Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the upcoming issue of Irreantum. (For those who don’t know, Irreantum is AML’s semi-annual literary journal.) I’ve been working through the last-minute details. I’ve been editing bios from our contributors. I’ve been updating information on the copyright page. I’ve been checking headers and footers for typos, and I’m happy to report that I’m thisclose to being finished with the issue.
And at the risk of sounding self congratulatory, I want to say that this issue of Irreantum is fantastic. In it, you’ll find a heartbreaking examination of chronic illness, a powerful essay about basketball and Mormon culture, poetry that will make you laugh, poetry that will make you think, poetry that will feel like prayer. You’ll also find book reviews and a critical essay about Mormonism and genre fiction and a fictionalized fast-paced battle between Mormon missionaries and sex traffickers (seriously). And the art in the issue—images of birds by printmaker Carla Jimison—is stellar.
Below is my editor’s note which begins the issue. I’m including it here in the hopes that it will, at the very least, get you thinking about Irreantum and encourage you to subscribe to the journal.
From the Editor
I live in Rexburg, Idaho—one of the quietest towns I’ve ever seen. Tucked into one corner of a high-mountain desert, we boast just two movie theaters, three grocery stores, a handful of banks, a couple of places to buy clothes, and one Wal-Mart. At roughly ten o’clock on weeknights and at around midnight on weekends, this little village shuts down completely.
After the shut-down, these are things I cannot hear:
- The hum of trucks on a nearby highway.
- The clanking of late-night construction projects.
- The slamming of car doors by neighbors coming and going.
The place, I’m telling you, is quiet. Library quiet. And yet, I am tired—so very tired—of noise. Even in my Idaho hamlet, there seems to be so much of it. And it’s everywhere. Admittedly, I’ve courted much of this noise. I’ve longed for it. Craved it. I’ve even made my fair share of it, and some of it, I deeply cherish. But still, the noise worries me.
There’s early morning noise—the scraping of snow shovels on sidewalks at 6:00a.m., the rumble of school buses zigzagging across town, the loud slap of water jetting out of the showerhead and onto the tiled floor. And there are the anxious cries of children who can’t find their homework, their shoes, their backpacks.
There’s professional noise—the endless back-and-forth between administrators and professors on the college campus where I work, the not-so-whispered hallway arguments, the “grand” philosophical debates, the obviously personal disputes. All over campus, there’s the racket of students in groups trying to talk over students in other groups.
And there are the ringing noises—the incessant beeping of cell phones, the constant (but somehow still surprising) ding that announces the arrival of an email, the digital jingle that accompanies the receipt of a text message.
And there’s the mostly pleasant noise of home. Sometimes at the end of a day, when I’m walking from my car to the front door, I hear my four young children before I even see them. Maybe my twelve-year-old is playing jazz piano, banging out a clumsy 2-5-1 chord progression that drifts into the street. Or maybe my ten-year-old is practicing for his next drum lesson. He might be is his room, wailing on his snare drum and his high-hat while his right foot stomps out a heavy bass beat that can be heard three houses down.
There are, of course, noises that I hate—always. The worst, I’ve discovered, are the noises that I don’t hear out loud. I’m talking about the noises that buzz in my head, the clanging that comes from knowing that even now, as I write these words, a list of tasks is piling up. There are floors to be vacuumed. Papers to be graded. I’m talking about the noise of daily rigor. For me, this noise is always paired with the noise of self-doubt. The noise of insecurity. The noise of internal skeptical voices, endlessly talking.
So much noise. And here is a truth:
I’m afraid of all this noise. Like too much junk food, too much noise is bad for us, and I worry about what the noise is doing to me. No matter how valuable or educational or important or beautiful any of my noise might be, I know that noise takes things from us and that art moves in stillness.
To become artists, we must seek out silence. We must stop the voices in our heads. We must escape the world of beeps and dings and scrapes and chatters if for only a few minutes each day.
That’s not easy in 2013. The noise that comes our way wants our affections. It demands them. More than this, noise wants us to join in—to sit at the piano, to turn on the TV, to crank up the radio, to further the debate.
But artists must want more than these things. We must want a minute to stop and think. A minute to read. A minute to write.
So here is my wish for you:
May you take this little book somewhere quiet. May you find a momentary escape from noise. May you, for a time, still the voices in your head.
And may you sit and read and think.