Last July we published our first newsletter (so yes, technically this is a belated anniversary note), introducing our publication and sharing what we hoped to accomplish as a magazine.
I wrote these marginally over-wrought words at that time:
“The Utah Monthly will struggle and grapple with the meaning of our society and culture, as well as with the change and flux in both. We will attempt to peel back the layers of place (defined as broadly as possible), and sort through the ideas, cultures, habits, customs, quirks, houses, skate parks, landfills, roads, governments, and religions with tenacity, wonder, compassion, and honest analysis. The neatness and tidiness of many lawns and house-fronts belies the complexity of our life here. In reality all life is messy and complex, just perhaps even more strikingly so here as it lies in jagged juxtaposition, like our neighboring mountains to our neatly manicured narratives. We intend to ask ourselves over and over “What are we doing here?” and, “What does this place mean?””
With these words let’s look back and see how we started—and where we’re going.
More than a year and a half ago, my co-worker Tucker Morris and I decided it would be fun to start a magazine focused exclusively on the ideas, politics, and cultures of Utah. I was just coming off an overdose on national magazines and periodicals that, though brilliant and thought-provoking, left me feeling bereft of community—because I knew more about Washington than I did about Orem. We scaled our idea back to an online newsletter, and fortuitously discovered Substack (our current platform), which has made publishing our weekly newsletter incredibly easy.
We had no idea where this idea would take us—and we’re still not entirely sure—but we’ve been lucky enough in the past year to publish thought-provoking, timely, and enjoyable articles about Mormon subreddits, the intertwining of faith and politics, cinema during COVID, and the Utah Valley Parade of Homes—among many other topics. We’ve also been fortunate to hear from a wide range of Utahans, both current and former, and we’re excited to hear from even more as we continue on.
Over the past year, we’ve been privileged to work closely with Erika Barrett, Shawn Hall, Josh Stevenson, and many others who have contributed incredibly poignant and well-researched pieces which have honed and improved this newsletter. And most of all we’re deeply grateful for you, our readers (both those voluntarily and involuntarily subscribed). Your attention and thoughtfulness have inspired us to continue on—thank you.
Our mission is to strengthen local Utah communities and culture by fostering deeper understanding of local issues and situations, elevating important ideas and debates, and developing and showcasing local literary, artistic, and creative talent. In essence, borrowing from George Will’s idea of “statecraft as soulcraft,” we have imagined our content as placecraft and our mission as fostering placefulness.
Following are some of my favorite Utah Monthly articles from the last year—each a memorable piece of “placecraft.” The variety and depth of the individual perspectives expressed in these articles and poems is life-affirming, and assures us that we can only fully come to know the place we call home through another’s eyes. We watch others watching the landscape and begin to understand. Paralleling Mary Oliver’s beautifully intuitive line—“I know several lives worth living”—perhaps, we could add, we know several places worth living in.
Thanks again for reading and here’s to another year.