Volume 15 | 2019/2020
Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
In preparation for writing this letter, I flipped through a number of previous issues of Polyphony Lit. I was reminded of the sea-crossing power of storytelling, the imperishable intensity of poetry, and the value of prioritizing young, fresh voices. I was reminded that, even though I’ve only been with this amazing magazine for a blip in the cosmos of its existence, our values have never wavered, and, despite our recent massive increase in submissions, editors, and student responsibility, our commitment to quality has grown only steadily stronger.
But beyond the talent of the many, many editors on our international staff of devoted bibliophilic high schoolers, and even beyond the genius of our out-of-this-world authors (the gorgeous pertinence of Elyse Thomas’s On Honey & Coconut Oil, the stinging concreteness of Camille Staats’s We Are Now Women, and the defiant exultation of Tyler Econa’s (d)efficiency all spring to mind), I can think of one more thing that distinguishes Polyphony Lit from its peers and that gives me, at least, a reason to dedicate so much of my time and energy to its progress.
Polyphony Lit is a community.
According to Oxford American Dictionary, a community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” From my perspective, Polyphony Lit embodies all of those things to a tee. Nearly all of our editors are writers. Quite a few have work featured in this issue. Every single submitting author, regardless of whether their work is ready for publication, receives extensive feedback from our editors; it’s a personal exchange and a moment of connection between individuals who share a deep love of the written word. All of our editors are committed to propelling Polyphony forward, and all do or will possess an appreciation for the value of an encouraging attitude towards everyone else on the team, in addition to our submitting authors.
When asked about the ways in which Polyphony Lit has shaped me as a person, I often return to this particular value. As a First Reader, back in 2017, I was wholeheartedly participatory with regard to giving the author the feedback I felt was needed, but I was not at all focused on the delivery—it had not occurred to me that lines such as “I am not sure the poem contains a message” and “[your story] is a tale told before and there are more interesting ways to tell it” were not exactly the kindest way to put my criticisms, even if they got the point across. To quote feedback from an upper level editor on one of my (multitudinous) commentaries written as a First Reader: “extremely meticulous and thorough… but it’s worth finding a few nice things to say.” Clearly, diligence did not make up for tone. It struck home, at some point between my receiving this feedback and my receiving my first Polyphony Lit rejection letter of my own, that encouragement is incredibly important. I’ve received eleven rejection letters and only two acceptances from Polyphony Lit to date (our process is completely blind, for the record). I’ve also heard Billy tell the tale of the author who was rejected thirty or so times before she wrote something absolutely brilliant, and I suspect it’s a trend more authors than not can relate to. Why is this the case? Statistically, wouldn’t an author with rejection after rejection only receive more and more rejections? And realistically, wouldn’t the author become deeply, irreversibly discouraged to the point that they never write another word, let alone submit to Polyphony Lit again?
The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no. Submitting authors are anything but discouraged, and, as hard as we can try, they’re pushed on a path towards growth and improvement that will allow them to progress beyond efforts on their lonesome will allow.
Editors are in the exact same boat. After receiving such deadly honest remarks from the upper level editors back when I was a First Reader, I only became increasingly committed towards my goal of progressing as an editor. Instead of receiving some kind of grade or score that indicated “low quality” but gave no direction for improvement, I found myself with a clear path forward and specific issues to focus on. Unsurprisingly, focusing on these issues solved them. I stopped writing commentaries with my teeth gritted and a metaphorical red pen in hand. I began thinking of our submitters as people. High schoolers like myself. Writers who respect this publication enough to entrust us with their words. People who deserve respect just as much as the people who’ve been writing longer, have had better writing teachers, or have just worked on their craft a little more effectively.
Polyphony Lit is a learning community, and it’s a community of inspired, creative, and motivated individuals—a community that constantly educates me, inspires me, wows me with its creativity, and motivates me towards my goals. Hello, my Oct. 30th Polyphony Lit rejection letter (that was the eleventh). I’m ready to get to work. We’ve all got a lot of room to grow, but we’ve also all got support like you can’t imagine. We’re in this together. Let’s create some art.
I hope you enjoy this issue.