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Letters with the Editors

Responses to letters written to the Editors of ZYZZYVA.

One Year Later: A Message to Our Readers

High resolutionDear Readers,

Today marks an anxious anniversary of sorts—grave for many reasons, but in no small part because we do not yet know the full consequences of the event we’re reflecting on. We cannot know because it is still unfolding and, whatever the effects are, we are still in the middle of it.

One year ago this evening, as the presidential election results rolled in, Oscar and I texted each other. What should we do, I asked? You should write something, Oscar answered. So on November 17, we sent out a letter. We called it the Solidarity Letter, and we hoped it would serve not only as a way of communing with all of you—our friends, colleagues, contributors, and readers—and reaffirming a set of core ideals (equality and dignity for all, freedom of the press, democratic principles), but also as a statement of intent and purpose as we looked to the future.

Ever since the election—without exaggeration, every day for the past year—we’ve been working to create a Resistance Issue, and on December 1st we’ll share it with all of you. As we’ve shaped the issue, we’ve shaped our evolving vision for the journal, too.

It’s our belief a literary journal can and should be engaged with a world in tumult; we can offer both respite from the often vapid noise of a 24-hour news-cycle and relentless partisanship, and, at the same time, invite deeper, more thoughtful engagement with the most urgent questions facing our culture and our country. We believe there is a role for this journal to play in the current environment, and that we can do so without diminishing our commitment to our foundational cause of contemporary art and literature. We believe we can curate a conversation elevated above party loyalty, one that is thoughtful even when it is provocative, which dares to be both idealistic and intellectual, informed as much by poetry as it is by history.

The forthcoming Resistance Issue asks many questions about art, culture, and political engagement, and endeavors to offer a few ideas for consideration. The robust special section is comprised of essays by Troy Jollimore (on how Wallace Shawn’s work illuminates our predicament), Robin Romm (on what Imre Kertész teaches us about art as resistance), T.J. Stiles (on the road we travelled to arrive at this precarious moment), and Andrew Tonkovich (on “free persons” and writing), as well as poetry by Victoria Chang, David Hernandez, Dean Rader, and Ruth Madievsky. Beyond these themed pieces, the issue also includes stories by Kristopher Jansma, Dana Johnson, and Krys Lee; an excerpt from Dorthe Nors’s forthcoming novel; poetry by Judy Halebsky, Bino Realuyo, and Jenny Xie; and a riotous conversation between Matt Sumell and Michelle Latiolais on writing, mentoring, and anger. And it’s all bound up in an exquisitely-crafted, illustrated cover by Josh Korwin—a piece of art in and of itself; one evocative of these strange times.

Please join us as a subscriber and guarantee yourself a copy of this landmark issue of ZYZZYVA. We hope you’ll take part in the community and conversation we’re striving to curate.

Yours in solidarity,

Laura

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The 100th Issue: Letter from the Editors

We don’t normally reprint letters from the editor here, but on the eve of Issue No. 100’s publication date, we’d like to share with you our thoughts about the journal—why we think the work is important (and why its print format is essential), and where we hope to take it. 

Dear Readers,

Ours is an era of profligate noise. Content and images clamor for our attention at every turn, in every medium. Opinion masquerades as information; information floods our senses. Distractions abound. The cacophony is merciless, and rapid fire.

At times it seems a literary journal may be hopelessly out of step with contemporary culture. It is a radically unhip project; a gentle kind of counter-cultural movement. Yet our endeavor here at ZYZZYVA answers an urgent need in this time and place—and here in San Francisco, at the relentlessly energetic heart of technological innovation, we have a distinct perspective on that need. We risk becoming strangers to ourselves amid this noise. It is all too easy, too seductive, to succumb to a perpetually distracted state. We need a space for quiet, for reflection. We need room to recognize what is meaningful, to linger for a moment in quietude, in sadness, in uncertainty, in joy.

From our offices in downtown San Francisco, we believe we are producing a literary journal that provides such a space. Since we started in 1985, our offices have moved from one city locale to another, but our view on the world has always been, and will remain, a distinctly San Franciscan perspective. Fueled by all that our greatly diverse, culturally driven city has to offer—an international yet American community; a place of wealth and prospects as well as poverty and despondency; a marvel of natural beauty and a landscape of urban grit; comical and heart-rending, imperiled and brave—we embrace our mission: to publish art and literature that speaks to the deepest wells of life’s struggle and joy, that acknowledges the mysteries of existence and sifts for glorious moments of revelation.

So now, at 100 issues in, having persevered through many a difficult time and many a close call, our hope is to keep this journal thriving and vibrant for as long as we can. With your help, we will continue the project that our founding editor’s vision and labor began, and honor this unique institution, the inimitable publication that introduced readers to Haruki Murakami and Jim Gavin; the journal of Richard Diebenkorn and Sandow Birk; of Kay Ryan and Sherman Alexie, Raymond Carver and Adam Johnson, Wanda Coleman and Elizabeth Spencer.

In an environment crowded with dazzling and questionable new technologies, ZYZZYVA asserts the cerebral and tactile pleasures of reading, of holding a well-bound book in your hands, of losing—and finding—yourself in the pages of a story. We value the technology of print and the way words on a page remove us, if just for a moment, from more immediate interaction with the rest of the world, allowing an incomparable depth of concentration.

We assert the value of the solitary reader, communing with humanity through text, through literature; and we will continue to do our part in fostering a culture that brings writers and readers together, to convene in the same room and share ideas.

We hope you will join us in celebrating 100 issues of preeminent and daring literary publishing, of Pulitzer winners and poet laureates, of the finest contemporary minds and astonishing raw talent, and twenty-nine years of cultivating a cultural community around the arts and letters.

Yours,

Laura Cogan and Oscar Villalon

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