Issue 4.2 Editors’ Note

Our Spring 2024 Issue offers a sustained meditation on the aesthetic potential and political utility of concreteness and affirmation. Against a stance of passive acceptance — it is what it is, and we cannot change it — the work in this issue turns the phrase into an active political provocation: we name the conditions of possibility that we want to see in the world and, in so doing, speak them into being. This theme relates back to River Halen’s call, as guest judge of our Fall 2023 writing contest, for works that “recover or regenerate a venue for one’s own becoming.” As world events continue to enfold us, too often without our consent and in spite of our protests, this issue stakes its hope for the future on these gestures of affirmation in writing, saying the words that we want to hear and showing the futures that we believe are possible.

The gentle, relational embodiment in Ashton Diduck’s poems — “under my / your / mouth/hands” — shores up a resolute statement of queer presence: “I am / he is.” Benjamin de Boer, SK Maston, and Ami Xherro’s collaborative artist project occasions a generative “commotion in common” that models how friendship and calls to collectivity might be tenderly intermingled. Woojae Kim and Yoon Sook Cha’s pieces work through strange, inarticulable movements of grief to arrive at the consolation of relation, endurance, and even transitory time itself. Alice Notley’s headlong poem “Further Instructions” opens with an image of germination — “how red flowers pop through a small hole in a seed” — reminding us that the most seemingly impossible transformation is also sometimes the most inevitable. Notley elaborates these sentiments in her interview in this volume, insisting that “poetry remakes the future” in concretely material ways. 

Other works use the issue theme to pay special attention to the explicit materiality of artistic works: of language in the form of the letter, the page, the phoneme; of the variousness and expressiveness of the mark and the mark-making tool; of the body in its unique physicality and presence. Drawn from his Selected Works spanning from 1973 to 1988, Gerry Shikatani’s poems reflect upon how language can work to concretize, rather than abstract, beloved people, places, and things. Jastej Luddu’s interview with Fred Wah thinks through the materiality of an archival sound recording to reflect on the author’s relationship to discourses surrounding multiculturalism, past and present. The image folio Artists, Writing — featuring new and recent works by Derya Akay, Jonathan Alfaro, Marvin Luvualu António, Tiziana La Melia, Elizabeth McIntosh, and Tania Willard — investigates the porous relationships between drawing and writing, gesture and legibility, as they inform the limits of what can, or should, be known. 

This issue also features the first two pieces commissioned by Associate Editor Susan Blight for our new Indigenous Places and Names series: a conversation with Stó:lō scholar and musicologist Dylan Robinson on the politics of naming within the wider context of Indigenous resurgence, and a futurist vision of land and relation by Diné artist Nicole Neidhardt. 

The phrase “it is what it is” is often voiced from an exhausted place (to echo poet Danielle LaFrance’s observation about the worn phrase “it’s a structural problem”). We present the contents of this issue as an analeptic to complacency, concocted from our own bare efforts to define what it is we are working towards. Cumulatively, these moves in language take on the material work of transforming the present conditions, carving out a reality that aligns with how we imagine the world and our place within it.

— Deanna Fong and Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross

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