Air/Light is an online literary journal published by the English Department at the University of Southern California. We showcase both traditional and innovative works. We are firmly of the West Coast, but also national, international. We mean to look out expansively from this place rather than to gaze narrowly back at it, to express a West Coast aesthetic, a West Coast sensibility, and direct that lens onto the world.
California and the West Coast—the occupied land of the Tongva in Los Angeles, where we are based, and those of other indigenous peoples of the Americas—has long been defined by narrow fantasies produced by settler colonialism and racial capitalism. But the region we know has a history as diverse and sweeping as it is fraught. Air/Light provides a space for writers and artists to explore not only the histories of violence, inequality, and exploitation—but also more intimate personal histories and lives defined by joy, triumph, and love.
Our name is inspired by Lawrence Weschler’s 1998 essay “L.A. Glows,” which describes a meteorological condition endemic to Southern California, where the air is full of oversized particles—responsible for the clarity of the light (in the sense that these particles reflect and amplify its glow) and also for optical effects that are obscuring, even mysterious. This phenomenon is known as “airlight,” and it seems an ideal metaphor for what this Air/Light aspires to do: to walk a line between clarity and a kind of focused blurring, a necessary balance between being found and getting lost.
Air/Light operates according to a hybrid format; like a print journal, we will announce each issue—we plan four a year—and then roll out the contents over a number of weeks, a few pieces at a time. The aim is to blend, or blur (that word again), the cohesion of the quarterly with the fluidity of the digital.
Our intention is to be an artist’s journal—a place where poets and essayists and fiction writers and multimedia creators can all bring work that doesn’t fit inside boxes, that pushes boundaries, that speaks directly to some essential question or concern. A place where artists can experiment, or choose, willfully, not to experiment. A place where they can publish defining work alongside other artists pursuing the same.
We seek to be responsive to the moment. We seek to be activist and engaged. Most of all, we seek to join the vibrant, ongoing conversation—both on the West Coast and across the planet—about writing and reading and expression: the human dialogue, in other words, which has never seemed more urgent and necessary.