Editing an issue of
Ploughshares turned out to be more mysterious than I expected. I began by taking a few poems and a story that I thought had form and significance. After that, I found myself looking at manuscripts as if they were fragments of something larger -- pieces of glass from a crystal ball that would reveal the truth about life and art in late 20th century America, if only I could find the right pieces, the little slivers of glass as well as the large, hand-sized shards. When I reached my quota of 150 pages I had to stop and look at the lopsided shape I'd only just begun to construct. Deep in the crooked glass, I could see many images that shimmered with emotion -- a parakeet named Blue Hawaii, the spooky silk of a baby's palm, the eye of a big red fish, the feathering side of a dog, a man wearing a woman's green coat to keep warm -- but I suddenly wasn't sure what the images meant as a whole, now that I'd put them together. I looked again, leaning closer to the glass. To my surprise, I now saw
the reflection of my own face, and I realized that editors are just like writers -- they build mirrors, not crystal balls. But a large mirror will also have room enough to reflect the world. A small one won't. I hope this mirror is large enough.