Ed­i­tor’s Note

The Iowa Review - - FRONT PAGE - Har­i­laos ste­copou­los

As even a brief glance at this is­sue’s ta­ble of con­tents will sug­gest, The Iowa Review em­pha­sizes three dis­tinct cat­e­gories: po­etry, fic­tion, and es­says. Like many pub­lish­ers and book­sell­ers, we de­pend on genre to or­ga­nize our lit­er­ary work. But we re­lin­quish cer­tain in­sights in do­ing so. Our re­liance on genre can make us less sen­si­tive to in­tra-tex­tual di­ver­sity and to how a par­tic­u­lar work might cross or con­found for­mal bound­aries. Dis­tin­guish­ing gen­res of­ten seems more im­por­tant than rec­og­niz­ing the affini­ties link­ing dis­parate types of writ­ing. That we tend to ig­nore how our other of­fer­ings—book re­views, dra­mas, even edi­tors’ notes—of­ten draw from and com­ment on mul­ti­ple gen­res high­lights all the more the lim­its of our lit­er­ary map­ping. In fact, we al­ways break our self-im­posed law of genre by di­ver­si­fy­ing, mix­ing, and “mash­ing” our three main­stays on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. And we are the richer for it. Con­sider the dizzy­ing ar­ray of nonfiction in this is­sue. Tom Lutz pro­vides us with a com­pelling ex­am­ple of travel writ­ing: his ac­count of a frus­trat­ing visit to ru­ral Al­ba­nia sug­gests the ab­sur­dity of a Gary Shteyn­gart nar­ra­tive even as it re­calls the lessons of the international theme. Michael Meyer stays closer to home—berke­ley—but takes a sim­i­lar ethno­graphic per­spec­tive as he chron­i­cles his re­la­tion­ship with Chris, a trou­bled mid­dle-school stu­dent linked to a hor­ren­dous crime. Lia Pur­pura departs from these nonfiction forms in her in­spired lyric med­i­ta­tion on crape myr­tle. Who would have thought that this bril­liantly col­ored flora could in­spire mus­ings on Martin Bu­ber? At other points in the is­sue, the fire­wall of genre gives way to the­matic in­ter­ac­tions, as ev­i­denced by the im­plicit di­a­logue be­tween Su­san Stabile’s es­say “Bes­tiary” and Stephen Burt’s poem “To the Naked Mole Rats at the Na­tional Zoo.” In “Bes­tiary,” Stabile re­minds us that hu­mans have a driv­ing need to kill an­i­mals of other species. Trac­ing a line of death from the high­way to the pet cage to her grand­fa­ther’s butcher shop, she de­liv­ers dis­com­fit­ing in­sights about how read­ily we ex­er­cise our lethal pow­ers to af­firm the su­pe­ri­or­ity of Homo sapi­ens. Burt’s “To the Naked Mole Rats” takes on a sim­i­lar chal­lenge in its fo­cus on a crea­ture seem­ingly far below our vaunted species. The mole rat may pro­vide an easy tar­get for mock­ery, but it re­minds the speaker that we too are “skin tubes” who scurry around, strug­gling to find

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