At the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended, the keynote panel discussed ‘inspiration.’ Speaker after speaker lamented the difficulties of generating ideas for stories and offered various techniques and strategies. It’s so simple, I wanted to call out, just come to Bellevue. Every day is another tour through humanity.
If great literature arises from an unflinching examination of the tender underbelly of human existence, then a literary journal is a natural development for an institution such as Bellevue; its halls have witnessed two and a half centuries of human drama. The Bellevue Literary Review was created as a forum for examining the human condition through the prism of health and healing, illness and disease, and relationships to the body and mind. Nearly one thousand people responded to our call for manuscripts. A few were physicians and nurses, some were experienced patients – one or two had even spent time at Bellevue – but most were writers who had been grappling with many of these same concerns.
Steven Fayer, in his story Parricide, examines the relentlessness of generations haunting one after the next. The family gene pool imposes bad backs, poor dentition, and a penchant for killing off one’s parents. In Still Life, Marpessa Dawn Outlaw traces the blunt path of memories in a young woman’s life. It is only when this protagonist can stand up to them and reorder them with her own emotional logic that she can face her next challenge.
Leslie Roberts recounts her own personal challenge in the poetically rendered essay How Air Moves. An unlikely acquaintance provides her with a metaphor that she incorporates into her healing. For Itzhak Kronzon, a mysterious invitation transports him from an underpaid staff physician in the Bronx to become A Doctor in the Court of the King of Nepal. His essay highlights the unpredictable turns that medical careers can take, if one is open to the unknown.
Poet Rafael Campo draws us behind the terse language of medical shorthand in Phone Messages on Call. Each abbreviated message reminds us how potent are the words of people in pain. Eireann Corrigan illuminates those words in her poems Mischief and On Christmas Eve, Doctor Releases Her in Time for Midnight Mass. She weaves together the complex and often contradictory emotions of adolescent patients who are attempting to heal and to grow at the same time.
Sometimes the most profound insights are grasped only by those just outside of the action. Whether it be though the eyes of the brother-in-law in The Nearest Thing in the World, the foreign-born husband in Tenebre, the childhood friend in Isis Was Here, or the hospital janitor in Cousin Esther Goes to Chicago, it is clear that every human action resonates in concentric circles of family and society. In the poem My Lot, it is the child observing the parent’s decline, whereas in Knife, Scissors, Glass it is the anguished mother watching the child.
Many of the contributors to the BLR are well-published writers, but a few, such as Cori Baill and Marco A. Rafala, are making their publishing debut. We are honored to feature their work and are committed to encouraging new writers. Michael LaCombe’s review, Reading for Writing, is a rich tour through the some of the most inspiring books for writers.
I hope you enjoy this inaugural issue of the Bellevue Literary Review; it has been quite a journey. The people who have helped are too numerous to list here, but in particular I want to thank our publisher, Martin Blaser, and my talented and dedicated co-editors: Jerome Lowenstein, Ronna Wineberg, Roxanna Font and Donna Baier Stein. Our editorial board of reviewers is an exceptional group, without whom this endeavor would not have been possible. In the end, though, it is our writers and readers who constitute the lifeblood of a literary journal and I hope these pages satisfy you.