At this point in 2016, to do any more grieving or reflecting or preaching about loss & doom and work & hope is sheer tautology; yet here I am, writing a review of last week's launch of Soliloquies Anthology’s 21.1 edition and I don't think it makes any sense to attempt avoidance of the aforementioned depression that we've all been stuck in. This year has been brutal, painful to look at, difficult to endure, and it can't (and shouldn't) be ignored.
The fact that we have the time, resources, and freedom to gather in warm rooms to listen to friends and strangers read stories and poems (things that they have created) is a testament to our privilege, and this is (continually) a necessarily difficult thing to grapple with; however this does not make the event (the coming together, the literature, the love) any less amazing or worth celebrating.
It was a Tuesday night, it was cold out, and exams were being forced into lives that barely have enough space for sound sleep. Despite this, the turnout at Divan Orange was impressive; people filed in, hung up their coats (Divan Orange has a coat rack!), and found room at tables, along the walls, and eventually, out of necessity, on the floor. This edition of Soliloquies proudly published several new writers for the first time; Nahrin Youkhanna, Michael Lottner, Bronwyn Haney, and Ryan Tellier published impressive poems of varying sensibilities and intensities. Among the lines that they shared on this evening (which can be found in the journal) listeners met postcards to Anne Carson and "Damascus at night [...] smoke rising"; the massive spaces beyond and in-between the limits of "the eye of language"; the solitary lover reconciling the "desire to desire / many things—" with amazing words like "psithurism" [whispering, or the sound of the wind moving through leaves and trees] (perhaps the wind, too, desires many things); and a monk sitting, eating, walking, trying to do everything and nothing, as simply as one may "grow wings!". In similar fashion, Elizabeth Smith, Mark Grenon, and Evan J. Hoskins held the attention of the audience with care and force. These are writers I was previously unfamiliar with but each took the stage and read in memorable ways: Grenon delivered the short lines of “Black Box” with meticulously weighed and measured breaths; Smith led us through her story “Amazing Grace” with an abundance of it; and Hoskins sped through numerous images and voices (within and without his poems), aiming for gravity and laughter.
This Tuesday was the last official day of the semester. Some things ended, other things began, and most things remained the same—totally unobserved. What was observed, however, on this night, was (incoming: something you've heard a lot of and will continue to hear in the days to come) the importance of continuing to make things in a world that with every passing day is more at risk of being unmade. These things may be beautiful, they may be violent, they may be hard to describe in any categorical way; one thing, though, that they definitely will not be, is trivial.
This edition of Soliloquies Anthology is something we are very proud of. One of my professors closed his end-of-semester email to our class by saying: “I certainly learned at least as much from you as I taught”. This is a sentiment that I’ve witnessed in my peers and mentors before, and something that I personally feel more and more of these days. There could be no learning, no growth, no creating (of which there is no end so long as we continue) without cooperation. We, therefore, are indebted to you for your participation: your writing, your patience, your performances, your attention, and your space--in your hearts but also in reality (s/o to Divan Orange!). Thank you for doing what you do. We at Soliloquies wish you a restful holiday—if you're taking one—and look forward to returning in the new year re-energized, to do the work that we have decided is worth doing. We hope you feel this way too. Submissions for edition 21.2 open on January 9th. See you then.