Silver Linings, A Guest Post by Carolyn Guinzio

Carolyn Guinzio

A Reflection on Failure, Imperfection, and Change

In between working on remote classes for his freshmen year in college, my son has spent a little time installing whimsical signage in unexpected places around our scrap of land in the Ozarks. On a walk not long ago, I came across a sign on a tree in the middle of a field. Painted by hand was the Beckett directive to “Fail Better.”

In the time we’ve been staying home, the field around the tree has passed from early spring to early summer—the field is too overgrown and hazardous to walk through now.

While I was writing this, an email arrived. It brought news of a magazine rejecting a submission of poems. When I came back to this piece later and read the previous sentence, I had already forgotten that happened. Rejections are swift blows, quickly absorbed and leaving no lingering pain. It’s the same approach many of us take to writing: take risks, cast aside failure, forge ahead.

“…cast aside failure, forge ahead.”

A couple of months ago, I wrote a sequence on the anxiety of the impending threat. I have a screenshot on my phone from “Find My Friends,” my “friends” being my daughter and my son. There she is in Miami. There he is in New York. Here we are in Arkansas. There were many mitigating factors beyond mere geography, and writing a frantic, disjointed sequence that moved my terrors from my mind to the page was a balm. It was early March, and I embedded into the sequence the technique of counting backwards as a self-calming device while trying to fall asleep.

Since then, my social media feed is a veritable onslaught of pandemic-related special issues, calls for submissions, anthologies, and the like. Were my own two cents worth sharing? My two teenagers managed to get home in good time and good health, and I managed, through writing, counting backwards, and various other forms of self-medication, to survive with a strong sense of gratitude. It was worth writing. If it’s deemed worth sharing, who knows if anyone would ever have the time or desire to read it. And how much does that even matter?

“It was worth writing.”

Before I ever encountered the Beckett quote, (which is, in its entirety: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”) I always saw rejection as an opporrunity to improve a thing that, by sending it out somewhere, I had stamped as “done.” I’d been given a second chance. Any manner of creative pursuit, and any manner of being a parent, are prime environments for getting something wrong and trying to do better. I don’t know how many more books I’ll write, and I’m in the late stages of raising my kids. Right now, they would’ve been half home, half gone, pulling away in a getting-grown stage. Instead they are, for the moment, as present as they were before they even started kindergarten. It’s a second chance at being less imperfect, and all four of us have plenty of time to consider the question of what constitutes failure.

3 Reasons Every Writer Should Make A Twitter Account

Social media is a source of entertainment for millions of people, but is there any benefit to it besides that entertainment value? Is it just a mindless way to pass time or is there something else that makes it so popular? I say there is much more to social media than what meets the eye.

Over half of my writer friends refuse to use at least one or more social media platforms and I have never understood why they are so strongly against it. Is it the presumed unprofessionalism or bland commentary? Or is it simply that they never knew what social media could do for them?

One of my favorite platforms is Twitter, and I am a firm believer that having a Twitter account can be beneficial to any writer. Here are 3 reasons why Twitter is such a great resource for writers.

1. Twitter gives you immediate access to what lit mags, journals, and publishers are promoting

If you want to get your work published, Twitter is one of the best places to find the opportunities, contests, and open submissions that get promoted by thousands of journals and publishers. Almost every publication has a Twitter account where they post about their submissions windows and contests immediately and continuously. With Twitter, you no longer have to wait on a newsletter or word of mouth to reach you and force you to frantically pull your submission together before the window closes. You will know as soon as your dream publication opens its submissions, and you’ll have the time to make sure that you send them your best. 

2. Twitter is a great platform to promote yourself and your work

After getting published, one of the main problems writers face is finding people to read their work. Bad book sales can be one of the most disappointing parts of a writing career, but social media platforms like Twitter can help you avoid that. When you get something published, Twitter becomes another way for you to tell people about it, and because Twitter is so massive, you will reach far more people with one Tweet than you would by sending emails or asking people to read what you got published.

3. You get to be part of a fun and supportive international writing community

It is so easy to feel alone when you’re writing. It is often an independent craft, and no matter how many workshops or peer reviews you experience, there will be times when you feel like you are staring down this enormous project all on your own. Whether it’s been a long day and coming back to the page feels like a chore, my revisions aren’t turning out the way I want or anything else, feeling less alone as a writer always makes me feel better, and Twitter is a great reminder that you are not alone. Every time I scroll through my feed, I see hilarious and heartfelt tweets about writing and other writers’ struggles and triumphs. There is a strong writing community on Twitter where we constantly encourage and inspire each other, and I don’t think any writer should miss out on that.

Twitter is more than just fun and games; it’s a unique and effective tool, especially for writers. It has such potential to benefit us, and all we have to do is give it the chance. Happy Tweeting, and most importantly, happy writing!

Surrealism and Survival, A Guest Post by Robin Gow

Surrealist painting,  Image credited to JR Korpa
 Image credited to JR Korpa

Last night I read my poetry master’s thesis in my childhood bedroom on a Zoom call. The walls of my room are painted like the rainforest from third grade when I obsessed over jungles and canopies. In the background, my cohort and professors could probably make out the blue sky painted on the ceiling of the room and the closet in the background that still houses old dresses, short-shorts, and cosplay costumes from high school.

I haven’t lived at my parents’ house consistently for over six years. Part of that distance has to do with coming out as a queer transgender person. I have returned after my housemates and I were unable to make rent in our New York apartment due to COVID19 closures and uncertainty of future employment.

The juxtaposition between my childhood bedroom, a place where I grappled for the first part of my life with gender, sexuality, and mental health, and the achievement of finishing an MFA as a queer trans poet, is, ironically, something I could see myself having written into a poem months
ago before any of this began.

In my poetry, I often turn to the surreal, the fantastical, the paranormal, and the absurd to make sense of the fulcrums of my life and my place in society as a queer person. The deeper we wade into the pandemic and into the increasingly disturbing and violent American landscape, the weirder and weirder I have found my poetry becoming. Usually, before the pandemic, I would take notes to write poems daily but I have found myself waking up and leaning into whatever images are stalking my thoughts. I find comfort in my strangeness because the worlds that warp and distort time feel more real and true than the present.

This past week I have been reading a collection of poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who I admittedly only stumbled upon because there’s a Frank O’Hara poem I love titled by his name. In his poems, I find the threads of my own tilting away from realism in order to grapple with injustice. There is a sad humor to his speakers similar to O’Hara’s. In, “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage,” he writes:

And beyond that village
yawned a hole,
into that hole- and not just maybe –
the sun for certain always rolled,
slowly, surely, daily.
At morn
to flood the world
again
the sun rose up-
and ruddied it.
Day after day
it happened this way,
till I got
fed up with it.

And one day I let out such a shout,
that everything grew pale,
point-blank at the sun I yelled:
“Get out!
Enough of loafing there in hell!”

This moment in the poem sticks with me because the idea the sun could retreat into a hole and then the speaker’s anger and address to the sun tells us something I think is incommunicable without turning away from “reality.” The earnestness of the speaker and the futility of yelling at
the sun is much like how I feel right now. The bends in perception capture what we are experiencing as humans who also implicated and interpolated in complex systems of oppression in a time of great loss, grief, and injustice.

The speaker shouting “Get out!” embodies how I have been experiencing time. I forget what day it is. An afternoon takes eons and then a week is totally gone. The speaker wants the persistent cycles to stop and even chastises the sun for his role in this.

I wish I had more time to find endings. Instead, I have been brought back to a physical place full many of my ghosts.

In the absurd and surreal I find my contradictions survive together. There is healing in letting the worlds of my poems unravel in ways the physical word doesn’t allow for. I’ll leave you with the last lines of a poem I wrote today:

i hope the sky is eventually mauve.
i hope the stone melts to magma
& the mountains finally get to experience
a real transformation. i too
turned to liquid & cooled in the stream.
pillow over my head.
the sun is blinking or winking
who can know which?

Guest Post, Chelsea Dingman: On Writing During Ongoing Crisis

I’ve been thinking about the world we will leave our children. In the wake of what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people mourning the inability to return to a world as we knew it, yet this may be the only world that today’s youth will have any memory of.

Memory: fault line; fissure; an inability to reason with the past.

The instinct of a new writer might be to create drama in a piece—at least that was what I found when teaching. Some teachers I had forbid us to kill anyone in a poem or story because we felt the need to create stakes by doing so. To make people care. A professor of mine once said that all poems must have conflict, but that conflict might be as subtle as the way the light falls across the road. I want to believe him, to value that, to be able to sit still, but, when I am called to write, the ghosts ascend, the sky falls, and I can only see what is down the dark tunnel in my mind.

I’ve always written from a place of risk: what do I need to say? Why is that? Is the dramatic situation complicated in an interesting way? Do I recognize the difference between melodrama and drama? Why am I attracted to poems where the stakes are high? Must every poem be about death, somehow, some way?

What I learned through this crisis is that I have trouble writing a quietly complicated moment because I have not had time to appreciate those moments in my life in a great while. Right now, I swing between the inability to get out of bed (inertia) and being overly productive as my two coping mechanisms. I’m not sure which is less effective. Yet, crises have come in waves over the last few years, whether in the form of catastrophic weather (hurricanes on the Gulf coast where I was living), or gun control, or money problems, or health issues, or the deaths of loved ones. How can anyone be expected to write about the light falling across the road when all around us worlds are falling? On the other hand, I read Tranströmer, for example, and understand that both are possible at once.

[The site of resistance as the body]—

My father died when I was nine. I’ve written about that incident a lot. I’ve resisted calling it trauma. Yet, right now, children are experiencing trauma in a new way that feels much like that event: something that they won’t realize is traumatic until years from now. I’m trying to stay hopeful that the lives children dream of will one day be possible. I worry that, much like many of our ancestors, there will not be a place beyond struggle to reach for—which brings me back to my question: what world will we leave our children?

Guest Post, Fiction Editor Lucas Selby

Being isolated in our homes gives us writers that sweet time we always crave to actually get some writing done. Personally, I’ve been reading through my old work, sprucing it up and sending it in to some of my favorite magazines. I might as well while I have the time, right?

One of the most helpful parts of being the Fiction Editor for Superstition Review this year has been learning what editors look for in writing. And since it’s been helpful for me, I thought it might be helpful for you! Here’s an insider’s look on the selection process here at Superstition Review.

The first thing I did as Fiction Editor was make a mistake. I linked my editor’s account on Submittable to my personal submissions account. That means, every time I opened Submittable to review submissions, the first thing I saw was all of my rejections for stories I’ve submitted over the years. For the first hundred stories, I felt like I owed it to every author to at least read their story all the way through, because that’s what I want for all of my stories. Soon enough, I was weeks behind on deadlines and extremely tired of reading every page of the stories that I didn’t enjoy. Thus, I learned my first lesson.

Lesson 1: It’s the first page or two that makes or breaks a story. If I’m bored early on, I will not read the rest. Make that first page captivating enough to make me read the second page, then make that page captivating enough to make me read the rest of the story. Otherwise, I do not have the time.

I started catching up, but I was still behind. Submissions poured in faster than I could read them. Our Founding Editor called me and gave me some new helpful advice. We are a magazine that does not read blind. That means we read your bio and cover letter before we read your story. Trust me, the bio and cover letter are more important than you may think.

Lesson 2: Don’t waste your editor’s time with your bio and cover letter. By all means, include a bio and cover letter, but this is a brief blurb about who you are, your degree if applicable, any major awards you’ve earned for your writing, and maybe where else you’re published. This is not your resume, your life story, or a list of your Boy Scout merit badges.

Finally, I had all my favorite stories picked out. I met with our Founding Editor and the Senior Fiction Editor, and we compared notes. Unsurprisingly, all three of us have different tastes in fiction, but none of us caved to the others. We fought for the fiction we liked, and, in the end, we all left happy. This lesson is a stretch, but bare with me.

Lesson 3: Your story doesn’t have to be universal. I feel I have to address this because lots of literature is praised for being universal. There are plenty of good niche stories out there, and they are all the better because they aren’t forced to appeal to everyone. We all fought for the stories we felt the strongest about, and we all had our absolute favorites published.

I’m really proud of the upcoming fiction section in Superstition Review. The authors who wrote the stories we’re publishing should be proud as well. The authors of the stories that didn’t make the cut but were counted among our favorites should be proud. Everyone who submitted should be proud that they put their work out there.

Lesson 4: Keep writing, keep submitting, keep aiming for publication in your favorite magazines. Every time I logged on to Submittable to review new fiction submissions, I saw all of my rejections from over the years. Honestly, I was proud of them. That’s how many times I’ve put myself out there with stories I was proud of.

Keep up the good work! And thanks for a fantastic submission season.

Guest Post, Federico Federici: Short abstract in computational algebra

«bones that are my bones
numbers that are my numbers
words that are my words:

the bone of my bones
the number of my numbers
the word of my words»

I do not know much about numbers. In my life, I have just had the chance to count to four or ten or twenty several times, but this has not taught me much about them.
I do not really know what they mean, when I do not count. Whether they are still somewhere, alive or dead, or where they sprout from when I need. Whether a huge box keeps them all within, a box full of ones and twos and threes, a heap of all numbers in all shapes and sizes. For people might need to count many bits of things all at once and one must never be short of numbers.
Some say they altogether match the overall things to count and that they stay as words with meanings do.
To be true, I do not believe that way either.
No one counts the numbers for the numbers’ sake. For new numbers would be required to count the old ones and some trick should finally be devised to prove the existence of the new ones and that they do work. This procedure would actually be endless and pointless, a stiff chain of hopeless chances, of loops trapped into one another.
Numbers stick out of a stack of algebra, figures and unknowns, a poor slang of fingers in a few hands, whether sand grains or red giants.
There is no competition among numbers – this I have observed.
It is like in a perfect, steady queue: each stands its own place and never tries to pass over that coming after or before, just for the sake of being the one, the first, the last at once.
A murmur of conversation always rises as I count.
They seem to be polished to the touch, polite, somehow glancing up as well, as I call the roll.
The whole world gets a strange feeling as I count.
The imprecision of feelings is rounded down to fingers.
Big things crackle and crumble like frozen snow under feet.
Again, in spite of that, the whole world is worth being counted – two ones from the same pair, for fear of loss and despair.

Guest Post, Angie Macri: Superstition

Two Aprils ago, my guest post for this blog held hope for my children. Now we’re in a pandemic, all of us in one house trying to teach and learn still.

I’ve always struggled with superstition. When I was a child, if I saw a cardinal in the underbrush on the way to school, it would be a good day. If I didn’t, then maybe I had but didn’t realize. Or maybe I didn’t say it as a charm under my breath, so a bad day wasn’t coming after all.

My life wasn’t bad, not as bad as other people’s. I told myself that over and over, scorning myself for being sensitive. Addiction, mental illness, accidents, violence, poisons in our environment and diseases that followed–forget how you feel. It doesn’t matter. Be glad it’s not worse and get on living.

No need to suffer heartbreaks if you figured out the game and played to win. Yet success could be lost anytime, either by having too much confidence (pride goeth before a fall) or too little thankfulness (taking it for granted). In other words, if something went wrong, I had only myself to blame.

We didn’t talk about bad things happening to good people, except maybe Job, and even he failed the test. We didn’t confront flaws in the systems. Life was a vale of tears. Only fools expected otherwise. Know your place.

As an adult, as a parent, it’s endless, all the ways I can keep failing. I realize now the adults around me as a child felt that way, too. Even before COVID-19, this was the case.

Everyone wants everything to be back to the way it used to be. Except for me.

My uncle, my mother’s brother, died last Thanksgiving. The Air Force emblem with its bald eagle was part of the ceremony to honor his service. Growing up in southern Illinois, I never saw eagles. But there, after his memorial, I saw one fly over towards the river. Since then, more times than I can count, I’ve seen an eagle flying overhead where I live now, hundreds of miles away.

The last time I saw my uncle, at his daughter’s service, I asked him, although it was more like a statement, how do we survive this, how can we go on.

And he held me and said, because we do.

Superstition: a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.

Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin superstitio(n- ), from super- ‘over’ + stare ‘to stand’ (perhaps from the notion of ‘standing over’ something in awe).

What does it mean to stand over something? Does the awe come from how things turned out? Or from the surprise that you’re still standing despite what happened? Is it like understanding, meaning you try to make sense of events by looking for what controls them? Or does overstanding mean surviving despite realizing you don’t control everything?

If I can’t protect my children, then what does it matter what I wrote for this blog last time, my father’s room of books, my mother’s lifework teaching, anything I’ve ever written, what I write now?

It’s easy for me to fall back into that kind of fatalism. But when I give myself space to feel, I return to what I sensed despite myself from the beginning: it matters. Just like the memory my uncle shared of riding in a motorboat on the river as a little boy with his little brother. The Mississippi was flooding. His brother had brought a toy he loved, a stuffed bunny. He held it in front of him so its ears flapped back in the wind as they went forward. My uncle was joyful in this memory. But in all the stories he ever told me, he didn’t share this one until a few years before he died. It must not have been long after this ride that he lost his brother in an accident.

On what turned out to be our last day in the physical classroom this semester, my students and I read E.E. Cummings’ “anyone lived in a pretty how town”:

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew….

stars rain sun moon

(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

Here’s to raising each other to remember.

Guest Post, Brooke Sahni: Making Meaning Out of Silence; Writing and Internal States of Sabbath

Solstice Moon by: Solange Roberdeau

Prior to the corona outbreak, which has demanded that we form new relationships with isolation and stillness, I’d been thinking a lot about the connection between religion, writing and the concept of silence and solitude. I often think and try to write about how religion and writing are intertwined, how both seek to create meaning out of the ineffable. Many organized religions rely on language to get at the holy, unspeakable things, and so does writing. A good piece of writing shows the reader life’s ineffable nuances. More than that, writing elicits the feeling of holiness—a feeling of recognition, connection and empathy, without dogmatism or divisiveness. The act of writing, for some, is a spiritual practice. It is for me. This isn’t to say the act is joyful or anywhere near divine—it’s often a painful practice, laborious and difficult. Still, it feels like holy work in that I have to do it. Whether or not the writing is seen by anyone else, whether it’s good writing or bad, the need to write calls, and I surrender.

By default all artists are theologians. We create meaning out of disorder and succeed far greater in this meaning-making pursuit than any organized religion ever will. We strive to show, not preach, connect, not separate. Yet there is something to be said that silence and solitude show up in religiosity and art-making. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and Thoreau’s Walden, are just a few examples of the long history between writing and solitude; we understand writing as an inherently solitary act, one that is often accompanied by silence. Some think of cabins in the woods, private rooms in which to muse. Religions, too, particularly monastic traditions, emphasize solitude as a means to get closer to the divine, with nature and therefore the Self. The scholar Alan Altany says that “silence and solitude are as mother to the monk, leading him into the abyss, shorn of distractions to be alone with god.” Religious traditions are rich in their attention to isolation, pilgrimage and exile.

In The World of Silence, Swiss philosopher Max Picard asserts that silence is not merely an absence of sound, but an internal state that can be achieved anywhere. Thoreau makes this point, too, when he says, “the really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis in the desert.” Silence, Picard says, is not a negative lacking: “When language ceases, silence begins. But it does not begin because language ceases. The absence of language simply makes the presence of Silence more apparent…language and silence belong together: language has knowledge of silence as silence has knowledge of language.” Although it is not necessary according to this point of view, quiet time with nature, for me, is religious. And it’s true that I do not need language, theology, or poetry for that matter, to tell me to feel moved. It’s just there. It’s unnamable. It feels sacrilegious to try to name it outright—that’s what art is for. In fiction we try to mimic that unspeakable feeling through plot, through the specificity of an individual life. In poetry, via surprising, precise metaphors, form and structure.

Now suddenly our world has changed. The corona outbreak, this microscopic virus, has asked us to engage with large sociopolitical dilemmas as well as theological and spiritual questions. The term sabbath comes to mind, both as a religious observance and, more poignantly, as an internal state of stillness and rest. Most of us are not retreating to the woods, and many of us are attending work—i.e. nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, etc.—all the people who are keeping us going during this time of flux. Many of us are disengaged from a literal silence, but all of us are interacting with isolation, change, uncertainty, fear, patience, empathy, and surrender—these human conditions that are obsessed over by both theists and artists. Altany writes, “Solitude and silence are not so much attempts to stop the world or to escape it, but to engage in a new way.” We needn’t identify as a theist or an artist to find internal states of sabbath, nor must we live a silent, monastic life. We will continue to make meaning because we are human.

Guest Post, Adrianne Kalfopoulou: σῶμα; of Bodies and Borders, reflections on fragility

“Every border implies the violence of its maintenance” Ayesha A. Siddiqi

From Wiktionary:

Noun[edit]

σῶμα  (sôma) n (genitive σώματος); third declension

  1. body (both that of people and animals)
    1. (Epic and often in other early works) dead body
  2. One’s life in the physical world
  3. That which is material (as opposed to spiritual)
  4. person
  5. An entire thing
  6. (mathematics) three-dimensional object

1. body (both that of people and animals)

The word sôma [or σώμα] in Greek refers as much to the singular, to soma mou [my body] as it does to a group, as in the body of a state or community; σώμα, often used to refer to the Greek police force, i.e. το σώμα του στρατού, or “The Force” as we’d say in English. The Force, a momentum of the singular body as it conflates itself with a larger body in times of war and love and pandemics. Crisis moments teach us we are independent in so far as we acknowledge our interdependence, the self a map made mutable by what contests and reshapes it. When I wrote “The Wig & The Scream, a forensics” (s[r] issue #24)) I was interested in the fallibilities of how we construct borders, how the law and emotions are mapped out — who do we let into our hearts and why, at what borders do we accept or reject individuals?

The COVID-19 virus has no regard for class, race, gender, or nationality; it is particularly Darwinian, as the strong and young are its best carriers who can unbeknownst to them lethally infect the elderly and weak. As with any plague, the virus has overwhelmed borders. “My heart is a country that is dying,” says a doctor on television from Bergamo, the Lombard town at the heart of the pandemic in Italy where military trucks are carrying off the coffins of its victims. “The new virus certainly seems to be effective at infecting humans, despite its animal origins,” notes Ed Yong in The Atlantic. Meanwhile animals are not carriers. Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” or Οιδίπους τύραννος (Oedipus of Tirannous) begins with an epidemic in Thebes, the body of the city vulnerable and equal to what infects it, including that of its king. “The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts, over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians” (Yong).

2. One’s life in the physical world

When the Greek government’s first measures closed cafeterias, restaurants, and hairdressers, it was a weekend. My neighborhood transformed from its evident café life with people out shopping in local shops to a community that spread itself into the groves of the Ymittos hill behind my apartment. People strolled the green embankments with their kids and pets and partners, or like me were alone enjoying the air and wild chamomile. It was a weekend of spring showing her gorgeousness in the sprays of wildflowers and newly sprouting greens. The virus, we were being told, all around us in the air, a contagion of breath that settles in the lungs and makes it hard to breathe; if we get too close to each other we will inhale these droplets if one is infected and coughs or sneezes; the pollen was plentiful so people were sometimes coughing and sneezing as the hill gathered us, and the sun, coating us in its embrace, promised that the virus, partial as it is to the cold, like any vampire, would die in that sunlight.

3. That which is material (as opposed to spiritual)

In an online March 19 piece in Verso Judith Butler asks how the pandemic is making us think of “our obligations toward one another” emphasizing that the politics of health care in the US “all testify to the rapidity with which radical inequality” allows for “capitalist exploitation … to reproduce and strengthen their powers.” Wealthy businessmen were tipped off to sell their stock before the pandemic started to affect the market that subsequently started to crash. Trump wanted to “buy (with cash) exclusive US rights to a vaccine from a German company… funded by the German government” (my emphasis). A German politician, Karl Lauterbach, responded with, “The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means. Capitalism has its limits” (my emphasis). I wrote “The Wig & The Scream” in a series of vignettes in imitation of the 44 episodes of the crime series The Killing, a sequencing aimed to suggest the limitations of our assumptions; in “#13 There is a poverty to desire that insists on its object & only that” I was not thinking of Trump, or Midas, or the self-interest of big business, but the context of this pandemic and Trump’s poverty of vision (if we can use that noun for someone so blind), makes Butler’s question urgent: “Is it even thinkable within his world to insist upon a world health concern that should transcend market rationality at this time?” A statement by a doctor in Bergamo might be one answer, “At this point you realize you are not enough.” Another is that unlike Oedipus, Trump does not recognize his role in the plague.

4. person

We have gathered in our homes under the Greek hashtag #μένουμεσπίτι or #menoumespiti [#westayathome], we’ve adjusted our individual routines, kids home schooled online, teaching through computer screens. The materiality of space has taken on a new significance. In moments of danger we are viscerally aware of our threatened selves too often viewed as singular, our borders close, our doors shut, on what we view as “home”; it’s been interesting to see how countries are telling their citizens to “return home,” as I write airports such as Heathrow are overrun with people whose canceled flights have left them in limbo. But without a coordinated [συντονισμένη] effort, a shared base, we lose battles and borders are useless. A base might be the assumption that the good of the group begins with the good of the individual, i.e. “#9 The instinct to protect our selves begins with the body’s bone & flesh vulnerabilities as much as its heart” or “# 36 Our assumptions can cost lives, as in The Killing, as in the rejection of those seeking refuge” (“The Wig & The Scream”). Reuters reports that Fiat Chrysler, the Italian automobile giant, is now making badly needed masks and respirators. Panagiotis Sotiris in a March 14 article answers the Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben’s critique of the Italian government’s lockdown measures, suggesting that state power used for the larger good can go “From power as a right of life and death that the sovereign holds … to power as an attempt to guarantee the health (and productivity) of populations.”

Biopolitics, a term coined by Michel Foucault, considers ways power has capitalized on (and made capital of) our persons. Sotiris writes, “Agamben has used it in a constructive way, in this attempt to theorise the modern forms of a ‘state of exception’, namely spaces where extreme forms of coercion are put in practice, with the concentration camp the main example,” but here Sotiris detours to suggest an analogy to the HIV pandemic. This is “not [just] the disease of ‘high risk groups’” and our practice of social-distancing, and the state’s mandate to stay at home might be a possibility for viewing our biopolitical moment as one “of collective effort, coordination and solidarity within a common struggle, elements that in such health emergencies can be equally important to medical interventions,” i.e. your person becomes a geography of others.

5. An entire thing

Two nights ago in Athens, neighborhoods of apartments stood on their balconies and clapped, keeping lights on through the night in a gesture of gratitude and solidarity with doctors and health care workers putting in around-the-clock hours to help save lives as they put their own at risk. Italy’s towns and neighborhoods are singing from their balconies. Some venues are projecting films on walls so Italians can watch them from their balconies. In China, a totalitarian state, the body is one with the State’s, and as my daughter reminds me, there were robots placed outside homes to insure that no one left them during the lockdown. In this case the State managed to flatten the pandemic’s curve. In Italy this has not happened yet where the death toll continues to rise, as in Spain, the UK, the US, and elsewhere. “We are all Greece,” said the PM on television Sunday night, as the Greek state went into further lockdown. Can we hope that “during such a crisis, in contrast to individualized ‘survivalist’ panics … state power (and coercion) [is] being used to channel resources from the private sector to socially necessary directions”? (Sotiris), i.e. “#22 The law requires obedience for the promise that it is there in good faith, to protect our flesh & bone vulnerabilities” i.e. “So many refugees assume the free world will welcome them, & so many have found death” (s[r] #24).

i.e. “Films for Action” (Facebook)

“A letter from the virus to humans”

“Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
….
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.”

#LISTEN

6. (mathematics) three-dimensional object

A system, whether a camp, institution, city, country, is constructed to function. Our biological and social eco-systems are meant to provide us with the privilege to get on with our lives. “In sickness and in health” goes the adage of the marriage vow partners take in a promise to look after each another; our marriage with the planet is in trouble. My friend’s marriage in “The Wig & The Scream” failed in a large part because of a partner’s refusal to admit to what endangered it. Our planet is telling us something with this novel Corona, or Crown of viruses, hitting us in the lungs: we will gradually stop breathing for lack oxygen if the mucus hardens and blocks our passageways. My daughter, now at home with me, joins in for an almost daily yoga practice with Victoria who has moved her onsite lessons online. She reminds us to concentrate on our breathing, and at the end of the practice tells us, “Let your breathing connect with the larger pulse of what is outside of yourself.”

References & further readings:

Ed Yong, “Why the Coronavirus Has Been So Successful” The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/03/biography-new-coronavirus/608338/

Felipe Demetri, “Biopolitics and Coronavirus, or don’t forget Foucault” Naked Punch http://www.nakedpunch.com/articles/306

Judith Butler, “Capitalism Has Its Limits” Verso https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4603-capitalism-has-its-limits

Panayiotis Sotiris, “Against Agamben: Is a Democratic Biopolitics Possible?” Critical Legal Thinking https://criticallegalthinking.com/2020/03/14/against-agamben-is-a-democratic-biopolitics-possible/

Yuval Noah Harari: the world after corona virus, The Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/19d90308-6858-11ea-a3c9-1fe6fedcca75?fbclid