Dear Reader,

Last December when we announced a new Editor-in-Chief, we also announced that instead of publishing Symposeum quarterly, we would publish twice a year: in the summer and in the winter. We would still experiment with form, explore new themes, and curate content that we deemed worth your time—and we believe we’ve stayed true to these priorities. We also assured ourselves and our readers that our 1840 roots would likewise continue to root us in soil fertilized by a hopeful spirit.

With these commitments front and center, we’re excited to bring you our first issue of 2022 and fourth issue of Symposeum. In the pages that follow, while you’ll recognize echoes of our publication’s past and earlier incarnations, this issue looks and feels different than the rest.

Our Issue Four theme is “Trace.”

When it first entered the written lexicon some seven hundred years ago, the word “trace” meant “to follow,” “to outline,” or “to ponder." We chose it as our issue theme because it reproduces the Transcendentalists’ praxis of “rational optimism, as well as beckons us to engage the world around us through critical inquiry despite our present moment’s feverish pitch.  

But still, what is a trace? A trace may be small. A trace can be significant. There are traces of events, memories or relationships that linger with us. There are traces in successes and failures that hint to something bigger or brighter on the horizon. We also leave our own traces on others.

The works curated in this issue explore these musings and questions. Try to approach each piece with this lens in mind; see for yourself what there is to discover, and what “traces” they leave behind.

The cover art by Bryce Cobb was commissioned especially for this issue of Symposeum. For Bryce, reflections on “trace” kept circling back to lineage and legacy. His cover art illustrates just this: the artist tracing his lineage through his father and brother.

We are especially proud this issue to showcase Ukrainian authors and others deeply affected by current global events. Plutarch warned centuries ago that it is “so very difficult a matter” to trace history for truth, but we commend these contributors for their pursuit of truth amidst international toil.

Dana Kanafina, a writer from Kazakhstan, shares an essay about her country’s coming-to-terms with Russia’s colonial legacy.

Professor Victoria Juharyan offers us three poems that trace Slavic culture through various artistic domains.

Dzvinia Orlowsky and Ali Kinsella translate Natalka Bilotserkivets’ poems from Ukrainian.

Olena Jennings, a Ukrainian poet, contemplates in Time Capsule how objects and shapes influence memory.

Alina Zubkovych pens a stirring essay on her own experiences of the war from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

There is much cause for despair—from wars and shootings to hunger and disease—but despair alone mends nothing. No matter the “Horror of the shade”, to quote the poet William Ernst Henley, we remain convinced of our species’ indomitable spirit. Join us, then, in this issue’s attempt to gather and trace what good yet abounds around us.

We invite you to look at each piece individually, collectively, and creatively with “trace” as both a point of launching-off and rallying-around. Finally, as this is our latest attempt at an issue during our new chapter as a publication and project, we welcome your honest feedback: what you loved, what you missed, what could be better. Feel free to drop us a note at Happy reading!

In hope,

Ali Kominsky, Editor-in-Chief, Symposeum

Rachel Hone, Founder, The Dial project