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Frontier is a word that was once so tied to place—borderlands, some (supposedly) uninhabited expanse, parts near the edge of the map. Even the sky, the moon, and outer space have been called frontiers. Throughout history, human beings have explored beyond the horizon of their known world, resulting in discovery and knowledge as well as conflict or conquest.

Nowadays, a frontier is often more metaphorical—an unfamiliar experience, a new challenge. Birth and death, thresholds to life, also mark a kind of frontier. And sometimes the frontier is internal, a private journey we walk alone.

When I consider frontiers I’ve faced, I think of loading my newly purchased car and driving westward to Oregon for graduate school. I think of coming out, leaving the religion I was raised in, and reimagining my identity. I think of the unique frontiers of each new relationship, and now the frontier of marriage that I traverse together with my husband.

In many ways, this global pandemic, too, has been a frontier, throwing all of us—scientists and civilians alike—into something unknown and vast.

Each frontier has been a place of risk and growth. Like those flinty homesteaders, I’ve had to learn new skills, embrace change, and carve a life for myself, side-by-side with others in the same terrain.  

Our submissions for this issue reflect several interpretations of frontiers, from geographical to political to personal. There are themes of childhood and parenthood, grief and adventure, first steps and final journeys. The settings include oceans and forests, Nebraska and the frontera between the U.S. and Mexico, the remembered past and an imagined afterlife.

Thank you to all our poets and writers for their thoughtful contributions to the theme. We hope you enjoy exploring them.

Phillip Watts Brown is a poetry editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2022, Phillip Watts Brown

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