This isn't your grandmother's "War and Peace." The many contributors of Chautauqua Literary Journal's 2012 issue have approached this year's theme from diverse perspectives. The significance of "War and Peace" has elicited writing with a more expansive scope than one might find elsewhere, while keeping the immediacy of personal witness.
A collaboration between Chautauqua Institution and the creative writing department of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Chautauqua remains true to the roots of Chautauqua Institution. It seeks a sense of inquiry into questions of personal, social, political, spiritual and aesthetic importance, regardless of genre. Above all, the journal values work that is intensely personal, yet somehow implicitly comments on larger public concerns-work that answers every reader's most urgent question: Why are you telling me this?
The "War and Peace" issue is poignant, full of writers who tackle weighty topics with sensitivity and creativity. Especially in an election year, this issue deserves a closer look. With an essay set in the deep south, poems in historic France, and fiction in the Middle East-plus much more-Chautauqua crosses continents and centuries.
One treasure is a series of portraits and personal accounts of Japanese men and women who survived the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their stories are powerful-as these civilian victims of war claim their right to speak out-and often uplifting, when they have found inner peace.
The cover this year features a damaged, painted photograph by Don Kimes, Chautauqua Institution's artistic director for visual arts. Kimes began working on his own destroyed art after his home and studio were flooded, and he has created some of his most emotive pieces through that painful loss of records, writing, and art. Transformed, the photographs of Kimes' paintings provide an apt visual paralleling the duality of "War and Peace."
A number of former soldiers have lent their voices to this issue, speaking with the authority of first-hand experience. S. Brady Tucker, writer of "The Cold Logic of Farm Animals," served in the Persian Gulf War. Liam Corley wrote "unwound," a finalist in Chautauqua's poetry contest; he served in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the Navy reserves. Robert McGowan, who served in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, wrote an account from the perspective of a soldier who has lost a foot, driving him to ask incisive questions about the decision to make war.
This issue's list of contributors features some familiar names from Chautauqua Institution, and especially the Writers' Center: Keekee Minor, Diana Hume George, Jan Beatty, Richard Lehnert, Christopher Nye, Neil Shepard, Elaine Terranova and Todd Davis. The winners of the "on-grounds" contests last summer are included: Kathryn Hoffman with "What I know About Elections," and Sophie Klahr with "May." With this issue, Chautauqua also welcomes new voices Luciana Bohne and Gerardo Mena.
"The Lives of Cells" by Kathryn Winograd is the winner of Chautauqua's Poetry Contest 2011. The judge, Todd Davis, praised Winograd's poem, saying it presents "an act of horror of such incomprehensible and intimate violence that the very foundations of such ideas as compassion or mercy or peace shift upon their foundations and threaten to dissolve."
Subscriptions may be ordered online by visiting chautauqua.submishmash.com, or by downloading the order form at www.ciweb.org/literary-journal and mailing it to CLSC, P.O. Box 28, Chautauqua, NY 14722.