The world of letters is aglow with literary magazines, shining bright in the literary firmament like so many fireflies, illuminating new writers and unexpected works of art. Alas, like fireflies they are often face a short lifespan, no matter how incandescently they blaze at their peak.
The Bellevue Literary Review is about to turn 20, which practically earns us elder statesman status in the world of literary magazines. However, we look at it more as adolescence, a time of growth and reinvention. In that vein, we are excited to announce that the BLR will enter its third decade as a fully independent nonprofit organization.
We are indebted to NYU, especially to the Department of Medicine, which provided a home for the BLR to begin its life and to establish itself as a journal. Prior to the BLR’s “birth” on the 16th floor of Bellevue Hospital, literary journals hadn’t existed in medical centers. We are grateful for our friends at NYU and Bellevue who allowed us to grow in their midst.
Now we are stepping out on our own. We are energized by the outpouring of support from our friends, supporters, writers, and readers, and are looking forward to branching out in new directions. In particular, we are actively diversifying our outreach, to connect with new writers and readers, with the goal of presenting as rich an array of voices as possible within our pages. We are also looking to connect our traditional literary art forms with the visual and performing arts, in recognition of the breadth of creativity that helps illuminate the human condition. With the launch of our new website, we are excited to expand our offerings on a variety of platforms, giving us the chance to meet readers wherever they may be.
By most measures, 2020 has been a draining year. The Covid-19 pandemic hit New York with ferocity in the months of March and April, and many people connected with the BLR were directly subsumed into the frontlines of the pandemic. Covid-19 is still surging in many locations in the US and worldwide, and the effects ripple well beyond the frontlines. Everyone has been affected in some way—medically, economically, politically, psychologically. There’s exhaustion and much grief. There’s also a churn of reassessing—from Black Lives Matter to health care equity to the role (and the future) of the arts.
Pandemics reveal the human spirit at its most vulnerable. If we haven’t experienced illness ourselves, we have cared for those who have, or we’ve lived in fear of illness, or in denial of illness, or have obsessed over illness. Or we’ve nervously eyed the sinews of our bodies and our breath as contagion presses relentlessly forward. It is within these planes of vulnerability that literature and the arts can have the most resonance.
So although 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic has, in some ways, depleted us all, it has also galvanized us. We recognize the value of human connection and the balm of arts perhaps more than ever before. It is in this spirit that the BLR steps excitedly into its new chapter of independence.
We are grateful that you are part of our community and your support means more than ever to us. Many of you have made donations. Others of you have given BLR subscriptions as gifts to friends. Many of you subscribe to our newsletter, follow our social media, and attend our events (in-person and online). We couldn’t be here without your efforts, and we hope you will continue to stay connected.
Next year will be our official 20th anniversary and we look forward to celebrating. Vaccine-willing, we’ll do it in person. But even without, we’ll figure out a way to come together. We could all use a celebration.