Word and World

A few weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., attending readings and panels, and touring the book fair of the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. The capital was promised snow in the days approaching, but the 2017 conference-goers were gifted (slightly) warmer weather, which made being outside—whether it was to walk with friends to a restaurant or to demonstrate at the White House—imperative.

It was my ninth conference since first attending in 2008, and, in my experience, the most politically attuned. In addition to participating in the usual fare, writers from across the country visited their various representatives, took part in restorative write-a-thons, attended a Candlelight Vigil for Freedom of Expression, and even formed a human wall across the conference book fair in a “unified opposition” against “the human rights violations of the current administration.”

As I introduce the work in Dispatch 3.3, I am remembering the exact moment I heard the chant, “No ban / No wall / Sanctuary for all,” repeated by those who linked arms for fifteen minutes in a “visual demonstration.” I am remembering the moment I looped my arm through another’s to join them, realizing in that instant that I had found a place right next to an old friend—one who I was meeting in person for the very first time. I am remembering the surprised and welcome look we gave as we recognized each other from our social media and author photos. It was, in that moment, in the midst of the conference grounds, exactly where I needed to be.

This weekend, the Facebook “On This Day” feature reminded me that Issue Two of Tongue was released four whole years ago. Exactly a month into our relaunch of the journal as an online literary project, I am remembering fellow editor Mrigaa Sethi’s opening words for Dispatch 3.1: “What a strange time it is to be relaunching Tongue…”

I am remembering now Mark Doty’s words about “the fusion of the word and the world” in The Art of Description and how “when words are tuned to their highest ability…it is possible to feel, at least for a moment, language clicking into place, into a relation with the world that feels seamless and inevitable.”

Readers, I hope wherever you are, these works of image and text, of translator and translation, of city and seraphim, and of fire and first word find you and welcome you back into a world you can recognize.