In a year that was marked by pandemic panic, protests of racial injustice, and political anxiety, it is easy to wish that we could forget 2020 altogether. But in times like these, it is our job as a publication to record these moments and feelings, not to forget them. Amidst the bleakness that this year brought, we received an influx of submissions as storytellers took more time to write and reflect on their experiences through the page. Much like the year itself, our submissions ranged from very dark moments to ones of light and hope – with all sorts of subject matter in between. This issue is a beautiful result of our writers’ extensive work despite (or perhaps, because of) the year we’ve experienced. We appreciate their bravery in sending in pieces that let our editors and readers into their worlds if only for a moment. This year, we accepted more poetry than we ever have because we found so many of these stories to be relatable. We hope that you can interact with these pieces the same way we have, and that they impact you as they’ve impacted us. Here, in this note, we take the time to pause and reflect on our current world, our publication choices, and our ongoing role in the writing sphere. Whether you’re a new reader or a Portage-enthusiast, we welcome you to take the opportunity to reflect with us.
Portage, for those of you who do not know, is run and edited entirely by undergraduate students at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It all began in 2015, back when “Zoom” wasn’t a part of our daily vocabulary. In the following six years, we’ve managed to expand our reach into the furthest corners of the Midwest. Every submission undergoes thorough discussion by each of our editors, as it is vital to us that we connect in some way to the pieces that we decide to publish. While our inbox still predominately fills with poetry and prose submissions, we’ve also consistently taken steps to connect more personally with our writers and artists through interviews to give you a closer look at their lives. We’ve made it a priority each year to go against publishing strictly literary work by highlighting unique visual pieces (see: Sylvian Juraska’s illustrations in 2018) or audio features (see: local band wats in 2020). We plan to continue to think outside the box to provide you with new and exciting content, no matter what the future holds.
We as editors and readers alike have collectively been impacted by this year in one way or another. The pandemic caused us all to be stuck at home, afraid and possibly grieving over losses. At the same time, this period offered us a rare chance to pull back and appreciate the things we normally take for granted. Maybe you learned a new hobby, reconnected with old friends or family, or spent more time outside. And maybe none of those things happened, which is okay too. We just hope that you have taken the time to find some joy in these times, and that you’re still finding joy through reading Portage. We also cannot write this note without discussing the urgent social justice issues that have taken center stage for over a year now. As a publication in a region that is not necessarily known for its inclusion and diversity, we realize our responsibility to encourage people of color to share their stories. We believe that Black lives matter, and that Black voices are important. With this in mind, Portage asks you, our supporters and applicants, to promote and share this magazine in spaces of color. Encourage writers of color to submit their work to aid in the process of ending the domination of white voices in upper-Midwest fiction. Portage can only expand its reach by promoting our submission period in these spaces while urging people of color to find and project their voices.
In the face of the upheaval that this year brought, one of Portage’s missions for this year’s issue was to highlight local voices and spaces. We feel that featuring our area’s creative individuals is vital for fostering a greater sense of community and connection. The vast majority of our published authors, reviewers, and interviewees reside in the Midwest, but this certainly doesn’t mean that all their pieces are the same. Many of our published works highlight aspects of typical Midwestern life, such as fishing and living in a small town. Others focus on how subjects like race and sexuality are regarded here, as well as how those perceptions have changed. Our features page gives our local writers, artists, and a publisher the space to reflect on their meaningful contributions to our local communities. We pay homage to our neighboring city, Milwaukee, through a reflective photo essay by David Bernacchi, along with also highlighting pandemic life through Erica Reyes’ striking art piece. We were also lucky enough to chat with Shannon Ishizaki, founder and owner of Waukesha’s Orange Hat Publishing, along with engineer by day and writer by night Adrian Potter. These interviews focus on the impact that Midwestern life has had on our interviewees work and lives. Overall, we realize that we may all have different life experiences, but we value the connection we share through the place we all call home.
In a year of isolation, we found it necessary to find and project our voices. We’ve bonded over our shared experiences through quarantine. We’ve protested social injustice. We’ve adapted to new ways of communicating safely with one another. Our editors have spent hours sifting through submissions cataloguing the strange trajectory that this year has taken. These stories are proof of the darkness that the world has collectively experienced. At the same time, we’ve been able to witness the hope that can grow out of this darkness. Now more than ever, it is important to have a space to breathe life into our stories. Writing is one of the most intimate of acts, as it is where we can share our darkest moments, commit our fondest memories to paper, and argue our need for change. Portage is fully committed to providing this creative space to do so. We will continue to encourage you to share with us, to read with us, and to grow with us.