Much is being written about diversity in literary journals and magazines. It is a crucial conversation, certainly one worth having again and again. When PANK Magazine asked me to edit their 4th annual Queer Issue, I said yes knowing this was my opportunity to show up on a topic I’ve been more than vocal about. As submissions rolled in, I gave each entry the thoughtfulness I would want an editor to have with my work. A few things started to trouble me, mainly the lack of submissions by queer women, by queer black writers and queer writers of color, by trans-identified people, by queer, disabled writers. I took to my social networks and assured submitters that diverse and experimental submissions were welcomed and wanted. I asked for writing that wrestled the dominant narratives of queer literature.
As I looked over the submissions and began accepting entries, I realized I was curating an edition of PANK comprised of first time PANK contributors. My intentions were not deliberate at the onset, but as I continued to edit the issue, my intentions became clearer and more purposeful. The population that’s most often left out of the diversity conversation is that of the emerging writer.
I don’t want emerging to be synonymous with young or synonymous with the young and credentialed. There is no diversity in literature so long as publishers and editors aren’t willing to introduce new and complicated voices, but especially voices of color, to the conversation. Part of the work of diversifying literature has to be understanding that there are many Black American stories, many Latino stories, many Asian stories, many diasporic stories, many queer identities, stories from a range of genders, scopes and experiences. So long as we continue to publish the same type of writing again and again, the same writers again and again, as if they are the authority on any given experience, we are denying the possibility of story and in doing so, we undo the critical work of those writers.
Surely, there is room for more at the table. Poet and contributor, Ife-Chudeni Oputa says it more gracefully than I ever can in her her poem “After the Hour: 40”
How far does a voice carry when it is muffled
in the nape of a neck? How loud a promise
to kiss the listening backs of walls? Echo,
you uninvited spirit, was this your trick
For PANK Magazine’s 4th Annual Queer Issue, I am introducing sixteen writers who have never before appeared in PANK. For some, this issue is their first publication. Their art is as varied as their backgrounds and the lived experiences that landed them in these pages. They were chosen for their imaginative and inspired work; these are poems and stories that I continued to think about days after I read them. These writers were chosen because their art is the kind that stays with you and lives with you. You make room for this art in your mind and heart. These are writers I want to know as friends.
Part of queering literature is queering the lens with which we look at words. I chose the genre bending, the experimental, the hybrid. Too, there is form poetry, there is the epistolary, there is colloquialism and a range of represented politics because there’s no right way or one way to be queer, express queerness or write queerdom. We want you to ask yourself if you are reading prose or poetry. Fiction or an essay? I want you to look at each selection and ask yourself, what is this? What is it? The sixteen were chosen because they calcified the feeling that encourages me to enter the page wholly, spirited and with wonder. They are a reminder to never forget the music when rendering the line. As contributor Gala Mulakolova reminds us all, cut the cabbage beautifully.
The artwork for Queer 4 comes from visual artist, Dmitry Borshch’s series Exiled from Truth: Nine Allegories.
A very special thanks to PANK Magazine for having me. More thanks to each and every writer who submitted and trusted me with their work.