Letter from the Editors

Spectators of Fuego

Image: Frances Cannon, "Spectators at Fuego"

Dear Readers,

If you swim in a large body of open water, you may encounter an unexpected undertow. Whether they sweep you out to sea or wash over you in a slow-moving mass, undercurrents are more commonly found in visibly still water. But if you look closely at such water before plunging in, you might catch a faint rippling across the surface or the shadows of a different hue.

“Undercurrents”—our newest issue—is dedicated to those currents of resistance that run contrary to the mass. We feel this focus on social justice is timely for more than one reason—but chief among them is The University of Iowa’s ongoing Just Living initiative—and our title echoes contributing poet Kamal Kumar Tanti’s affirmation that “History plays the undercurrent of my poetry” (translated by Dibyajyoti Sarma).

We’ve turned our pages over to nine writers and ten translators who speak of state censorship (“I chose the shame of a coward / and cut my own larynx”—Chieu Anh Nguyen, translated by Huong Nguyen), of social stigma (an aloof and icy-eyed colleague is spat upon by a “well-dressed, grey-haired man” in Agustín Cadena’s “My Former Colleague,” translated by Patricia Dubrava), of shame (the discovery that no one can be born to a grandmother, and the gaping absence of a father’s name—Angi Máté, translated by Jozefina Komporaly), of a suffocating Eurydice, her throat filling with daily details (Inna Kabysh, translated by Katherine E. Young), of dangerous love (Max Lobe, translated by Elettra Pauletto; Benito Pastoriza Iyodo, translated by Bradley Warren Davis), of a prison of tongueless words (Ahmad Shamlu, translated by Farzad Salamifar and Addie Leak), and of burying martyrs who are heavy (Harris Khalique, translated by Andrea Chapela Saavedra).

We’re also creating our own small undercurrent by opening this issue with a Spanish-language piece (Andrea Chapela Saavedra’s translation of Harris Khalique’s poems). According to the Instituto Cervantes, the U.S.A. is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country, and our own Translation Workshop has certainly been enriched by our ongoing collaboration with The UI’s growing Spanish Creative Writing program.

Our shift toward a visual component carries on in “Undercurrents”—we’ve continued to feature work by local artists on every page. Three of our artists are in residence at The University of Iowa: Cameron York (Printmaking), Naoki Izumo (Studio Arts-Intermedia), and Frances Canon (Printmaking); our cover image, “Imaginary Landscapes Student Demo 20” is by Father Edward Catich, who received a Master of Arts from our own University of Iowa before becoming ordained at a Roman seminary in 1938. We’d like to thank the Catich Gallery at St. Ambrose University for granting us permission to reproduce this work.

“Undercurrents” also marks a parting of sorts as this year’s senior editors—Hodna, Mary, and Patty—set sail for other seas (we have completed our programs). We're proud to have been a part of Exchanges for the last two years and look forward to reading this journal for many more.