When entering through the doors of a public building, we look behind us to see if anyone is within a few moments of entering and politely hold the door open. At times, this gesture is automatic, manifesting out of a sense of the other engrained through exposure and experience, through unconscious firings traveling neuro-pathways created by someone long ago holding the door open for us. Other times, there is a moment of conscious thought, as if coming from the voice of social mores, something learned. Either way, the other catches the door and we enter, one after another. The door doesn’t close behind me; it closes behind us.
This is how I envision “we hold the gate open,” Tupelo Quarterly’s tagline. It’s a simple image that evokes our fundamental, human qualities as a synecdoche of the social order. So simple, in fact, that it can be easily glossed over. In the context of the literary and visual arts, I think of an open gate as a symbol of lineage, of those writers and artists whose work we engage with as if it were a kind of invitation through the gates of generation. For me, the work of Wallace Stevens and Susan Howe, Thalia Field and A.R. Ammons have been such invitations (if I may be so brash as to claim these incredible artists as those whose work I see my own work descending from).
In addition to lineage, I see Tupelo Quarterly’s open gate as an image of lingering and re-visitation. The gate is held open and, though it may close behind us, it will remain unlocked. I hope this and future issues will encourage readers to come back to such wonderful pieces as Jane Wong’s “The Act of Killing” or Joanna Ruocco’s “Zeroscape.” And I hope contributors will discover new voices alongside theirs and spend time exploring the pages beyond their own work. Indeed, I don’t see publishing in a literary journal as a box to tick or as a mere line on a vitae; publishing in a literary journal is an act of community and I hope Tupelo Quarterly provides a gathering of such acts.
So, please, follow me in. Read the winner, finalists and semi-finalists of our Poetry Contest. Read the statements of process and influence from the visual artists whose beautiful work is featured. Spend time with our new series, Chapter One, and consider the art of the opening chapter or passage. To my mind, its exploration of beginnings and openness is a new expression of our aesthetic.
Beyond this gate, if you enter, there are others—gate after gate with someone holding them open.