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Stephanie Pushaw

I write this at the close of my third year of a PhD program in literature and creative writing in Houston, Texas, a city whose intricate links with literature those who haven’t been there sometimes find surprising. Amidst the oil tankers and Carnival Cruises lining up in the Gulf of Mexico to dock or embark, the twelve-lane freeways fomenting road rage that frequently turns lethal, the labyrinthine sprawl of the skyscrapers and, infiltrating all of it, the wet heat and alligators and coyotes of a swampland-turned-megalopolis, there is quite a lot of art. One of the best that Houston had to offer was Donald Barthelme, whose generous endowment through the Inprint nonprofit has funded hundreds of graduate students at the University of Houston, of which number I am a grateful part.

For nearly a decade, I have had a quotation from Barthelme pinned above my writing space which reads, “Anathematization of the world is not an adequate response to the world.” His keen eye for the absurd and the poignant, which he was able to locate even in the swirl of despair and chaos which sometimes overtakes even the most optimistic navigator of this world, has always been a beacon to me – a gentle admonition that, however we as writers and humans choose to engage with the world, the option of just tuning it out has never been a viable one.

In a profession which can feel solitary, even isolating by nature, this message serves as a welcome reminder of our fundamental interconnectedness with one another and our obligations towards each other and to the planet.

Though I work in both fiction and nonfiction, I am happy to be exclusively focusing on the latter for New Square. I’ll be publishing brief essays in this space in future issues in which I’ll explore the implied second half of Barthelme’s quotation: What is an adequate response to the world?

If you’ll allow for a little optimism, I’m hoping we can find out together. Watch this space.

Stephanie Pushaw

*Editor’s Note—New Square is very pleased to introduce the immensely talented Stephanie Pushaw as its’ new nonfiction editor. She’ll also be contributing a column to each issue, starting in the fall.--JR

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