It was during the two-week summer residency in July 2015 for Ashland University’s MFA program that we decided on the theme for Issue 8. While our car rose and dipped easily over a series of hills and intermittently rounded curves in the countryside in Ashland County, Ohio, the perpetual motion and time spent with each other allowed us to chat leisurely and think about our future.
In our personal lives, we’d been through an incredible amount of turmoil, so the residency in Ashland was almost a vacation to us. Over the last year, we’d seen reports of horrific acts of anti-Black violence perpetuated by police including the death of Sandra Bland, which happened scarcely a few days before that car ride. It also seemed to us like nearly every other day we were reading reports of another transgender person murdered or having committed suicide. And then, of course, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision which brought about marriage equality was barely a month old by this point.
Because of this, social justice and equality were at the center of our thoughts and conversations, including during that ride up to Ashland. With both of us being autistic queer men of colour, thoughts of our civil rights and personal safety weighed heavy on our minds. The conversation topic turned to the Reconstruction period in American History: while one of the initial goals was to rebuild the South after the Civil War, this also included expanding educational opportunities, economic prosperity, and voting rights for Black people. Of course, these goals were not achieved; in fact, they were sharply halted by obstacles such as Jim Crow laws, segregation being heavily enforced both legally and socially, and anti-Black violence.
We also realized during this conversation that it had been nearly thirty years since R.E.M. released their third studio album Fables of the Reconstruction. While this fact might seem a bit trivial, repeated listens to the album inspired us — not only because of its Southern Gothic sensibilities, but by the back history of its creation. The band nearly broke up during the recording of Fables, but did not. N.I. recalled that in a televised interview he’d seen years ago, drummer Bill Berry referred to Fables as “the misery album”.
Spiritual teacher and mystic Almine once said in one of her videos that “pain is a signal that something needs to change”. And so, misery can force the need for reconstruction. We wanted to see what writers and artists thought about this. The injustice we see around us — whether it be towards racialized, queer, transgender, female, disabled, neurodivergent, or poor people — demands change, likely in radical steps. Perhaps it calls for a complete destruction and reconstruction of Western society. And what about our art? Radical revision of our own art can call for reconstruction, too. And for many of us, if we have find that we can no longer bear the burden of not living authentic lives, changing our lives so that we can live as our authentic selves often calls for reconstruction in our sensibilities, thoughts, language, and perhaps even our physical bodies.
We invite you to read Issue 8 and discover how its creatives envision reconstruction. (You’ll also notice the cover is inspired a bit by the Fables album cover — blame N.I. for that.) Our cover artist is Ethar Hamid this issue, and Ethar’s piece “Pyramid” seemed to link perfectly to our theme.
Enjoy — and we look forward to beginning our third year of publication in April with our unthemed Issue 9.
V. Solomon Maday
Table of Contents
The Puzzlebox Collective
Katie Lois Johnson
Sean J Mahoney
Tamara Kaye Sellman
This Is A Clothespin (Damaged Goods Press)