For the last three years, our endeavors to rebuild our world have yielded mixed results. As we do so, many look forward to beginning life anew and seizing the opportunity to create a better tomorrow. Some of us find ourselves yearning for the days that seem behind us. Others envision retracing their steps for a chance to do things over. And so, in this themed issue, we at Witness present you with pieces that fulfill such sensibilities and more.
This issue of Witness features poems that yearn for mermen and healing through smoke, that reminisce on the life of a departed sibling, that muse on cancer remission. We bear essays that grapple with aging and generation gaps, that detail a woman parting from a turbulent romance in a locked-down city. And we bring you stories of a selkie who finds love in an unexpected place, an expatriate who returns to a homeland that has become foreign, a dead retail worker whose ghost lingers by the coworkers with whom he forged close-knit bonds. Such are among the evocative works we are eager to share with you, and we trust that you will marvel over them as we do. Additionally, we invite you to join us in celebrating the winning writers of our 2023 Witness Literary Awards, and we remain deeply grateful to our judges, Ahmed Naji, Melissa Febos, and Nabila Lovelace for their stellar selections.
Spring is the season of new beginnings. Our world is fractured, but it is also simultaneously healing. With the release of “Second Chances”, Witness has seized a second chance of its own: we make our return to the AWP Conference & Bookfair for the first time after a three-year hiatus. It seems a remarkable coincidence that we release this latest issue so close to the date when COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic, that this March 11th falls on the last day of the Conference. But, as a creative, like many of whom will read this issue, I sometimes wonder whether there are any coincidences at all.
In our last print issue, “Missed Connections”, we sought to pay homage to what was lost. With “Second Chances”, its spiritual successor, we showcase authors who show us what can be regained, and–in some cases–lost for good: for we know all too well that a second chance doesn’t always end favorably.
As we adjust to our new normal, Witness pledges to do better with the world we’ve regained. Together with you, we begin 2023 with renewed hope, in spite of everything that threatens to undermine it.
2023 Literary Awards
Winner: Colleen Mayo, Redaction
Runner-up: Vida James, The Van Lady
Winner: David Moolten, Locomotive
Runner-up: Kelly Gray, The Problem I am Having is that Dying Can be so Loud with Death So Quiet
Winner: Jessica Walker, In Pursuit
Runner-up: Rosa Boshier González, Rabbit Heads
Andrew Bertaina, In this Version of the Story
Jen Sullivan Brych, We Are Not Old. But We Are Having Some Realizations.
Jeff Whitney, Other Things I Can’t Remember
Maxwell Gontarek, Lattice After Your Advice
Anzhelina Polonskaya trans. Andrew Wachtel, All These Endless Days
Jane Copland, The Angel, Islington
Samantha Schnell, First Banana
Kate Lister Campbell, I’ll Tell You the Truth
Elizabeth Hart Bergstrom, The Selkie at the Laundromat
Dan O’Brien, The Crab
Konstantin Kulakov, Take Me to Peacock Alley
Will Richter, The Fairy King
Shana Graham, Dear Lover / Dear City
Charles Michael Pawluk, Factitious
Amy Monaghan, Leland
CC Molaison, Flight Pattern of Birds
Jennifer Mackenzie, le sigh
Greg Tebbano, Discounted
Tom Silva, The Counterfeit
Laura Romeyn, The Gardener
Amanda Gaines, Animaled
You can find video postings of some of these selections, as read by the authors, on our YouTube channel.