When I read a text that truly speaks to me, it’s as if my breathing changes, I calm down into a place of words, and those words temporarily become the rhythm of my body. “breathe into a poem,” writes Eli Lynch in “belly breath,” published in this Issue 31 of carte blanche. Pick up the text and inhale; let reading practice become contemplation; let a softening occur and let that be literature.
“my chest falls in breaths outside short breaths outside
all the lungs are falling outside collapsing” (Eli Lynch)
For what is happening outside? This is not the place to remind of news sources and Twitter feeds. But even within the contexts of the short stories, poems, translations, Q&A’s, and comics included here, the outside infiltrates and characters struggle to absorb or extricate their inner lives from the clash of existence. Addiction features. Death offers its mournful cloak. Relationships disintegrate and interpersonal contact chafes. Society impinges with striking defiance of what individuals actually need to be content.
“There was nothing but this numbness, this torpor that came upon him slowly and at first seemed to him to be the opposite of pain, seemed instead to be a collapsing … his breathing vaguely obstructed” (Sylvain Prudhomme, trans. Jessica Moore)
And yet, “Reading … cradles me and gives shape to my days,” writes Chloé Savoie-Bernard (translated here by Natalia Hero). Literature is an access point, not to evasion in an escapist way, but to comfort in confrontation, to articulation, to process, to activation of the next step. In Liz Howard’s words, reading good literature is an exciting “charge penetrating whatever cognitive enclosure I might find myself pressed up against and looking for a way out.”
A way out. A way in. A thoroughfare for thought.
Consider Hoa Nguyen’s steady evocation of race, Charles Olson, and “the napalm poem.” Or jia qing wilson-yang’s landscape, as endearing as it is serious, where animals talk—I can’t say more without revealing the plot twist. Or Tess Liem’s expansion from the anonymous to the personal to the mutual and communal. There is so much more than I could highlight.
“I could have sworn you were wearing rose-coloured glasses.” (Sara St. Antoine)
Issue 31 is the first I have contributed to as editor for carte blanche. It has been a pleasure and an honour working with the journal’s wonderful team to compile this selection of literature—thank you. I extend our collective appreciation to every author who shared their writing with carte blanche and to every reader who chooses to inhale these texts through the eyes.
— Klara du Plessis, Editor-in-Chief