When we (the members of the intern team) first endeavored to identify a theme for the 60th Anniversary issue, we came up with the idea of “Writers Respond”—responding to the times, their environments, major events, etc. It is a popularly held notion that all literature—and for all intents and purposes, creations in general—is a response to something else, some stimulus that provokes instincts and urges that can, for whatever reason, only be expressed through writing.
We took that idea and ran with it. The pieces we include in this volume are responsive. Whether they are caricatures of inherent societal elements, critical commentaries on absurd cultural phenomena, or meditations on the nature of existence itself, these pieces embody what we believe to be posits in a lifetime-long conversation about the human experience.
Though these pieces are by no means a representation of every single person’s perspective, the unique viewpoints they present help us to piece together a larger picture of humanity and its history—something composed of, shaped, and colored by the experiences of each individual. Contextualized by their respective times, these pieces stand out as representative of things that are transcendent of time and culture: need for stability in tumultuous times, perseverance in the face of adversity, the formation of a solid identity, the pursuit of answers to challenging questions.
As an international literary magazine, TLR is concerned with capturing a breadth of perspectives. We seek to accumulate so many lenses through which to see the world, we can create a kaleidoscope—an ever-changing tessellation of smaller reflections, disorienting and captivating yet simultaneously transparent.
The dying gasp of the 1970s, and the 1980s that they ushered in, have always remained one of the most chaotic decades of the 20th century. This was a time of collapsing empire and major upheaval, not only abroad but also in America, where the country left the peanut farm behind to embrace the movie star. For my contribution to this project of “Writers Respond,” I felt it most pertinent to avoid the American-centric sphere. Initially, every last one of my selected pieces were either translated from a different language or originated overseas, and while that vision was not able to be completed in full, this theme still stands.
This time of change can be expressed by the personal to the cataclysmic. I thought it best to focus on the average person, the bystander of the time, rather than any true decision maker. When one considers places and events, it isn’t often through the lens of the civilian; in a modern view we often don’t consider the plight of the journalist or the simple file clerk but the names of leaders and events. I had hoped to subvert that with my selections.
In these poems and stories, dictators are parodied, bureaucracy is undermined, and the inevitability of mortality is questioned. In this time more than ever, I feel it is important that we as a nation keep our eyes open to the international world. These were not American decades; these were world decades with actions and consequences that affected us all. To condense the 1980s into simply the age of Reagan and Gorbachev is to do them a vast disservice; this was a time in which the world confronted its own collective troubles from the juntas in South America to the pains of the shifting Middle East and the far corners of Eastern Europe. It was my pleasure to find the entries that I felt best represented this decade, as I hope it will be your pleasure to read them.
—Matthew College, Archive Years 1977–1987
When I first began interning at TLR I never believed I would be given the opportunity to do more than the generic duties one would expect of the lowly, unpaid, and inexperienced. I pictured days devoted to archiving, making coffee, reading submissions, and hunting down the Twitter accounts of our more social media–minded contributors, days full of boredom or at least a sort of mind-numbing stasis, and was surprised and thrilled to be tasked with designing a whole issue in conjunction with the other interns and under the clear, if not at times quirky, guidance of Minna Zallman Proctor. The process was slow-going at first. None of us really knew what to do and, in those first weeks, we still doubted the importance of our input, the legitimacy of our responsibility to the issue. We settled on a theme to help us sort through sixty years of 240 issues, yet we redefined that theme as we went along, as the history of TLR, its evolution and our place within that evolution, made itself clearer to us. I suppose the whole journey of putting together this issue can be seen as an exercise in redefinition. First I, and the other interns as well, came to reimagine our roles within TLR and what we could offer. Then, we conceived and reconceived the issue until finally it grew into what it is today.
Each intern can describe what “Writers Respond” means to him or her in a hundred ways. For me, the act of responding necessarily implies a dialogue. The dialogue featured here can either be seen within the framework of the work’s original conception or recontextualized, redefined, to meet the needs of our modern lives. These writers make statements, ask questions, rebut arguments, and tell stories. They eschew absolutes and instead invite their readers to reply to what they have made. However, a response need not solely be understood in terms of language. Humans respond emotionally as well, and anyone who has tried their hand at writing can attest to the difficulties of bringing emotion into the imperfect world of language. With this in mind, “Writers Respond” is also a testament to the human heart. There is bravery here, and vulnerability. Humor, too, and fear. There are things we can all respond to whether it be with words or with silence.
Becoming an intern at TLR was not initially my idea; my professor recommended that I apply, thinking that it would be a good experience for me. She saw how I responded and critiqued during workshop sessions and believed that TLR would be a good place for me to learn more. I have to say that I doubted her judgment of me, but I chose to apply anyway, and I am so glad that I did. Never in my life would I have expected that I would be directly involved in the creation of such a milestone edition; I couldn’t be more thankful to that professor now. I also found it interesting that our central theme for this anniversary issue would be “Writer’s Respond.” Strange that the reason I decided to work at TLR also happens to be what I’m doing here. Life tends to make those weird connections.
This whole idea of response has been present in my mind as of late. Life as a college student introduces you to so many different facets of the world that you are nearly forced to react to, form an opinion on, or just confront. Even on smaller scales, classrooms allow you an area to respond in a variety of media. As a writer, I am charged with responding to the workings of other student’s minds, how they think, how they create characters, how they write a particular scene. On top of that, I need to verbalize my reactions in a way that is constructive, understandable, and direct.
That mindset of concision made its way into my working on this issue. Many of the pieces I selected have very clear-cut meanings and reactions. The great thing about them is that they focus on subjects that can’t be left to the imagination; they are about experiences we all know, can react to, or perhaps even respond to, in differing ways. If there is one thing I have learned from university life and my time at TLR, it is that experiences are shared, but that doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same way about them. There is much to learn from the reaction of others, and I hope these pieces give you something to ponder.