Last year at AWP Harvard Review celebrated its twenty-first birthday, and in honor of our maturity we embarked on two new projects. The first, useful though not terribly sexy, was the compilation of an index. There has never been a proper index for Harvard Review, and in the days before JSTOR and other databases there was no way to locate anything except to pull volumes randomly off the shelves until you found whatever it was you were looking for. For years this is what we did. Of course, Google, the Internet, and the databases have changed things, but still we dreamt of a complete and searchable native index all our own. This capacity was one of our primary goals in designing a new website, and very soon now, thanks to our hard-working intern Silvia Golumbeanu, all the data from the back issues will have been added and we will have a searchable database of everything ever published in Harvard Review at harvardreview.org.
Our second project also grows out of a long-term aspiration, this time for an anthology. We began inching toward this goal some years ago with a “From the Archives” feature online which showcases selections from our back issues which are stylistically or thematically linked. One of my favorite entries features a pair of stories about old ladies—as represented by “In the Pines” by Kevin Moffett from HR 34 and “The Hands of Lady Jane Grey” by the New Zealand writer Elizabeth Smither from HR 21. Using these as a starting point, we have compiled a sort of “Ages of Man” anthology: stories and poems of childhood, adolescence, midlife, and old age, to be published as an e-book in 2015.
A funny thing happened as we worked our way through the back issues in search of material for this collection. We found that, although we had a surplus of material for some stages of life, there was almost nothing for others. For example, we found very few poems about childhood, and those mostly from the parents’ point of view. Of adolescents, on the other hand, we have many. We also have a large number of pieces about marriage—but even more about divorce. And, although there are fewer stories about old age than I had imagined, there is an absolute plethora of poems about death.
Whether this means something about our taste here at Harvard Review or something much more general about Fit Subjects for Literature, I could not say. But the process of thinking about writing in this rather narrow way (what age of life is this story or poem about?) has temporarily affected my thinking and I couldn’t help noticing how many pieces about marriage the current issue contains. There is Eileen Pollack’s witty and caustic “Women’s Tissues,” with its portrait of marriage to a charming narcissist; Cate Marvin’s dark and clever “My First Husband Was My Last”; Kathryn Starbuck’s “Where Is My Wife?”—“My husband had a wife. / And I was his. I helped / him when he needed to / die because I was his. / Now where is my wife?”; and, as a sort of kinder, gentler counterpoint to these, Scott Nadelson’s beleagured husband’s tale in “The Measure of a Man.”
Like the website, the anthology has added to our workload here at Harvard Review, and I want to acknowledge the efforts of our acting managing editor, M. R. Branwen, without whose determination the anthology project would still be on the drawing board. I also want to welcome back our visual arts editor, Judith Larsen, after a hiatus. A list of the visual artists appearing in Harvard Review on Judith’s watch speaks for itself: Richard Diebenkorn, Kara Walker, Gerhard Richter, Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois, William Kentridge, Cy Twombly—the list goes on and on. Her wonderful visual imagination and excellent eye, not to mention her incredible attention to detail, have been impossible to replicate in her absence and we are simply thrilled to have her back.