the origins of Pea River Journal

21 Jul

So many of you have asked about our hiatus, the many whys, that I’ve decided to respond by explaining why I launched in the first place, what my expectations and hopes were back in 2012, the particular joys and sometimes confusing realities of running a small, independent literary journal, why I chose to go on hiatus, and why we are leaving the door open to some sort of future for PRJ that’s still undefined as I write this.

So this is just one part of all that explaining, an explaining that I hope will help me better understand what I’ve done and why.

I conceived Pea River Journal in a funk of have-not-ness. I’d subscribed to various lit mags over the years, followed and read many online mags, and studied the online presences that served as a complement to the print versions of established magazines. So many magazines are publishing so much really strong, really beautiful work. And, sometimes, I would find a story or poem that really resonated with me. However, what I more frequently found out there missed my particular spot. And when I say resonated, I should clarify and say shattered me, or echoed details or the spirit of details or moments imprinted and unforgettable, or created new memories and associations, or brought me to a new experience. Work that resonates gives us a new lens. Sometimes it’s a lens we have forgotten, lost, a lens that escaped. Resonant work returns the escapee lens to us. A gift. A new thing. A new way to see our own hearts.

Reading lit magazines had become a (frustrating) treasure hunt. I was an IT consultant at the time, traveling to a new city and a new set of faces almost every week. Literature was solace. I’d left tenure and comfort behind to chase a new lens. And while dislocation and new experiences gave me new things to notice, I’d mistaken noticing for seeing, the voyeurism of toy-shop goggles for an authentic lens.

The lens is within us, the collection of recorded experiences that trained our filters, the emotional responses that added color and music to our filters until we started confusing what we see with how we see it. The lens is within us. The lens is both trigger and receptor, the how for seeing and response.

And one day, in the middle of a city in the middle of the desert, parched past the bone to the soul that whispers in every dry fissure, I realized this. I was thirsty for resonance. How wonderful would it be to find a lit journal that curated only the resonant work, I thought. Not witty poems, not obscenely violent or pointless stories, not one more meditation on last night’s one night stand or a grandmother’s jonquils, lovely as those things can be. I wanted a lit journal that curated new work so resonant that it would be almost too much to read everything in a single sitting. Something unskimmable. Not sad, really. Not devastating in the usual or popular ways. And I could not find that sweet spot out there. So I started my own journal.

11 Responses to “the origins of Pea River Journal”

  1. Heather Hallberg Yanda July 21, 2015 at 18:40 #

    Trish, I love what you have written here — in part because of its honesty, but mostly because I so agree with you about needing work with a shinier lens, that sense of being shattered. I, too, find so much of the work out there with very little in it. Instead of walking away from the work changed or in awe in some way, I just walk away. Blessings, friend, for your meaningful thoughts, for your lens.

    • Patricia July 21, 2015 at 18:58 #


      • vinita18 July 22, 2015 at 16:26 #

        Trish, I too love what you have posted here. The shinier lens that was Pea River Journal will be missed deeply. It’s sad beyond sad that the journal is on a hiatus…but I wish you well. I wish you the sun…
        Much love,

  2. Anthony Martin July 21, 2015 at 20:31 #

    Amen. When we write and publish, let’s really go for it; when we read, let’s gravitate toward the work that does so.

  3. Weam Namou July 22, 2015 at 14:11 #

    Chasing that new lens requires compassion and courage, and you definitely have both.

    • Patricia July 22, 2015 at 14:20 #

      Weam, your own courage and compassion have been a life changing force.

      • Weam Namou July 22, 2015 at 14:22 #

        Much love and blessings to you and your work – wherever you decide to take it.

  4. Michael Lythgoe July 27, 2015 at 15:07 #

    Thank you for your resonate reflections on Pea River
    May we all swim again in Pea River..


    • Patricia July 28, 2015 at 14:09 #

      Mike, thank you for your words and all of your work. We will swim again.

  5. priya September 3, 2015 at 09:42 #

    I am reading this in India, an interview with Fanning led me to your journal. Whatever led me to God! Nevertheless, what led me here seems to be random browsing but in fact it is random browsing for stuff that ‘resonates’. That word! Hardly ever do we use it but it is what we all look for- in small talks – an anecdote that resonates, a film about unfamiliar place(s) or character(s) that still resonates! This is by far the most authentic and pleasant writing I have come across (not that I have extensively looked for the same) about experiencing a literary mag/journal – writing, producing, reading or curating it. This is inspiring and encouraging as I wish to read more of them and maybe contribute as an editor or reviewer.

    • Patricia February 23, 2016 at 01:59 #

      Thank you so much for reading and responding, Priya. We hope to continue writing such posts and discovering work that resonates.

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