Looking back on a year of dispatches, I’m proud to report that we’ve had essays from five continents. I heard from writers in places both famous and obscure, as well as some remote areas that were unknown to me. More than once, I found myself zooming in on Google maps, trying to get a glimpse of the locations described. My hope is that some of this year’s dispatches inspired the same curiosity in you. Here are a few highlights from throughout the year, ones you may have missed the first time the around:
This week, as we look back on the year, I’d like to highlight the work of some of the poets featured in Dispatches. It’s sometimes hard to pin a location to a poem, and at the same time, a poem can often take readers more accurately to the heart of a place than a reported dispatch. This year’s poems took readers all over the world, from sleepy American towns to European cities to remote forests and islands. Here are a few of my favorites, all worth a second look:
Yvette Christiansë’s haunting “Uneasy Sleep”, which takes readers to a tiny island in the depths of the South Atlantic;
It began with an innocent question from a student intern: “Why don’t we do one of those community reads things?” The other student writers for Electra Street, the arts and humanities journal at NYU Abu Dhabi, thought it sounded like a great idea. I, as the faculty editor, was filled with grown-up skepticism about staging a literary conversation in a city as diverse and seemingly unbookish as Abu Dhabi, which does not even have a library that is open to the public with any regularity. But somewhere between student optimism and faculty skepticism, “Abu Dhabi Reads” took root, and one warm night in early November, more fifty people from all over this desert city gathered in a garden at NYU to talk about Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi.
Greece’s fortunes were down, but ours were up, so between the May 6 and June 17 elections, my husband and I made our way to the remote Mani Peninsula in the Southern Peloponnese. If the Peloponnese is a lowered hand, joined to the Greek mainland at the slender wrist of Corinth, then the Mani, south of Sparta and famous for its blood feuds—the only region never conquered by the Turks—is certainly its proud middle finger. The Greek struggle for independence began there, in Areopolis, a town named for the God of War.