It’s hard to believe that this is the 3rd issue that carte blanche has published during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 still feels very much like the last year. In Quebec, we find ourselves in the midst of the second wave of the virus, with a new more contagious strain to worry about. With new “shock therapy” lockdown regulations, students returning to schools, and a curfew applied at the beginning of January from the provincial government, it can feel like we have been caught perpetually running in place.
That being said, this new year has offered us glimmers of hope. Vaccines have started being distributed to vulnerable and at-risk populations in our province and around the globe. Down south there is the promise of a newly elected federal leader. Most of us are tired and anxious for what the future holds, but I also find there is a mood of cautious optimism in the air.
As I ponder this editorial, I find myself looking outside at my neighbourhood’s trees, glazed with icing-like snow and am bolstered by the afternoon’s light bouncing off everything. The scene reminds me of Bill Watterson’s final Calvin and Hobbes strip from 1995, where fresh snow is described by Hobbes the tiger like “having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!” I find this blank space of a new year to be appropriate for our milestone 40th issue.
Rather than focus on a theme as we have been doing over the last few years, we wanted to follow the spirit of our name, carte blanche, and offer a welcoming “blank page” for writers and artists to contribute to this issue with whatever was on their minds. As we like to say, there are many ways to tell a story.
carte blanche has been an online magazine since 2004, when we were founded by members of the Quebec Writers’ Federation (see the first issue from our archives here!) and we are pleased that despite some pandemic-related delays, we can continue bringing you our latest Winter 2021 issue.
While we did not request a theme for our contributors to follow this time around, I am not surprised that during this troubling timeline, contributors like Helen Chau Bradley touched on the pandemic itself like in Bradley’s “The Queue”, where myriad voices paint a fascinating portrait of our times: “Whoa, back it up, buddy: six feet, at least.”
Other themes revealed themselves as I browsed through our contributors’ work. The theme of loss, which can be found in the poignant photo series “What’s Left Behind” by Angela Zheng, featuring shuttered and empty storefronts. Or the spectre of death, in Claire Holden Rothman’s story “Shiva”, where a character reveals that she is drawn to death, saying: “Oh, I am always interested in it,” without really knowing why. Or through the examination of individual and societal impacts of trauma in indigenous communities in Angel Wright’s nonfiction piece “Looking at Australia, Looking at Me.”
While these days, many of us can relate to Rachel Lachmansingh’s speaker’s feelings: “we are sinking” or “we are bored”, I find myself encouraged by small moments of joy found in the everyday, like the speaker in Manahil Bandukwala’s poem, where photos of “scambled eggs and chili” and an “[emoji of a sun setting over a city skyline]” are love poems bursting from texts.
A line that was particularly resonant for me can be found in “The Things We Name” translated by Riley Donlon from Simon Brown: “Somehow, still, we float.”
I am grateful to our contributors for buoying our spirits and entrusting us with their work during this uneasy period and I want to thank the editorial team at carte blanche for their time, dedication, and perseverance behind the scenes to help put this issue together.
This will be the final issue for our longtime Comics section editor, Georgia Webber. Thank you so much for your curatorial work with us over the years, Georgia, and best wishes to you on your new endeavors.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out our 2020/2021 Resilience: Resistance Blog Series curated by poet Avleen Mokha, which focuses on highlighting the voices of BIPOC writers and artists, I invite you to please check out the first two blog posts by Bänoo Zan here and Kama La Mackerel here. I am excited to share the remaining posts with you all in the coming months.
Please enjoy the 2021 “Blank Page” issue (40) of carte blanche and let us know your thoughts.
As Calvin says in the last panel of the final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip: “Let’s go exploring!”
– Greg Santos, Editor in Chief