A few months ago, I got an email that chastised me for only listing two people on the diode masthead. It was “rude” and “egotistical” the sender said, to not acknowledge “all the people” who worked for diode. I responded that I listed two people on the masthead because that is the exact number of people who work on diode. I edit and promote diode, and Jeff Lodge, who designed the look of the journal, puts each issue online. At first, I was annoyed by the email, but then I was flattered. Somehow, I had created the impression that diode was a small industry teeming with people scurrying around doing important diode work. It was then I realized that editing a journal like diode, and now its book publishing off-shoot Diode Editions, both home-grown, labor-of-love endeavors, is very much about creating illusions. So many sleights of hand are involved, from pulling time from sleeves, plucking quarters from behind ears (and beneath sofa cushions) and perhaps the greatest trick of all, a reverse magic, if you will, of not letting your own poems vanish into thin air.
So why do it? I edit diode because I get a great deal of joy from promoting the work of others. Finding poems I love, and having the privilege of connecting those poems with readers brings a more pure satisfaction than publishing my own work. Don’t get me wrong—I am a writer, and I want to be read—but when I see my own work I see the missteps, the wrong word in the third line, the awkward break at line 12, the too-tidy ending. Or the reverse, I see a poem I was able to write by who knows what divine creative intervention, and I am certain I will never be able to replicate such alchemy again. Either way, unlike publishing the work of others, the experience is fraught with my own insecurities, my inner critic never quite stepping aside.
I edit diode because I love writers. Even at AWP when I think I’ll scream if I see one more pair of skinny jeans, I love the whole quirky, obsessed, lot of us. I love that when I was in college at age 30, and I walked into my first poetry workshop I instantly thought “Oh, well this is where they’ve been.” My tribe. I had finally found them. I love how on Facebook when someone posts an-anti-Obama-pro-gun-why–liberals-are-hell-bent-on-destroying-all-that-is-good-and-sacred rant, I know I can count on the writers to reassure me that all is not anger and angst and division. And though this is incredibly sweeping, and incredibly biased, I know that writers care against all odds, against the riptide of popular culture, about creating beauty, about speaking for those without voice, about truth, and about the power, sanctity and responsibility of the written word. These are the people I want to know, and diode, as humble an endeavor as it is, allows me this honor.
And finally, I edit diode because editing is a way of serving. It allows me to serve the community that has enriched my life. It is the debt I pay to the stories that taught me that the abuse I endured as a child was not my fault and put me on a path that led me away from that abuse; to the poems I grieved through when my mother died; the stories that opened the world to me and imbued me with a hunger to see it; the essays that taught me how to love and live—in short, to the writers who have astonished and delighted, and continue each day to make life richer and more meaningful. My debt is enormous, and I edit diode so in some small way our debt to writers remains enormous.