Editor's Introduction

S. Tremaine Nelson

We’re now five issues into the “new” Northwest Review and many friends and readers have asked: how is it going? I usually say the same thing, no matter who’s asking the question: amazing. This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We started two weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic and the trapped, anxious energy of the past two years has found an outlet in our pages. Many of us volunteering to make this journal have never met each other. Some of us have all met someone, but none of us have met everyone–we share a belief in the power of literature and the printed page.

In the past few weeks, I learned that the poem “Hair Sestina” by Alexis Sears (published in our Spring 2021 issue) was selected for inclusion in the 2022 Best American Poetry Series. News of that award felt like our call up to the major leagues. Our work will now share a table of contents with, presumably, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, and many other guardians of poetry. For our poets, that means that Northwest Review is now providing a platform for poetry to be read and shared with a national readership; and that is a fundamental element of our project: promoting our writers and artists so that their work can connect with readers and viewers anywhere literature is read and discussed.

We have done all this with an operating budget of less than $9,000 annually.

Our current issue marks the first collection of translation curated by our new translation editor Jesse Lee Kercheval. As professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Jesse Lee was introduced to me by my friend Scott Korb, director of the Pacific University MFA program. With Jesse Lee on staff, we’re now pleased to be publishing work originally written in Persian, Swedish, Slovak, Spanish, and Mapudungun. If translation is the first step towards diplomacy, and diplomacy is the first step towards peace, then we can argue, safely, that translation can help us avoid conflict and safeguard peace.

This issue is our first with house illustrations provided by our senior editor Verena Raban. Verena has contributed work to every issue so far since joining us last year. The small images feature plants native to the Pacific Northwest, including: Oregon Grape, Red Columbine, Red Huckleberry, Vine Maple, Western Hemlock, Western Trillium, and Western Wallflower. I love them.

You may also notice that we’ve added some color pages into this issue. The two essays selected by Dr. Brian Michael Murphy mark a subtle shift in what we’re looking to accept. If the images elevate their stories with color, we’re eager to publish them, even as our journal’s aesthetic remains mostly the humble black and white analog style we’ve adhered to so far. We’re open-minded, curious, protean.

Lastly, if you’d like to know the true story of the 2020 George Floyd protests that took place in Portland, consider viewing the work of our cover photographer Josué Rivas. He documented the entire Burnside Bridge “die in,” where thousands of Portlanders pretended to die, lying prostrate and motionless, on the city’s primary thoroughfare in solidarity with protestors around the country. Imagine thousands of people pretending to die in the middle of Union Square or Dupont Circle or Faneuil Hall–that happened in Portland and Josué Rivas documented the entire experience with film.

Visit and follow his work @josue_foto and indigena.io.

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.