Transit / Transition / Translation: A Pandemic Year in Review

What’s it like to make a lit mag in the middle of mass upheaval? As a student-run magazine, Portland Review’s staff changes yearly, meaning we’re used to learning as we go and teaching each other. Usually we do this in-person, waving someone over to have a look at a submission or walk each other through some html. This year, we switched to online-only operations and not only our staff but our whole system had to change—at the same time that we were managing the personal impacts of both a pandemic and a global reckoning with systemic racism.

It meant we had to build our relationships through Submittable comments, glitchy Zoom editorial discussions, Slack threads. It meant I copyedited poems at the table next to my homeschooling kids, that I read submissions late at night when they were finally asleep. It meant giving each other the space and time to rest, to recover, to grieve, to care for others. I still haven’t met most of the staff in person, and yet from our isolated homes we were able to collaborate on reading hundreds upon hundreds of amazing submissions, sent to us by writers from across the world facing their own pandemic realities. “This year I experimented with the dark / and retreated into the line of my own making” writes Aileen Keown Vaux in “Strange Features.” “This makes the year sound bleak,” they continue. “And so it was. / But beneath the depths of cubic pressure / strange features emerge—”

Or as Nyla Jennings puts it in “Two Mice of Ivory“: “that is to say, the ghosts were ours to keep.”

We also had the honor of publishing Evan Joseph Massey’s ecstatic and inventive essay “Describing the Jordan XI Space Jams with My Eyes Closed to a Blind Man Over the Phone While Working at Foot Locker,” Samn Stackwell’s “How Stories Get Lost,” which speaks from the silences enforced by poverty, and Katherine Rooks’ generous portrait of family in “Slow Leak.” One benefit of publishing on the web was that we were able to format interactive footnotes for Lucy Shapiro’s discursive portrayal of performance and relationships in “The Costume Chest,” as well as develop a deep archive of poetry spanning the world from ice caves to impatiens.

We’re closing out this year with our Transit / Transition / Translation series. In the next two weeks, you’ll find prose and poetry that traverse both geography and upheaval. Today, we’re publishing our first piece, Alejandro A. Alonso Galva’s haunting essay “El Coquí y el Huracán.”

Many thanks to all of our readers and contributors. And to Portland Review‘s 2020-2021 editors and staff—your insight, patience, and support have made this labor truly a joy.


2020-21 Masthead

Rosanna Henderson

Jason Stieber

August Amoroso
Kaitlin Dittmar

Rachel Howe

Jay Butler
David Seung

Claire Plaster

Kynna Lovin

Karina Agbisit
Andrew Byrds
Alexis Garrett
Alex Halbrook
Sarah Moffatt
Cassandra Muniz

Joshua Russell Baker
J. L. Bridges
Emma Butterfield
Alicia A Schmidt
Kirsten Smith
Amber Stefanson
Charity Yoro

Faculty Advisor: Janice Lee

Instructor: Michael J. Seidlinger