New South: Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, UTRGV’s Vaquero Mascot, and Quarantining National Malaise on the US-Mexico Border.” This article delves into ideas of regionalism and identity with a fascinating take on the roots of the cowboy as well as national trauma. Anyone interested not just in McCarthy but life in the Rio Grande Valley will want to soak up what this important piece of scholarship says. Obviously, we have some reviews, too. I get the chance to review a sun-drenched vampire novel as I take on Rovers by acclaimed writer Richard Lange. Bailey Jo Stephens gives her thoughts on the mystery The Unmasking, and Randi Lynn Tanglen keeps us up to date with film with her review of the Tom Hanks western News of the World.
All our contributors bring something special to these pages. Writing—be it an essay, a review, or a creative form of expression—is hard work. These people of letters have put a lot of toil into their sentences, and I hope seeing their words in print is rewarding. Most of us will never get rich from clanking away at our keyboards. But the accomplishment of a job well done is usually so exciting, that no paycheck or acclaim can replace it. Awards are nice. Big, juicy checks may be even nicer. It’s the feeling of stamping that final period at the end of the final line that has the adrenaline and the dopamine. Here’s a toast to everyone who helped make this issue happen. Every single one of you.
I like to think there are some aspiring writers out there reading this now and are inspired to pick up their pens (or grab their laptops) and create something truly special. Something about their home. About their truth. Their region. And I hope, when they’ve revised it to their heart’s content, that they’ll submit it to us. And maybe, just maybe, if it’s honest and clear, they’ll find themselves right here between the pages of Southwestern American Literature. And that makes all the other work truly worthwhile.