Divya Victor: editor's departure note

Image: Ebtihal Shedid, from the 'Parallel Universe' series.

Dear readers and writers,

The time has come for me to bring my role as editor of Jacket2 to a conclusion. Like many writers, I am a deft procrastinator; like many writers, I know that writing something makes it real. And for this reason, I have dreaded and postponed writing this note about my departure. But, it is true: I am at the edge of this wide, beautiful field. I must step out of these muck-boots and start on a different path. This rather romantic, pastoral image is perhaps the most honest indication of how I’ve imagined Jacket2 as an expanded, organic space, where I was allowed to rove, run, rest, rediscover the roots of poetry’s purpose. 

I began my relationship with Jacket2 as a graduate student at the University of Buffalo writing a commentary series on Vocality — a series of interviews with writers who, at the time, were carrying out some of the most risky and high-stakes experiments with vocality, identity, and intertextuality (Discourses on Vocality: Myung Mi Kim, Kim Rosenfield, Rachel Zolf, Vanessa Place). I wanted to stretch the genre of the interview around a large and ambitious frame that encompassed a poet’s practice (not just a current book, not just a single project). This would require a venue that was open to breaking expectation and resetting it deliberately, intentionally; this would require imaginative editors and an adventurous, open-access publishing design; this would require patience and a critically expanded sense of what a journal of poetics could do and be for the work of an emerging poet-critic. I found this space at Jacket2 in 2012. When I moved to Singapore, after years in Buffalo, I continued my practice as an interviewer and worked to broaden the audience for Singapore’s more provocative poets and publishers, who were often swimming against the current of the nation’s sanctioned aesthetics (Discourses on Locality: Ng Yi Sheng, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario, Yong Shu Hoong, Ethos Books). I subsequently joined Jacket2 as an editor.

Since then, I have gone on to edit and develop two features. One, from 2016, Conceptual Writing: Plural and Global, began with the premise that if Conceptual writing is everything we’ve hoped/dreaded it to be, it will also be a generous host for the occasion of its own destruction, just as it will be open to fabrications of refusal, regeneration, reshaping, renewal. The resulting feature was a collection of thirty-five responses, from thirty-seven practitioners and critics of diverse method, intent, and position, that carried forward the main goal of the feature: to reframe Conceptualism’s discourses through the lenses of anti-imperialism, postcolonialism, spirituality studies, disability studies, ecocriticism, and critical race theory. In 2017 I imagined another feature, Extreme Texts, at moment when it seemed that a majority of USAmericans had acquiesced to live, normally, under extreme conditions, with denuded civil rights, attenuated freedoms of press, increasing inequality of wages, and diminishing access to medical care, and under misogynist, transphobic, and supremacist policies. This feature hosted thirty-six pieces of writing from/about poetry and poetics from Canada, Australia, England, Singapore, Vietnam, Uruguay, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the US. Extreme Texts documented and queried (in the long view) how poetry behaves under extremity, both political and personal, and how it represents lives lived under the duress of an extreme made everyday. 

The work of an editor at a venue like Jacket2 must be taken up with a hydra-like spirit — constantly shifting between the microscopic questions of developmental editing and the macroscopic vision for publishing what matters in/for/to contemporary poetics and contemporary poets. The team at Jacket2 — Julia Bloch, Jessica Lowenthal, Michael Hennessey, Al Filreis, and Kenna O’Rourke — embodies this spirit. They are adventurous thinkers, good listeners, cautious and diligent editors, kind and serious colleagues. They work overtime to keep up with the bounty that we receive through our annual call and throughout the year. At heart, we believe in the social and political roles of poets. At heart, we understand the strange, essential, and highly specific role of the critic who works passionately and too-near these poets — the Critic as Icarus? And we work, every day, to support those who hyphenate between these roles as poet-critics, especially the ones who work (in Stephen Collis’s words) as “anarcho-scholars,” and who write to unsettle their roles as artists, academics, scholars, critics, graduate students, or editors in order to perform new modes of disruptive engagement with contemporary poetry. 

Working with this team has been one of the least complicated joys of my professional life. I will miss our spirited conversations and our careful negotiations. I will continue to read Jacket2 for this team’s earnest labor (along with the labor of countless interns, students, and editors at large) which has shaped a field in which our international audiences can witness the changing horizon of poetry’s critical and chimeral role in contemporary letters. 


Divya Victor