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In Allies, we ask artists how they approach a question that animates many of Boston Review’s political essays: How do people who are not alike forge productive alliances? This is not only a political question—all relationships are in some sense acts of bridge-building. But in a moment of global and national chaos fueled in part by intensified identity wars, it feels critical to see if artists have ideas that others have missed.
The result is an anthology rich in insight and complexity. Arranged in an arc that moves from familial, private, erotic, and ecological concerns to explicitly political ones, it blends genres to approach the theme from a plurality of perspectives. We didn’t ask anyone to toe a party line, and many among the contributors and editors are skeptical and critical of the term “ally,” preferring accomplices, comrades, partners, lovers, family, revolutionaries. . . .
Editing was collaborative. Evie Shockley and Ed Pavlić, Arts in Society’s contributing editors, generated lists of authors to invite and helped think through which poems spoke meaningfully to each other. They also helped recruit Ladan Osman, who judged our Annual Poetry Contest, and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, our Aura Estrada Short Story Contest judge. Osman and Owuor selected winners as well as finalists, many of which are included here. Each frames the theme in a new light, greatly enriching the issue. The original idea for Allies came from Arts Editor Adam McGee, who then also worked to fill in gaps and did hands-on editing, with help from a cohort of readers, assistants, and colleagues.
Allies is the first book produced by the Arts in Society project. Thanks to the generous support of our funders, readers can look forward to a similar themed volume every fall. We hope you’ll join us as we explore how the arts speak to the most urgent concerns of our time.
Adam McGee is the Arts Editor and Managing Editor of Boston Review. He has a PhD in Black Studies from Harvard. His writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Electric Lit, Poets & Writers, Raleigh Review, Painted Bride, Memorious, Cimarron Review, and Assaracus.
Evie Shockley is the author of semiautomatic (2017; finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and The Believer Poetry Award) and the new black (2011; winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award), among other collections of poetry. She has also published a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (2011). She is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Ed Pavlić is author of eleven published or forthcoming books. His most recent work includes Live at the Bitter End (Saturnalia Books 2018), Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listener (Fordham UP 2016), Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno (Fence Books 2015) and Visiting Hours at the Color Line (Milkweed Editions 2013). He is Distinguished Research Professor in the English Department and in the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia.
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