When I originally chose this issue’s “Anxiety” theme, I had been reading Matt Haig’s insightful book Notes on a Nervous Planet which does a wonderful job of linking anxiety with the state of the modern world. I had been thinking about how there had been growing collective anxiety surrounding climate change, racial and social injustice, and political division. I had wanted people to consider what anxiety meant to them. I felt the idea and the experience of anxiety was open enough to allow a blank canvas for writers and artists to project their creativity onto and I was eager to see what they would come up with.
That was pre-COVID-19. “These are strange times, friends.” Those were the words I started my editorial off with in our last issue of carte blanche back in March 2020. Six months later and we seem to be reliving an anxious Groundhog Day-esque loop where we wake up and gaze outside, only to be disappointed that we continue to be in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic.
Here in Quebec, while many schools, theatres, restaurants, and businesses have reopened, as of September 21st, according to the province’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec is entering a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us find ourselves working and learning remotely from home. Friends and families are missing each other’s touch and company. Many workers in our communities continue to go to work and provide essential services to keep us healthy and safe. So, with infection rates climbing, a lockdown seems imminent.
It goes without saying that we are currently facing much more anxiety and uncertainty about what comes next. I am grateful that writers and artists, like those featured in this Issue 39, have channeled this pervasive anxiety into art.
This issue features Merle Harley’s comic “Snake – Swamp”, starring a snake who is not sure whether to leave the safe confines of their swampy home or to go out to explore the unknown. In A.T. Kingsmith’s timely photography series “Anxious Falls!,” images like an empty tower and an abandoned ferris wheel provide us a sad glimpse into Niagara Falls, where according to Kingsmith, “there has been little support for residents in the wake of COVID-19 quarantine measures.”
In our fiction section, pro-wrestling and speculative fiction come together to highlight a couple’s insecurities in J.R. McConvey’s “Kayfabe (or, The Commoners)” and worrying about having the right kind of boots play an vital role in Miatta Gorvie’s “Moon Kamiks.”
Kelly Norah Drukker strays from the safety of stable ground and climbs an ancient precarious cliff in Ireland, in our nonfiction section, providing us a glimpse of that cherished time pre-COVID-19 when we could travel freely.
In our translation section, I was particularly drawn to the following lines at the beginning of “Le tendon et l’os,” excerpts translated by Bronwyn Averett from Anne-Marie Desmeules: “We turned our faces toward the earth/and sank/into a damp slope of fears.” With everything seemingly spiraling out of control, it is tempting to want to sink to our knees and let our fears take hold of us.
In this issue, our poets touch on variations of anxiety by mulling over “freedom,” “dreams,” feeling “lost” and “doubt,” “self-sabotage,” and even writing the moon – an object of such poetic resonance – out of the poem. But there is always hope.
I long for the time where we can all say, as Alexei Perry Cox writes in “It’s a Slow Ride”: “Now it’s over; I’ll do something else. I’ll go toward the outside, toward others, toward life.”
I want to thank our dedicated editorial team at carte blanche – we are mainly volunteers who are passionate about literature, the arts, and our communities – for taking the time out of their own lives right now to continue their hard work behind the scenes.
I am also very pleased to welcome Avleen Mokha, who was recently announced as carte blanche’s Fall/Winter Blog Curator, and whose poetry can be found in Issue 39. I look forward to the work that she will curate and bring to our attention at the à la carte blog outside of our regular issues.
I am grateful to our contributors for voicing their thoughts on anxiety in such creative ways and for entrusting carte blanche with their work. While art cannot make our anxieties disappear, we can channel our worries and create something tangible that people can enjoy, cherish, and reflect on.
Enjoy the 2020 “Anxiety” (39) issue of carte blanche and please feel free to let us know your thoughts about it.
Please wash your hands. Wear a mask. Make sure to social-distance. Take care of each other.
We got this.
– Greg Santos, Editor-in-Chief