Editors’ Note

It is the nature of literary journals to gesture towards the social. That’s never been clearer to me than it has over the flurry of these past months, beginning with the assembly of all sixty contributors’ work for this new Issue (5). As editor of Annulet I have lately encountered, initiated, and received invitations, missives, advice, conversation, and support for the work that the journal has published so far. Each one gladdens me (often beyond what I can express at the time), and I am something even more than grateful for it all. Such attention has encouraged me to take a few exciting first steps towards broadening Annulet as an organization, which I’ll describe in this note, alongside preparing you, as I believe an Editor’s Note should most of all, to become a reader of this latest issue. Issue (5) bears the fruit of many different conversations, and much of the work is either the result of, or considers, friendship itself. 

You also might have noticed that this editors’ note is titled in the possessive plural. Kelly Krumrie graciously undertook, in her capacity as Contributing Editor, the project of bringing into focus the presence of fiction in Annulet’s purview, and has a snippet to add regarding this issue’s Fiction Folio:

In assembling this folio, I kept at the front of my mind two things: 1) this phrase from the call, which I borrowed from the general submissions statement for Annulet: "short stories and excerpts from longer works whose sentences stretch toward, or must be parsed as or with, poetics," and 2) this phrase from the "about" page for Annulet: "an annulet is chiefly a little ring." "Chiefly a little ring" has a nice ring to it, a Steinian quality, too, and one that resonates with short-form prose for me: stories that are like the single ring of a bell that you stay with until you can't hear it any more. It doesn't last very long, but something in you picks up the hum. With that: repetition, brevity. The two critical works in this folio do this also in their form and for the works they explicate. All of pieces I've selected here stretch toward one another, can perhaps parse one another, and resonate with one another: echoes occur within the folio itself. That made it, the folio, like a little ring for me. I suppose—the folio shaped itself, drew a thin line around.

In addition to Kelly’s efforts, for which I thank her sincerely, I’d also like to highlight the insight and labor provided by Jonathan Gharraie, who reviewed submissions often at a moment’s notice, and had a strong hand in editing many of Issue (5)’s reviews and essays (and my own edits, too). I’m also happy to share that Annulet’s masthead, which deliberately stays contained to a few essential actors, has expanded to include two Critics-at-Large: Darcie Dennigan and V. Joshua Adams. Now we have the structured pleasure of looking forward to looking forward to each critic regularly contributing their distinctive thinking to our future issues. 

I was directed, in correspondence with another friend that Annulet has brought my way, to George Hitchcock (1914-2010), the editor of the influential mid-twentieth century American literary journal Kayak, as an editorial-intellectual figure of interest. He was often described as a West Coast iconoclast in the DIY spirit of William Morris, a kind of one-man literary engine. He wrote, in his contribution on Kayak to the Fall 1978 special issue of TriQuarterly: “The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History,” (which itself clocks in at a now-unimaginable 750 pages for a print journal issue), about the role of the editor, finding/avoiding financial support (he was apparently given funding for Kayak by the National Endowment for the Arts without even applying...twice), outlining in his terms what an editor and a journal should do. And it turns out that much of the project of editing a journal hasn’t changed in the near-sixty years of literary culture that’s elapsed betwen Kayak and Annulet’s beginnings. “Far too many editors or quasi editors lack the courage of their convictions,” he observed in a tone familiar to anyone who feels the twinge of aesthetic preference. “Many go into little-magazine editing with the psychology of correspondents of a Pen Pal Club or a society of clock collectors: they want to get letters; they want to be liked. A mistake.” But it’s not a total dismissal, and here’s the important part, at least to me:

An editor who is also publisher, and thus undertakes complete responsibility for all aspects of his magazine, should, I think, have first of all a responsibility to himself—that is, to please himself and to meet his own highest artistic standards. His second responsibility, I should like to argue, is to his readership, not to an amorphous, anonymous “public” but to a readership made up of individuals, with each of whom the editor can envisage an enjoyable conversation.

I disagree with him a little on the first point (and I imagine this essay is but a glimpse into his sometimes distasteful brand of spicy)—first, that a magazine is the expression of a single editor’s selfish pleasure, and also that magazines should avoid seeming like a book club, or having a “Pen Pal Society” approach to their readership—though I see his point about not getting clammy or cozy about it. But there is something to making decisions about what is published in one’s own magazine that interests me in what he’s getting at. In fact, I believe that a balanced sociality between reader, writer, and editor is the kernel of literary journals’ work that serves a purpose beyond seeking company in a pandemic-limited landscape, but also works against a greater tide of cultural and political atomization. Not all solidarity is friendship (rightfully so), but all real friendship is a kind of solidarity. 

To this end, I have been exploring ways to formalize Annulet’s operations. While knowing there is no perfect model for collectivity or corporation, especially where money is concerned, I have recently filed articles of incorporation so that Annulet will become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization by the end of the year. I share this behind-the-scenes activity in detail because it is important to me that knowledge isn’t inadvertently guarded by a glossy professional veneer. My gratitude also goes out to those publishing industry experts who have lent to me their confidence and insight as Annulet takes this next step, which lays the foundation for a long-term and longtime dream for Annulet to one day publish books, alongside issues of the journal. Though I want to emphasize that the journal is as essential as any new channel of Annulet activity—it is, as I see it, literary-spiritual bread and butter.

Annulet Editions came into being in the living room of a storied green house occluded by honeysuckle hedges nearly treeline high, if memory serves, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I realized this was true as Cody-Rose Clevidence and I were shifting between talk and focus as we hastily hand-bound the chapbook we co-edited, Gathering Brief Shells By The Sea: Selected Poems by besmilr brigham, the day before TYPO Fest, where we would present our research into and transcription thus far of brigham’s mostly unpublished poetry. It was admittedly a very limited print run of twenty-five which we gave away, and there are no more copies available. But there will be a print run of it again soon. Rather than rush into becoming a full-time small press publisher with next to no money available, I am ensuring that these decisions are informed, funded, certain, and solid. And once nonprofit status is obtained, you better believe a “Donate” link will appear on this site faster than a flicker of heat lightning.

There are two more new initiatives to note: the first, and most imminent if you’re reading this note upon Issue (5)’s early June release, is the Annulet Critical Circle. It is a four person generative literary criticism writing and feedback group that will be held each summer in July, and it is and always will be free to participate upon acceptance. For it, we are especially looking for proposals of Annulet’s essay categories, particularly the garland, and, of course, the annulet. My sense, in developing this idea, is that literary criticism is one of the last modes of writing that one must teach oneself. This workshop-style group will attend to that gap in peer support. To apply to join this summer’s circle, please visit the application page, review the guidelines, and send your materials by June 5th, 11:59 PST.

I’m also pleased to introduce Annulet’s Linkages Lecture Series, for which we are also currently accepting either nominations or proposals. Neither a craft nor a job talk, precisely, these two virtual lectures delivered by the annual Linkages Lecturer over the course of two weeks each fall should draw out the connections between or within their areas of expertise in the realm of poetics, reading, writing, or other literary matters. Interdisciplinary moves may be made within and between each, but both lectures’ core valences must be literary. You can read more about both extensions into the social at links above.

And now to the work of this thrumming new Issue (5). Bevin O’Connor’s annulet on Leslie Scalapino’s “Friendship” takes the form to a hyper-annotated height, perfectly in sync with its subject. By chance it is also listed across from Darcie Dennigan’s writing on Bohumil Hrabal (and his friend Vladmir Boutnik, among other matters, including Bernadette Mayer), in which she articules the contents of a theoretical literary care package she wants, inspired by Hrabal, to send to her friends, and reaches toward transcending, I think, the “embankment of eternity”:

Something about how formative and freaking necessary my writing friendships have been/are… The space their work creates for my own... A plea to these friends to be there, keep being there (hello from Bohumil’s “unrepeatable present”!). All this cruelty and miraculously don’t be bitter. Don’t get used to it. Be the saddest kind of funny. And keep going—if you’re keeping going at all as a writer, artist, you’re going in the right direction…. 

It was also through my research into besmilr brigham’s archive at the Beinecke Library in which I came across her exchanges with none other than George Hitchcock (plus some of his notoriously succinct, if a little cruel, rejection slips), and brigham’s friendship with the poet Sandra Lynn. Their letters describe children, marriage, travel along the southern border, writing poetry. I was compelled to track down Lynn’s only complete collection of verse, I Must Hold These Strangers (Prickly Pear Press, 1980) and have included five of these poems as part of Issue (5). Lynn’s poems anticipate a jangly formal range of what feels again contemporary: a lyric entwinement of ecological awareness and the personally intimate. I extend my thanks to Dave Oliphant, publisher of Prickly Pear Press, for kindly answering my reprint query.

Further, I am pleased to introduce the work, in astonishing essay and poetry both, of John Bosworth, and to be among the first to publish Tahjia Brantley’s enervating poetry, who writes as if directly plugged into the socket of Harryette Mullen’s language-charge. I became aware of John’s thinking on Susan Howe through conversation at Dave’s Fox Head Tavern in Iowa City, when he happened to mention that he’d identified a line Howe lifted from the seventeenth-century Welsh mystical poet, Henry Vaughan (whose spell I had also once fallen under). His essay contributes meaningfully to the richly saturated and ongoing dialogue on Howe’s poetics, particularly her practices of collage. It is also an honor to share an excerpt from Imani Elizabeth Jackson’s forthcoming book, Flag, which will be published by Futurepoem this year. That is a book I have long been waiting to read even before I knew it existed. Bellee Jones-Pierce, in her comparative based mostly on her friend Richie Hofmann’s poem “Blue Anther,” reminds me that the kind of close reading that Annulet values has its origins in early modern poetic code and play, and is a prime example of what it means to hold each other’s work in loving, and actual, rigor. Issue (5) also includes four contributions to our general prose section, which is a welcome uptick. Julie Carr’s section from her longer work The Garden makes its movements through the space of the page’s prism of inquiry into family narratives interlocking with history. Madeleine Crum, Stella Corso, and Aimee Wright Clow each bend their short prose works into shapes only each writer could respectively make. It is a real thrill to be able to publish Kim Hyesoon, translated by Jack Jung, whose works are neither classifiable as poetry or as prose, her note informs us, so they’re cross-listed in our genres as both (which will make both genres “mad”—good!). Matthew Moore tells us, with intimacy and candor, the story of how he came to write his poetry collection The Reckoning of Jeanne d’Antietam, with its deep ties to and seismic rupture with New Critical poetics. Ruby Wang introduces her evocative notion of “ethical postmemory poetics” in her work on Don Mee Choi’s DMZ Colony. Weirdly, Kenyon College and Giorgio Agamben both make double appearances in Issue (5), as do two poems with excalamation points in their titles. Each of the hundred pieces that Annulet offers with this iteration is, in a word, excellent—you have my word on that, too. 

These are all things that would more typically belong in a newsletter, I know, which is another imminent card in Annulet’s deck. It turns out that newsletter services are also contingent on having nonprofit status, as is having an online store, at least cheaply anyway. Bear with me; it’s all happening, as the saying goes. I’d also like to share a happy correction: the titular “unborn daughter” of Contributing Editor Toby Altman’s essay in this issue has recently, in fact, been born: her name is Iris. 

What what I have, and in friendship, 

Alicia Wright