Flush to the brim with poetry and prose, Issue (2) of Annulet is marvelously ornamented and marvelously late. As an editor I am nothing but grateful for the enduring patience from each of its forty-four contributors as this issue finally makes its way into the world, which continues to pose acute challenges that require us all to draw from nearly-tapped stores of resolve. But throughout another year of changed living, the writing in this issue proves that poets, writers, and critics are holding fast to their practice and subjects with all the brilliance and particular flourish that marks the kind of writing I, for one, rely on to keep my own literary spirit sustained. On that second count I am also grateful. Moreover, every piece that’s part of Issue (2) is one I am excited for you to read. And I never say anything that I don’t mean.
Again Annulet puts forward largely poetry, from the long poem to visual poetry and poems in translation, alongside strophic, sculpted prose, reviews which trace with acumen their respective reviewer’s interest in the book at hand, and essays that delve, with true generosity of intellect, into subjects that range from C.T. Salazar’s response to encountering besmilr brigham’s work in their home state of Mississippi, to S. Yarberry’s history of the monostich, to Mary Helen Callier’s annulet, a close hewing to the syncretic transmutations of a lesser known Brigit Pegeen Kelly poem. Joyelle McSweeney reflects, in addition to her poem “Death Styles 8.31,” on her newest poetry sequence that draws from her experience of the writing over the past year: “These poems ask: what is bearable. How does the present tense bear the past, how does it birth the future—and how might we survive that birth.” Writing under the sign of a pandemic inevitably means that much of our writing will openly contend with it. The work in Issue (2) that addresses it directly convinces me that to do so, despite my initial flinch at the word alone, can provide honest company for us even when the reality of this constraint feels altogether too familiar or predictable. Janice Lee and Brenda Iijima’s collaborative novel excerpt takes us back directly to the pandemic’s early days, preserving for our inspection what was so strange about that atmosphere; G.C. Waldrep has taken a serial approach to marking this period in the excerpts from his series “Plague Nights,” a tunneling through time and thought which reminds me that lyric language itself becomes lyric experience, and that we are not alone when we write it or read it.
Perhaps coincidental with the pandemic’s onset, much of the work in Issue (2) borrows from the intimacy of the notebook and proliferating interiority of the diaristic mode, whether in letters, as with Yongyu Chen’s three poems, or Lara Mimosa Montes’ update to Joe Brainard and John Ashbery’s notebook title of the same name. Similarly, Leon Barros’ meditation on José García Vílla, Jared Daniel Fagen’s playfully tetchy dialogue with Gertrude Stein, and Jacqueline Kari’s transformal, irruptive essay on the em dash’s connectivities to disability, memory, and Mina Loy each come from deep reading’s intimate quarters. CL Young’s long poem expands across memory’s detail in grief; Joseph Goosey’s two country-punchy poems talk right to the mind in your ear, akin to C. Violet Eaton’s five poems’ singular tones included here. Vincent James’s novel excerpt addresses you, reader, directly. It’s a range, but this collective manner of work and its variations in Issue (2) feels like a renewed intimacy, or, the intensity of what we’re working with when we’re down, in some way, to the bone. I hope dearly that we’ll all keep on keeping on.
One addition to the categories of work Annulet publishes is an historical essay by the poet Hilda Morley on George Oppen and the backdrop of New York City in his work. It is personal, expressive, and critical, in keeping with the manner of criticism Annulet supports, while also very much of its time. This is most apparent in Morley’s descriptions of class experience and Oppen’s role in relation to it; it is a useful problem to consider as that dynamic is part of Oppen’s own relationship to his work and the people for whom he has compassion. The essay was first printed in a special issue of Ironwood (#26, Fall 1985), a literary journal which published an astonishing roster of poets from 1972 to 1988, the year I was born. I found a copy of its final issue by chance on the bottom shelf of an Iowa City thrift store and wondered at how I hadn’t heard of it. In a year in which we’ve said goodbye to several leading literary journals, or have seen universities continue to threaten, undermine, and undervalue their respective outlets, I have learned and been reminded both that these projects, objects, arrangements of writing and labor (and their afterlives) aren’t always permanent fixtures, but also that new ones do keep coming as others, as we watch forlornly, go.
Finally, if you find yourself intrigued by the idea of writing an annulet, I encourage you to give it a fun, scholarly try and send it our way to review. The more good literary criticism, the merrier, I have heard it said, as surely you have, too.
From my glowing screen to yours,