BY HEIDI SEABORN
After a year and half of living in a pandemic, how has our world changed? How have we changed? How is our art reflecting these changes? I know these are large questions ensnaring scores of sociologists, but I think Issue 38 of The Adroit Journal provides a sense of our new rhythms and obsessions.
Consider our cover art by Eric Price—a man half-naked drinking coffee looking out the window. The subject is exposed yet trapped within. There is another man, shirtless, on a balcony, suspended but caged. Have we ever been more aware of our intimate surroundings, been more guarded and yet more vulnerable?
That sense of entrapment and stasis is powerfully captured in Maja Lukic’s poem “It Was” with lines such as, “It was the way/months were just different personalities marching/across the sky” and “It was the way you said/there would be an after, a happy after. And I said,/no, this is the onset, it has no end.” Not only is there no end in Raye Hendrix’ short story, “The Intruder”, but also—after eighteen months of constantly recalibrating what safe means—Hendrix takes us to a terrifying place under the guise of staying safe.
Where, then, can we turn for comfort? To those we love, both human and animal, as Jessica Poli’s “Balm” explores. Many of us have found solace in our pets—dog adoption rates are up 20%. I know my Labrador, Fetch, has curled next to me every day of this pandemic. And so, there’s no surprise that our dogs have wandered into our work. In a pair of poems, we see Mark Doty’s old golden retriever Ned navigate the quiet space of night and the fraught landscape of stairs and feel the speaker’s own fears and reconciliation. Patricia Liu gives us a beagle frantic with want in her poem “Watch Dog”. While the speaker in Margaret Ray’s poem “Taxonomy” describes another pandemic obsession, birding, with a lover and a dog along, capturing the emotional risk of “all my love … here, tied up in these two mammals” as even our smallest forays take on heightened meaning.
As artists and writers, we often plumb the familial seeking truth or just a better understanding of those we call family. But I wonder if the forced closeness—or in other cases, separation from family—has given deeper perspective. An eye for what lies beneath the surface—such as in Perry Lopez’ short story “Cleaning Bones” or in Caitlin Scarano’s poem “Your Grandfather Killed a Deer, My Grandfather Killed Deer”—that excavates heritage and love. Or in Laura Van Prooyan’s poems, where homebound life is drawn with precision and pathos.
You can read Rachel Yoder’s surprising and entertaining interview in our Enlightenments section—where you’ll also find Victoria Chang interviewing Shangyang Fang, a poet that was born the same year as The Best American Poetry controversy recalled vividly by Colleen Abel. And of course, we love getting into the mind and mastery of Forrest Gander on the poetry side, and Brandon Taylor on the prose side.
In this contemplative time, perhaps we have pared back the detritus to find the emotional core of our beings, or—as Spencer Reece writes in his poem “Taizé”—we “lay down my pack/whatever/the question the answer is love”. And maybe that is the answer to the larger questions of what change the pandemic has wrought. Come read for yourself, you’ll find much to love.
Heidi Seaborn is the author of [PANK] 2020 Poetry Award winner An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe (2021), Give a Girl Chaos (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, 2019) and the 2020 Comstock Prize Chapbook, Bite Marks, as well as chapbooks Finding My Way Home and Once a Diva. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for over two dozen awards. Her work has recently appeared in American Poetry Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, The Cortland Review, The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, The Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She is Executive Editor of The Adroit Journal, on the board of Tupelo Press and holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU. For more, visit Heidi online at www.heidiseabornpoet.com.
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