During Stalin’s rule, poet Anna Akhmatova memorized her poems because she was afraid to commit them to paper. The written poem was evidence of a crime—the insistence on thinking and feeling for herself. To write joy in a time of fear is an act of resistance and repudiation.
Norah Priest’s poem, “impressionable,” touches on the sensual, world-creating aspect of love—the joy inherent in discovering a landscape together.
We have made our own breathless stratosphere
I love the combination of decay and marvel—love how joy relinquishes old vistas for the breath of a new one.
To the extent that joy is an act of perception, it remains as unique and individual as the human who feels it. There is no official joy. There is no joy that can be droned into us. There is only the joy we feel and the joy we choose to create.
As I write this letter, the title of a poem by Adam Zagajewski wanders into my mind: “Try to praise the mutilated world.” I offer my sincere gratitude to all the writers who submitted their take on joy for this themed issue. It takes courage to say life is beautiful—and wonder to insist on gratitude for a pen, a notebook, and a literary journal.
I leave you with a few lines from one of my favorite Ani DiFranco songs—and joy. And joy. And joy.
I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
Guest Editor’s Spotlight:
Impressionable by Norah Priest