Welcome to Issue 2.2

A Note From the Editor:

On a bridge over the Rappahannock River runs a train with a whistle that echoes through the town of Fredericksburg on quiet nights, and all nights are quiet here. I read the pieces in this issue to the sound of that train, sometimes in my home but more often on the ghostly glow of a smartphone floating in the night as I sat in an empty playground after midnight or on the front steps of a stranger’s house. Reading has always made me both restless and still. There’s nothing like a piece worth thinking about to make you want to get up and walk, and there’s nothing like the third time you bang into a streetlamp to make you learn that you have to sit while you read, and there’s nothing like a staggeringly poor self-preservation instinct to make you think that the best thing you can do at two in the morning is to go walking until you find a place where you can get back to the text again. For those in central Virginia seeking a truly atmospheric reading environment, who also believe that ghosts probably don’t exist, a few blocks up from the river there’s a Confederate cemetery with no nighttime security and plenty of places to sit. More than once there in the granite shadows of my state’s bloody history, I jotted on the pale underside of my arm the names of the authors in this issue next to a check or a question mark or an exclamation point—notes to be fleshed out and washed off by morning. So to me these pieces we’ve curated here belong forever to Virginia’s late nighttime, to the howl of the early morning freight train somewhere in the distance. Literature never fully escapes the first place you read it.

And at the same time, these pieces belong just as much to the fluorescent glow and broken office chairs of Rappahannock Review editorial meetings. Those pieces existed, lived, breathed when I read them by myself, but their hearts didn’t start pounding until together we spread them between us and asked, “So is this worth it? Is this good?”

We know writing is a shared activity between writer and reader. If it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t publish. We’d restrain ourselves to diaries where we are always perfectly understood. We write to figure out the universe and then to try to get someone else to figure it out in roughly the same way. (And there is nothing like an editorial meeting where you are arguing for your favorite piece and no one else agrees to remind you that none of us are reading the same way.) Maybe nothing inherent lies at the center of existence, sure, but that’s no reason we can’t work together to mock up a working definition. You write it. I read it. Communion.

Yet while I have long understood writing as a communal act (albeit a distinctively antisocial one), it wasn’t until I had the chance to serve as editor that I understood fully how reading was as well. I’ve shared books and debated books and bought third copies of books because my friends weren’t giving back copies one and two; I’ve talked about which bits of poetry I’d tattoo and which I never want to read again, I’ve worn my high school graduation robes to cosplay Harry Potter, and I’ve waited in line at signings with one sweaty hand clutching my book and the other shaking an author’s. But my community of readers was too small. I’d missed the legions between the writer and me, those people in fluorescent rooms with that awesome privilege and responsibility to read everything until they nod their heads solemnly and say, “Yes, this is worth it. Yes, this is good.”

What I am trying to say is this: we’ve spoken before, with every note in the night, with every argument in the day. We editors invoked the hell out of you, our mythic reader. Sometimes you loved things we hated, sometimes you hated things we loved. “But do you think the readers will like this?” we asked each other, as if we weren’t readers ourselves. You had a deft ability to pull out the complementary themes of different pieces, an open-mindedness matched only by your open-heartedness, a kind of tyrannical sainthood that demanded perfection while accepting every piece on its unique merits, within the framework of its intentions.

Here. We think you’ll like these. After all, we like them. We’ll let you get to them, because that is why we’re here. The authors spoke into one tin can and we have the joy of running like twine to the other, to this, to publication, to you, to give you the chance to hear what you can hear. It’s conversation masking as private reflection, and personally I can’t wait for you to continue our chat. 

Sarah Palmer, Editor in Chief