2023 Special Themed Issue:

Shadowplay / Lightwork

There is a term in visual art called chiaroscuro, which, in Italian, can translate to a compound phrase: lightdarks. In this year’s series for Portland Review, two of the oldest artistic tropes— shadow and light—meet another profoundly finicky duality: work and play. You can’t have one without the other. Or can you?

Every day, some work at dawn, some the graveyard shift; kids play at recess during the day, older folks play at night. Some creatures live only in shadow, others cannot survive without light. Whether in cities, suburbs, or backcountry roads and fields—wherever work exists, it’s in the interplay between light and dark. As such, Shadowplay and Lightwork exist within and outside of the natural, the artificial, the supernatural, the sociopolitical, the everyday, the uncanny. Poems and stories in this issue riff, explode, refine, subvert, and recast these seemingly bounded and boundless categories.

We hope these works will resonate with folks from all walks of life— whether they dwell in dimness or shine bright, or anywhere in between, writers’ and artists’ work/play is as critical as the day-night cycle itself. Writers featured in this special issue show us what it means to play in shadows and work with light.


Image: Photo by jessamyn duckwall, 2022.