To Our Readers

October 2021

The muse may be thankless, but sometimes life yields opportunities utterly valuable for literary work already underway with such felicity that one feels rewarded by some spirit for one’s earthly toils. In last issue’s letter to the reader, I wrote about friendship as a mode of reading particularly suited for the literary periodical, and it has emerged as a strong theme in this issue. There were already pieces in the hopper, I’ll readily admit, like Edward Hirsch’s essay on Garrett Hongo’s poetics of friendship and family as well as Hasanthika Sirisena’s essay about her radical friendship with the artist Heidi Schwegler. But other work has caught up to us in a way that made the thought of friendship feel like a centripetal force. Larissa Lai submitted a story about what might be called a budding friendship that dramatizes uneasy commerce, a word of both sexual euphemism and commodity fetishism. We were presented with an opportunity to publish an excerpt of Hongo’s new book, The Perfect Sound, which provides a pitch-perfect sounding board for Hirsch’s essay. 

This issue also includes the winner and featured finalists for the 2021 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, whom we warmly congratulate. Their impressive poems remind us how genre helps us make meaning out of the world, especially of the most ineffable matter, like loss and the supernatural. And we have the opportunity to publish keynote addresses by Southern luminaries Allan Gurganus and Minnie Bruce Pratt for the OutWrite literary conference, a yearly event that, as Julie R. Enszer and Elena Gross state in their introduction to our feature, “played a crucial role in defining, expanding, and amplifying LGBTQ literary culture,” particularly through the 1990s. 

From around the office:

• We’re proud to announce the winners of our SoPoCo Emerging Writer Contest, Aria Curtis of Atlanta, Georgia; Sadia Hassan of Oxford, Mississippi; and Tanya Rey of Oakland, California. Their work will be published in our Spring 2022 issue, SoPoCo (for Southern Post-Colonial), which is dedicated to work from and about diasporic communities of the Southeastern United States.

• We will be at AWP in Philadelphia in March! Swing by our booth if you’re there. Say hi, check out our merch, and save on deals.

• We have a few spring events on the horizon:

On 1–2 April, in conjunction with the Lamar Dodd School of Art, we will be hosting an interdisciplinary conference around the theme of misplacement. Visual artists and leading scholars in the fields of art history, literature, media studies, race, and queer theory will present their research at the newly opened Athenaeum. Events will include an exhibition, a keynote address, open studios, and lectures.

On 12 April, we will have a Loraine Williams Poetry Prize double-double reading, featuring the judges and winners of the 2020 and 2021 contests, Ilya Kaminsky, Hannah Perrin King, Arthur Sze, and Mathew Weitman.

Let me take the opportunity to congratulate Douglas Carlson on his retirement from the Review. He has been at the Review for fifteen years, reading and providing editorial guidance on countless manuscripts. When catching up with a friend a couple weeks into my job here, I mentioned, with a bit of astonishment and a heftier bit of pride, that we have the personnel here to engage in substantial editorial exchange more often than not. He (an essayist) quipped, “of course you do, that’s why you kill it on essays year in, year out.” There’s something in the office that Soham and I call “the magic Doug touch.” The best way to get at this auric quality is anecdotally: during a year-end review I commended him on two editorial projects he had been working on at that time, one a short story by an African writer set in his home country and the other an essay about growing up in a Southern Christian household while growing into a queer sense of being. His response: “It’s been great. I know nothing about where they’re coming from. I just listen and help them figure out what they want to say.” In other words, the marked and surprising improvements I saw in these manuscripts are the product of the respective writers’ work and intention, the latter clarified by the former, which was spurred on by Doug’s good ear. It is never a good time to lose Doug, his friendly disposition in the office and his editorial acumen. He’ll be dearly missed, but he deserves it; he’s older than the Review. 

Finally, I must end by saying “Happy Lunar New Year!” especially since my three-year-old son’s favorite song is Abba’s “Tiger.” See you in 2022, and in the Year of the Tiger.



Gerald Maa is a writer, translator, and editor based in Athens, GA.  His poetry and translations have appeared in places such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, and Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China (Copper Canyon, 2011).  His essays have appeared in places such as Criticism, Studies in Romanticism, A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race (University of Georgia, 2015), and The Little Magazine in Contemporary America (University of Chicago, 2015).  Work from his practice of activated writing have been performed and mounted in Los Angeles, New York, and Sweden.  In 2010, he founded The Asian American Literary Review with Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, where he served as editor-in-chief until starting his job at The Georgia Review in August 2019.