KS16: Letter From the Editor

Letter From the Editor

Love makes you lazy. This is what I thought, trying to consider how I was going to write my first—and last—letter from the editor. Everyone involved in this issue, and in the fifteen issues preceding it, will tell you that Kitchen Sink has been a labor of love. I’ve never liked the inherent premise of sacrifice in that phrase; love, after all, should theoretically be free of effort, but obviously that’s bullshit, both on a personal level and on a professional one. While the people who have worked on KS have a fair amount of love for one another, we also fight, people quit, there is resentment, 15 emails arrive in the space of an hour, all requiring me to do things I’d rather not do. Sometimes I get confused as to how I wound up here. Ten years ago, I met Jeff Johnson and Jen Loy, we worked on a now-defunct magazine together, we stayed friends, and at some point we decided to start another magazine. That’s the simple story. But there are many more stories involved.

One of the puzzling labels we earned within the first couple issues of Kitchen Sink’s was that we were “hipsters.” This bothered me for several reasons, and still does. First, as one of the oldest people involved in this thing from the start, I am totally out of the hipster age demographic. Second, I can’t stand indie rock. Yeah, I said it. Sitting around at copy edits and being subjected to the horror of the Magnetic Fields has scarred me. Being at crowded warehouse parties with 24-year-olds drunk on Pabst hurts my feelings. Knowing those same people were supposedly my magazine’s readership often drove me to despair.

So why did I do it? Why did I stick around for five years, working on this magazine, debating what we would call it (oh god, the hours we spent on that), resenting the time it sucked from my life, cursing my ignorance of serial commas, wondering if Harper’s would ever reprint anything we wrote? I did it because I’m a fool for love. I don’t express emotions easily, which would surprise the hell out of anyone who reads my poetry. But nobody was more surprised or embarrassed than I when, during one of the staff meetings where the magazine’s demise began to become apparent, I burst into tears. In the months since we first got the inklings that our distributor was going to fuck us and that we would not recover, I felt like I was cleaning up after a funeral that had already taken place.

I still feel that way, though we sometimes talk about the future and what it means for KS. We’d like to publish books, and we talk about keeping our storytelling series going, and we talk about hanging out—most of us are staying here in the Bay Area, which is nothing but a small town with a puddle in the middle. We talk about what we’ll do with our free time. For most of us, that involves writing. For me, it involves seeing my first book—a book written while I worked on this magazine—arrive, hopefully shortly after this issue does. Mostly, we talk about business, and we think about how much we’re going to miss doing this, and sometimes we talk about that too.

As a writer and a writing teacher, words come naturally to me on the page, much less so in person or on the telephone. And one of the most valuable things about the time I spent working on KS has been the ability to write, and to sometimes write a lot (like the time I contributed five articles to an issue, one under a pseudonym), and to interact with a different readership than I do when I write poetry. Ultimately, most of what I wrote for KS was neither ground-breaking nor even that great (can writing about fat white asses like mine and about John Cougar ever be great?), but the two or three fan letters I got from Canada after every issue reassured me I must have been doing something right.

Mostly, however, KS has been my chance to have a community, and to have readers who didn’t turn out to be dirty little hipster assholes after all. I’m grateful to the friends of mine who were naïve enough to get sucked into this thing, and to the people I worked with who became my friends. Childless, hermetic writer types like me are lucky to even be able to leave the house, much less to do so and be around like-minded people. Many people came and went from the KS fold over the years, but it’s the current iteration of editors, publishers and designers with which I have most felt like this magazine really was doing what we originally set out to do—something different, something challenging and something new. Which in turn makes it even more painful to see it end.

Love of the people KS has brought into my life, and love of the thing we made together, has indeed made me lazy. And laziness, after all, is the product of privilege, and I have been privileged to be a part of KS since before KS existed. Now we all move on to other things. Although I don’t doubt we’ll see one another, and follow each other’s stories, I’ve been around long enough to know that when the band breaks up, or the couple you always admired part ways, the magic is never the same when you see them together again. So whatever form this project takes next, it will likely look and feel nothing like what you hold in your hands. And while that’s sad in the sense that we won’t be here, making this thing for you together, it’s also the beginning of another kind of love—the love of building up from what’s been torn down. And while that’s raw and new, it’s also where we started.
—Kaya Oakes, KS senior editor, poetry editor, 2002-2007

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