Introduction by John Amen

About 20 years ago, while living in New Orleans, I read Stan Rice’s poetry. A few months after first reading those poems, I met Stan and immediately considered how I’d like to launch a literary magazine and publish some of his work. About 2 years later, at this point living in New York, I used to see James Purdy walking around Brooklyn Heights. After hearing/seeing him read at The Drawing Room in Manhattan, I started talking to him about his work and life. I decided in 1999 that I would in fact launch that literary magazine so that I could interview him and publish some of his fiction.

For various reasons, I never interviewed James Purdy or published any of his work, but Stan Rice was the featured poet in Pedestal’s first issue (December 2000). I interviewed him, and we published 5 or 6 new poems by him. There would be many features after that: Philip Levine, Sharon Olds, Ai, and W.S. Merwin, among others. Usually I’d do the interview, but sometimes someone else would. There have been so many stellar poets published over the years, many pretty well established, some getting their first credits with us. For a while we published fiction as well, and I think we had a pretty good run with fiction, publishing a wide variety of pieces, from “literary” work to sci-fi.

I can’t remember how many years ago, but at some point we started publishing book reviews (full-length poetry collections). These days reviews don’t seem to be as popular, and many magazines have stopped running them. I think they’re important, however. They advance “the literary conversation.” They articulate the reading experience. It’s essential that we continue to discuss or at least consider what literature accomplishes and how (themes and craft). Reviews serve to prompt a literary dialogue of sorts, and I’ll say here that I’m committed to publishing reviews for as long as this magazine remains in existence.

Here we are at the 17-year mark. Pedestal has gone through a number of changes over the years, but I sense that we’ve stayed true to our mission of recognizing as many forms of literary (poetic) excellence as possible. I think I can speak for the other editors when I say that we do our best to suspend our preferences, read beyond default likes and dislikes, to connect with a piece on its own terms. Certainly reading and editing are subjective exercises, but I’ve always done my best to practice both with an open mind and heart, to be receptive to as many styles, approaches, themes, etc. as I can.

I’m impressed with Issue 81, our 17-year anniversary release. Arlene, Michael, Susan, and I have now edited 5 or 6 issues together, and each time we do this I experience it as a literary and relational adventure. Of course, there are the poems that we immediately agree on, but the majority of poems that end up in an issue initially receive 2 or possibly 3 votes. Some of them only receive 1 vote at first. Then we communicate with each other, discussing the possible merits and weaknesses of a piece. These discussions and reconsiderations have always struck me as invaluable in a literary context but even more invaluable when it comes to life in the broader sense. My relationships and general way of being in the world have improved as a result of the editorial process the four of us create and experience.

Pedestal has benefited from a very talented and committed staff: in addition to thanking Arlene Ang, Michael Spring, and Susan Terris, I’d like to express gratitude to Bruce Boston and Marge Simon, who edit an issue of speculative poetry pretty much once a year. Cindy Hochman continues to write insightful and compelling reviews issue after issue. I also want to thank Lee Rossi and Richard Allen Taylor, who have been writing reviews consistently for many issues now. I’ll add, as well, a word of thanks to Stefan Lovasik and Bill Blackley, with whom I had the honor of editing Issue 80 (“the War Issue”).

Thanks to the readers who continue to appreciate Pedestal. I hope you enjoy Issue 81. As always, please let me/us know your thoughts, suggestions, what you connect with, what you don’t. Happy holidays, and best wishes for 2018.

—John Amen