Rainer Maria Rilke, in his famous Letters to a Young Poet, writes: “What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours — that is what you must be able to attain.” Being a writer is often talked about as a life of solitude and loneliness, and there is no doubt a lot of truth to this. However, I think it’s just as important to remember that we are members of the larger literary community. This blog series will highlight ways we ought to cultivate our own citizenship in this community.
Part I. Read literary journals
I think we, as writers and readers, have a tendency to focus on the book—it’s the holy grail, the great triumph, the culmination of months and years of work. And the book is great, for sure. But magazines and journals are works of art unto themselves, and, being the first place most writers put their work out into the world, they’re important venues that bring together the established and emerging writers doing great work. I’ve first encountered many of my favorite writers in journals, have been shaken and stirred by poems and essays and stories that may or may not find their way into a full book. And, when I’ve been lucky enough to land a poem in a journal, I’ve always been delighted to see how it complements and antagonizes the other pieces that live alongside it. As I’m quickly learning in the IR office, every journal is the fruit of collective labor—writers, readers, editors, artists, and printers working together to create something larger than the sum of its parts. A journal is a fruit of community.