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Letters from the Editors-in-Chief


Fall 2023 Issue | Grace Marie Liu

Dear Readers,


Writing can be–and often is–a solitary act. Ranging from team sports to performative arts, a great deal of activities necessitate the collaboration of many. In that respect, a writer’s job significantly differs. Of course, writing communities, workshops, and programs are becoming increasingly accessible in the digital age. Nevertheless, as a writer myself, much of my work has been done in solitude: late-night word-vomiting into a Google doc; feverishly cutting, rewriting, and rearranging blocks of text; and poring over a single troublesome line in the wee hours of the morning, one hand buried in a party size bag of shrimp chips. It’s no surprise, then, that loneliness is not uncommon in this particular craft. And the publication world can be incredibly daunting, even as more and more distinct magazines populate the literary scene. 


What makes Polyphony Lit one-of-a-kind, then, is how tightly the concepts of craft and togetherness are entwined. In fact, editors and contributors of Polyphony alike discover that each step of the submission process is anything but solitary–rather, the synergy, or combined efforts and opinions of many, are what lay the foundation of Polyphony. Additionally, while maintaining objectivity is something that Polyphony editors keep in mind, the unique voices and perspectives of each editor shine through in their distinct commentaries and endeavors. Many aspects of writing are done alone, but the tight yet heterogeneous community that Polyphony has fostered is extraordinary. 


Beyond connecting an eclectic group of writers, editors, and readers, Polyphony provides opportunities for personal growth that are scarce elsewhere–and as the first magazine I’ve edited for, my experiences at Polyphony have been paramount. Like many of my fellow editors, I stumbled upon Polyphony Lit as a reserved, apprehensive freshman. That being said, I didn’t enroll in an editorial training program until the following summer as a rising sophomore. As someone who felt uncomfortable with their writing, the thought of attempting editorial work seemed out of the question. Furthermore, an editor’s job felt clinical and stuffy to me–tighten up the language here; remedy this grammatical error. Just a little over a year later, I’m honored to be an Editor-in-Chief of Polyphony Lit. Similar to how we are ever-changing as individuals, the puzzle pieces that comprise our identities are equally fluid. 


Initially, I contemplated describing these pieces with ubiquitous themes: love, loss, beauty, culture, coming of age, change. Such ideas are, of course, present in this issue. Yet attempting to encompass these writers’ words with umbrella themes simply doesn’t seem to suffice. What I will say, though, is this: the pieces you see here are constantly working to detach the body from the self, jigsawing said puzzle pieces into something novel and astonishing. Interweaving anatomy and desire, Ziyi Yan’s “heat lightning triptych” deftly mimics the turbulence of a storm both visually and sonically. Ava Chen’s “PARALLELS: THE STARS OR LACK THEREOF” plays with the negative space of language and fragmentation, its poignant narration underscoring everything that is left unsaid. These are just a few glimpses of this issue: every piece here demands your full attention by championing intricate stories and vibrant images. From “coral-colored / carps [that] outgrow their regular size” (“Lucky Fish”) to “a chinese takeout bag, thank you plastered all over the front” (“auto-eulogy for the perfectly fine”) to “sins … opaque as Minnesota tap water” (“The Temple”), there truly is nothing like Polyphony and its many voices. 


Drafting this letter is bittersweet–I’m in my third year of high school and second year at Polyphony, and I’ve crossed the midpoint of both journeys. I’m both thrilled and terrified for what’s to come. As for now, though, whether you’re a returning reader or a new follower of Polyphony Lit, thank you. We invite you to immerse yourself in the effervescence of Polyphony’s newest issue: Volume 19, fall. 



Grace Marie Liu


Winter 2024 Issue | Shaliz M. Bazldjoo


Dear Readers,

The snow is leaving my windowsills. Old flakes of frost slough off the glass, leaves sprout from the branches of trees, and sunlight peeks out from the thinning clouds. In a way, it’s relieving—no more thick jackets, no more power outages, no more ice on the roads. In another way, it highlights the end of an era in crystal clarity.

It’s a new year now. Here at Polyphony, that means new editors, submitters, contests, events, and, most extraordinarily, the dawn of our twentieth anniversary as a literary magazine. We’re on the verge of a rare milestone. I struggle to fathom how an organization that has been such a big part of my life these past few years, that has felt so deeply interwoven with my generation of teen writers, has been functioning and inspiring people for longer than I’ve been alive. 

This transition is one of many. For me, the new year also heralds the end of high school, teenagehood, and my tenure at Polyphony Lit. While I’m excited for the future, I can’t help but look back. It’s hard not to get lost in the tangled lattice of memory, as many of our pieces, from Sisi Li’s “hypnopompic confessions” to Kate Choi’s “Still” can attest to. I turn towards the past, and, through the haze, make out my first assignment at Polyphony: the nerves that came with a new opportunity, the frantic reading of example editorial reviews, and the way anxiety osmosed into comfort as I realized what a joy it was to edit pieces—to peek, for a moment, into someone else’s creative process, and to be a tiny part of the wonders inside their mind.

Polyphony, ultimately, is built on that openness; that willingness to share stories, emotions, and lives between writers and readers and make a conversation out of a submission; that enthusiasm in welcoming new students onto the staff and working with them on everything from book clubs to contest ideas to new startup literary magazines. This place, more than any other writing community I’ve bore witness to, meets you where you’re at and lifts you up. It’s empathetic, it’s forgiving, and it listens with genuine care to each voice and story. It encourages questions, embraces suggestions, and always looks for new ways to metamorphose as time goes on and the world grows ever-so-slightly more complex. I believe this is why Polyphony Lit has endured all these years, and why it will continue growing, season after season, winter after winter, year after year of editors like me.

I can’t say high school has been perfect—nothing is, after all. There were times when, even with support systems like Polyphony, I wanted to fade into the blankness of the snowstorm. This issue of Polyphony in particular reconciles that feeling. Many of the pieces herein deal with the intersection of love and grief; how you can care for someone, such as a caregiver in Gia Bharadwaj’s “poem for parents,” a mother in Sandra Nuochen’s “stop,” or a whole country in Jessica Zhang’s “My Country is a Collection of Fires,” and yet fear their wrath or resent their dictations; how intimacy and rage do not run in parallel lines. Something as simple as wintertime, with all its chill and sharpness, falls into this paradox. Reading these pieces, I wondered: why love something that hurts you? How can you take the cold, bitter snow on the ground, and turn it into angels?

Simple: you just do. Like Tina Zeng’s “On Love On Psychedelics” proclaims, despite the mess and confusion of love, “we’re not ready to give up… we’ll fight the wrongness and fight the trauma and fight each other to get someplace where I don’t have to say so many maybe’s.” With tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts, we—like the authors in this issue—bear out the storm, and when it’s over there will always be a warm embrace like Polyphony Lit to return to, as readers, or writers, or artists, or all of the above.

So here’s to looking back while walking forward, to holding the memories close. Here’s to Polyphony Lit, to winter, and to you—three beautiful, complex things anchoring our shared world in place.







Shaliz M. Bazldjoo

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