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Letter from the Editors-in-Chief

Winter Issue | Jessica Kim

Dear Readers, 

When I tell people that English is my second language, they laugh. Their instinctive response is but Jessica, you’re a writer—a poet. My first poem, a play on “Seoul” as a homonym of “soul,” was created as a response to displacement. I had just moved to America from Asia. In order to survive, I had to prove that the English language could be my art form. Yet, what started as an act of desperation allowed me to appreciate what academics call exophonic writers; “exo” meaning “from outside” and “phonic” relating to speech and voice. Reading Jhumpa Lahiri to Don Mee Choi over the years, I’ve come to marvel at the ways writing can prosper in spite of exile, estrangement, and the often tenuous borders between a mother tongue and a foreign one. 

Polyphony Lit’s Winter Issue of Volume 18 approaches exophony better than any other issue, humanizing the bicultural, multilingual, and transnational experience of writing. Andrea Granata's "Las Alas Que te Elevan" is Polyphony’s first non-English piece (though with English translations), and its narrator aptly elucidates the uncertainties of flight together with their grandmother. Emilie Guan’s "CREATION MYTHS IN TRANSPOSITION" unravels daughterhood and motherhood in circular yet evolutionary myths. Matt Hsu’s “茶茶茶” juggles the quotidian with the eccentric, distilling familial rituals and body parts (quite literally) in tea. These pieces, and many others in our Winter Issue, intertwine the interiority of heritage with a global outlook on the world. Identity and language, whether internal or acquired, are synthesized into the pages of our issue. 

What makes this issue so expansive is ironically its intimacy: words lost in translation, intergenerational grief, bodies. To me, Polyphony is a simultaneously expansive and intimate space. As Editor-in-Chief, I assumed I would be familiar with every crevice but I find myself constantly surprised by inventive stories, emerging young editors, and nights spent compiling, formatting, emailing, editing, smiling. 

Joining Polyphony in my freshman year of high school was my first venture into a boundless nation of stories. I started editing before I started writing; analysis was my way of maneuvering through unfamiliarity, and scrutinizing others’ works allowed me to keep my own vulnerability at bay. I figured editing would remove the emotional and confrontational obligation that came with creative writing. However, after meeting fellow editors who were also writers in their free time and spending hours submerged in an imagined world while formulating specific commentary, I realized that editing, too, is a paradigm for individuality. If the writer’s role is to inject the self into a vast blank page, the editor’s role is to translate—to position others in relation to the self. We editors decipher, transform, and refine.  

Polyphony adds personality to the editorial process. Our editors treat each submission as a conversation, a snapshot of another person’s life, and a catalyst for community. Yes, community. This past year, our community has grown stronger than ever. In addition to our annual issues, our Voices Blog and Junior Board teams have continued to reach new heights. New initiatives like the Ukrainian Blog Features, 80 Days Workshop Series, and the Writer's Block Party have also originated from our collective commitment to amplifying diverse voices and alternate perspectives. In our own ways, we are a circle of exophonic editors, each one of us feeling slightly uncomfortable hearing our own voice, but learning to crystalize our identities in a dynamic environment. Here, instead of alienating those who write in a metaphoric language other than one’s own, we embrace multiple perspectives with open arms. 

As I conclude this letter, I almost feel like an outsider to Polyphony. I’m a graduating senior light-years away from my freshman-year self. I know there’s not much time left in this universe. I wonder if I’ll continue editorial work in college. Regardless, despite this unsettling sense of separation, I am still an exophony. I write in my second language to transpose my culture, discover new avenues of dialogue, and above else, lend a hand to young writers who want to defy invisibility. 

To the young (and aging) poets, authors, essayists, storytellers, submitters, contributors, editors, and readers who wield language with courage, thank you. Let us all step into a new territory we know so well: Polyphony, 18, winter. 







Jessica Kim





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