Green Hills Literary Lantern

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Preface to Volume XXX

Welcome to our thirtieth anniversary issue. It all started as a mimeographed classroom project at what was then a JuCo in Trenton Missouri, run by philosophy prof Jack Smith. And very soon indeed it was a hefty volume with a full-color slick cover and a regional, then a national following. Jack and the poetry editor he recruited, Joe Benevento (of what was then Northeast Missouri State University), built an impressive stable of regular contributors, and mentored a generation of writers who went on to big things (but also remembered us!) We never had ad revenue, but there was a certain amount of institutional support, and while grant money was never lush or easily shaken loose, we were able to put together enough from various agencies and angels to bring out our annual issue, and we enjoyed, if we may say so, a solid reputation.

Then, about 2004, a number of forces converged, each of which felt like isolated and personal misfortune at the time, but in retrospect were simply what the grinding gearworks of history looked like from our limited perspective. Temporary retrenchments turned out to be permanent. Cuts that came with expressions of regret and appeals to necessity were declared, in other quarters, to be ideologically purposeful: what business had public universities using public dollars for something as far from workforce development and service to business and industry as … poetry? And so much of it inconsistent with traditional values, hmm?

And of course, it was the beginning of the end of the print era anyhow, that period when those of us who cherished mornings with hundred-and-fifty-year-old mastheads watched venerable publications shut down, one after another. Because the business plan that had sustained the wordtrades since the Enlightenment was no more.

No more.

We had to find a way to do it for free. Bricks without straw.

Truman State offered us server space and an editing platform – it’s what they had, and we were thankful. We continue to enjoy these things – and to be grateful. The writers were never paid, nor were the editors. I’ll let Joe and Jack speak for themselves, but what with reading slush, corresponding with authors (including coaching those, especially the young ones, we won’t even be printing), then the actual editing and proof – it’s hundreds of hours per issue. And no, not a nickel.

So why do something like this, when there’s no money in it?

Part of it’s habit. People in the arts are expected to give away their work in a way that no one presumes for skilled trades or the professions – oh, a carpenter will volunteer skills for Habitat, and a lawyer will represent certain clients and causes pro bono – but they do not, as a regular and normal thing, get startled looks when they even bring up the question of a fee.

Meh, a pure capitalist would simply say “things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. The work of a living artist is generally worth … yeah.” Noting that “exposure,” “networking” and “connection” will not pay the rent on the garrett gets you nowhere.

And we evidently don’t mind, artists and editors, because we keep right on doing it. Someone’s enabling somebody here.

Credo quia absurdum, said Somebody in reference to Something; “I believe it because it makes no sense.” It’s either nonsense or transcendent wisdom. We do this because there’s no money in it. There are plenty of people writing the kind of thing that does make money (and more power to them, may they live long and procreate). There is an element of defiance to it. I leave others to pin down what we might be defying. We simply salute you, happy reader, thirty years into our stubborn refusal to submit.

The small presses, the literary and “little” magazines have always operated outside the logic of profit. And long life to profit as well, nothing against it. It is just not the ultimate ground of existence and value. Perhaps the person you pay to love you will in fact love you; seems unlikely, but it’s not utterly impossible. You’d always wonder, though. Whereas the one who loves you ad can’t get anything out of you? That one really loves you.

So it’s just about providing a space for the act of love which is serious writing.

We welcome in this unprofitable enterprise old friends. No writer has published more with us, given us more unpaid labor, than Karl Harshbarger, and several of David P. Langlinais’ outings with us have subsequently turned up in his multiple collections of short fiction – he went unpaid twice on some of them. David Salner, Gary Fincke and others favor us once again. And there are new voices as well. Chukwukere Nwovike has here his first appearance in an American journal.

For the poetry, we are glad once again to have David Lawrence, Cathy Porter, Lee Slonimsky, Fred Yannantuono and Mark Belair. Tessa McLean gives us the honor of being her first publication.

First time visiting us? You’ll notice there was no admission. We’re paid by having you read us.

Makes no sense, does it?

Love is under no obligation to make sense.

ABD

Kirksville

July 2019

 

 

 

Adam Brooke Davis teaches folklore, medieval studies, writing and linguistics at Truman State University.  He has published fiction, poetry, essays and scholarship, and serves as managing editor of GHLL.