Editor's Introduction

S. Tremaine Nelson

Welcome to our Winter 2021 issue of Northwest Review. We’re now a full year into our team’s volunteer effort to relaunch this journal, and, well, what a year. A short list of news: global pandemic; night and night of a militarized police force here in Portland, Oregon; Federal occupation by armed soldiers driving unmarked SUVs; historic forest fires slashing through much of the Willamette Valley; the election of a new President and the first woman as Vice President in American history; a murderous attack on the United States Capitol incited by a treasonous President; a second impeachment and acquittal by a Senate controlled by modern heirs to the Jefferson Davis Confederacy. Yes, it’s been quite a year.

Why read poetry, then? If, as Percy Shelley has argued, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the universe: perhaps one of our poets, like Major Jackson or Diannely Antigua, may rewrite the rules of the Western World. We need it. Who among us would dare to raise a hand and say: “This is working,” or “I approve of this world,” or “This is exactly how I want the world to be—for me, for my children, for my children’s children.” No, the ferment of revolution is upon us. You can see it in the graffiti on the streets of Portland, the camps of houseless men, women and children, all of which call to mind the darker images of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 masterpiece “Children of Men.” Yes, time is running out on the old guard. But how will it end? Rage of a people, if channeled into art and language, can sublimate into power, verse, meter, calling out a measured warning, a demand for change.

If you watched the Oregon fires burn, as I did, from the porch of my home, holding my children’s hands as they asked if we were safe, consider Rachel Howard’s incendiary essay “Shaver Lake” on page 19. If you believe, as I do, that translation can lead to diplomacy and peace, consider our interview with Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez on page 34. If you have exhausted every ounce of your endurance in quarantine, consider the artwork of Lee Nowell-Wilson on page 67 and Jorge Vargas on page 45 and know that you’re not alone. And enjoy the minutae of our cover art “Against Forgetting” by Nina Montenegro of The Far Woods collective. On the left, the rings of a tree; on the right, the lines of a fingerpint, as closely related as twins.

Thanks for reading, friends. Stay safe. Stay strong.

—STN

Educated in Tennessee, married young in Alabama, S. Tremaine Nelson is a former poetry reader at The Paris Review and an alumnus of the fiction department of The New Yorker. He is a fourth-generation Oregonian living in Portland, where he was born and raised. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Columbia University MFA program.