BY D.S. WALDMAN
I’ve grown weary in recent years of the phrase “the extraordinary times we are living in.” I hear its myriad variations and recombinations in our politics, university commencement speeches, TED talks, podcasts, newscasts, and—yes—often as ways of introducing our art and literature.
I find extraordinary not the ideas of environmental catastrophe, fascism, the suppression of underrepresented peoples, or war—read: the contemporary news cycle—but rather how an artist might manage to respond to such tired and ever permeating tragedies in ways that inspire and affirm, that breathe life into our collective humanity, or at the very least allow people to feel seen.
Louise Glück once described writing as “a kind of revenge against circumstance,” a framework I like, particularly in its defiance of the sometimes unbearable human condition and its repurposing of suffering to serve, in the most successful instances, beauty. I hear echoes of Glück in Hua Xi’s poem “The Past Still Needs Me,” from Adroit’s 46th issue—When I come back to life, they write, I hope to be more than my suffering.—and in Jonny Teklit’s “Door”: Meg says the doors are everywhere if you look for them, and they are.
Beauty and suffering are everywhere in this issue, side-by-side, feeding and defying each other, their interdependence reminding us of the necessity, in these perpetually “unprecedented times,” of art making—a topic Heather June Gibbons engages with directly in her ekphrastic prose piece “Portrait of the Artist Behind Broken Glass.”
It is brave to make art, to endeavor in impossibly minute increments toward something beautiful. I’m reminded of this at the end of Sara Afshar’s moving poem “Self-Disclosure.” She writes, Once in a while, my brother still sings. ‘God does not let a son be killed by a father.’ I love you, I love you, I love you.
How bold, ending a poem this way. I love you, I love you, I love you. It is an ending emblematic of this issue, Adroit’s 46th. Surprising. Courageous. Unforgettable. Cheers to Sara and the issue’s 38 contributors. Cheers, now and always, to the makers. Your work is safe here.