Last spring, Haitian African-American writer Bryan Byrdlong helped to launch the Spring 2018 issue of Nashville Review by reading poetry to a crowd gathered in a cosmetics shop.
“It’s a poem that tells the story of the transformation of a predominately African-American neighborhood intertwining a story about the poet’s first romantic relationship and his family history,” explains John Shakespear, who co-edits the review with Carlina Duan. “The poem is at once accessible and moving and profound in its criticism. People were rapt at attention – we’re in this very nice, bourgeois store that supports the arts, and Byrdlong was there to talk about the elephant in the room.”
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Over the past 10 years, Nashville Review has published thought-provoking fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, reviews, comics, and art from around the world. Staff have a particular interest in translation thanks to outgoing editor-in-chief Samuel Rutter, who works as a writer and translator – an enthusiasm that the new editors share.
Tone, editorial content
“Nashville Review is committed to publishing a wide range of work that pushes boundaries,” Shakespear says. “We don’t have any sort of restrictions about genre or work; it can be entirely realistic or include fantastical elements.”
The Spring 2018 issue includes a short story by Ben Goldstein titled “Linda’s Cat.” It begins:
“Linda’s cat is not well. The cat, in so many words, has told me this. Linda does not know the cat is not well, but I do. I would tell her, but she wouldn’t understand anyway, so why should I?”
“It’s a wonderful, mysterious piece in which the narrator is never actually named,’ Shakespear says. “The story is based on him following this cat around the city. It’s got this sort of whimsicality, this dream-like quality.”
Contributors to Nashville Review
The same issue includes Sacha Idell’s translation of an excerpt of Japanese writer Kyūsaku Yumeno’s fiction, “Hell In Bottles.” The late Yumeno, well known in Japan, wrote a story about several bottles that washed ashore with letters detailing individual characters’ stories about being trapped on a deserted island. Idell’s translation begins:
To the Institute for Oceanographic Research: I hope this letter finds all of you in good health. In accordance with your instructions, we have been gathering the beer bottles, sealed with red wax, that were released for your research on tidal currents as they wash ashore. On the south coast of the island, however, we discovered three bottles that were sealed with a different material.”
“I love this piece,” Shakespear says. “It’s definitely unconventional.”
The Spring 2018 issue includes Jackie Connelly’s nonfiction piece “20/20,” about the #MeToo movement, and Mackenzie Dwyer’s lyrical “Illnesses and Injuries,” about her disturbing relationship with her father. Thomas Nguyen has a poem, “Bloodline,” in this issue, along with Byrdlong’s poem “,jentrәfә’kāSH(ә)n” about Chicago’s gentrification, which begins:
“This house isn’t a home, isn’t even a house anymore. / A subdivision in the hills, gone, a ghost of its own attic / its green algae siding and white foam columns now only existing / on Instagram and in the crawl space of the mind.”
Advice for potential contributors
As an online magazine, Nashville Review’s archived issues are available for free on the website. Potential contributors can browse eight years of published pieces to get a sense of style and content.
Editors encourage simultaneous submissions, knowing they can respond to a piece within four to five months. They pay contributors and accept a wide range of fiction, prose, and poetry – from flash fiction to novel excerpts, memoir to literary comics, formal to experimental poems. As an online magazine, they also publish links to original songs and to plays, films, dance, and performance art.
And, of course, they look for translations – contemporary pieces that have been published in their original language but aren’t yet available in English.
“We’re really excited to see a wider and wider range of submissions from the U.S. and around the world,” Shakespear says. “Particularly at a time when immigrants in our country are dealing with an increasing precarious nativism linked to the English language, it’s even more important to read works in translation as a way of understanding other cultures and broadening one’s own worldview.”
—Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and the forthcoming The Fiction Fix: Diverse Novels to Help Teens Survive and Thrive (Sasquatch, 2019). Web: melissahart.com.