Mozartean, Guest Post by Timothy Reilly

“Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”–W.H. Auden

For Jo-Anne

Mozart statue on Mozart Square (Mozartplatz) located at Salzburg, Austria

In late autumn of 1972, when I was twenty-two-years-old, I visited Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birth House), in Salzburg, Austria. I was one of only a handful of pilgrims climbing the narrow stairs to the cramped, former living quarters. Looking into a display case containing some of Mozart’s personal effects, I became transfixed by a lock of the composer’s hair. I recalled a familiar passage from Michael Kelly’s Reminiscences: “[Mozart] was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine fair hair, of which he was rather vain.” And there it was: a lock of that same “fine fair hair”—exactly as described by one of Mozart’s personal friends. I was in a dream-like state, until a tall, uniformed man, in his late-sixties or early-seventies, tapped my shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. I didn’t think I had done anything wrong—so I followed without complaint, and was led to a small, eighteenth-century clavichord. The curator’s stern face suddenly gave way to a benevolent smile, as he pulled back a plexiglass covering from the clavichord’s keyboard: granting me permission to play. A placard identified the instrument as the one used by Mozart while composing his opera The Magic Flute. I was a tubist; not a pianist. But thanks to a former college piano proficiency class, I was able to plunk out the opening measures from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11. My fingers were touching the very keys Mozart touched.

It’s not my intention to present the above memory as a travel-log boast—or a “Bucket List” notch (the Bucket List craze was not around in 1972; and at my current stage of life, I consider that practice an empty pursuit, and more than a little macabre). Mozart was—and remains to this day—my absolute favorite composer. My experience in Salzburg freed the composer from his plaster-of-Paris bust and helped me to see him as a fellow human being, with whom I could have shared bread and wine and enjoyable conversation. And for reasons I can’t explain, my newfound “long-distance” friendship enhanced my awe of the inscrutable genius of this “remarkably small” man’s remarkably profound music.

Around 1980, my professional music career was cut short by a non-life-threatening condition called “Embouchure Dystonia.”A few years later, I was able to lose my self-pity,and turn my creative energies to writing short stories. Good friend that he is, Mozart stuck around; and his music has continued to be a balm for my soul, and an influence on my writing. Which brings me to the Mozartean.

For most of my years writing short stories, I have considered the Mozarteana touchstone. My use of the term refers not to musicological analysis, but rather the emotional and spiritual elements Mozart’s music lends to deep expressions of the human condition. The fact is, I’ma bit rusty on my music theory. And even if I were able to outline an analysis of, say, the finale movement of the “Jupiter Symphony,” it wouldn’t explain the workings of Mozart’s imagination. Genius and the imagination cannot be deconstructed,distilled, or tacked upon a Periodic Table. The best we can do is attempt informed and thoughtful descriptions of the mystery.

In 1956 (the bi-centennial of Mozart’s birth),theologian Karl Barth wrote: “What occurs in Mozart is rather a glorious upsetting of balance, a turning in which the light rises and the shadows fall, though without disappearing . . .”That same year Frank O’Connor (a patron saint of the Mozartean short story) describes the Mozartean way of seeing things as “half way between
tragedy and comedy, [representing] a human norm.”

Cross-pollination in the arts is nothing new. Ernest Hemingway, on more than one occasion, said that he wanted to write the way Cézanne painted. In a 1958 interview for the Paris Review, Hemingway was asked to name his “literary forebears.” He responded with a long list of great writers, painters, and two composers: Bach and Mozart. He said: “I should think what one learns from composers and from the study of harmony and counterpoint would be obvious.”

The actual study of harmony and counterpoint would be a stretch for most people these days (or even in 1958). There are, of course, less severe approaches for the layperson. One approach would be to find Leonard Bernstein’s Young Person’s Concerts on YouTube. These incredible concert/lectures were broadcast on CBS (network television!), from 1958 to 1972.

A certain amount of spadework is necessary for all levels of art appreciation. We become better readers if we are able to see, hear and explain the differences between free verse and a Shakespearian sonnet. We become better listeners if we are able to hear and explain the differences between a Gregorian Chant and a Bach Cantata. Great art does not reveal its deepest treasures to a passive audience. It won’t happen by osmosis or pharmaceuticals.

But at the risk of sounding contradictory, I think it would be perfectly reasonable to begin the Mozartean quest simply by listening to some of Mozart’s compositions. I highly recommend beginning with two very short pieces: The Clarinet Concerto, and Ave Verum Corpus. Both of these pieces were written in the last year of Mozart’s short life; and both are exemplary of music in which the light rises and the shadows fall, though without disappearing.

Poetry Blog: Usha Kishore

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Usha Kishore is an Indian born British poet, and translator, resident on the Isle of Man, UK. Usha is currently a Research Scholar in Postcolonial Poetry at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. She has been anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press and Harper Collins among others. Her work has appeared in international journals like Asia Literary Review, Index on Censorship, Indian Literature, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry Salzburg Review, South Asian Ensemble, South Asian Review, The Stinging Fly and The Warwick Review.

Usha’s poetry has won prizes in UK competitions, is part of international projects and features in the British Primary and Secondary syllabi and Indian Middle School and Undergraduate syllabi. Winner of an Isle of Man Arts Council Award and two Culture Vannin Awards, she is the author of three poetry collections and a book of translation from the Sanskrit. Her latest collection, ‘Immigrant’ was published in 2018 by Eyewear Publishing London.


“Drug Mule” by Usha Kishore:

She embroiders time under an alien sky:

chikankari on handkerchiefs, kutchi work

on cushion covers, kashmiri couching

on bedspreads.  Draping a pristine white sari

over her wasted life, she clicks crochet needles

in the hollowed air of betrayal.  Her seventy-five

years, spanning the length and breadth of India,

now cocooned in an English prison. 

Here, she is everybody’s Ma – mother,

the word means the same in any culture. 

She does not want to learn the sahib’s tongue;

she is content to live in the silence

of another language that mutters apologies   

for her predicament.  She has no visitors. 

she is a drug mule, carrying a toxic crime;

a contraband for an air-ticket to see

her beloved grandchild.  She shows me

smudged photographs of her great grandchildren

she has never seen, chanting their names

as if in a litany.  Her frail voice wraps me

in dialect Hindi, as she searches my face

with faded kajal eyes.  It is all His will,

she points to some sovereign of the skies,

summoned in reluctant cloud that peers

through the watery eye of the ceiling.

She does not dream of redemption, she does

not envisage freedom.  She has nowhere to go. 


Every morning, she mumbles a wounded prayer

to the miniature Ganesh, poised on a makeshift altar

in the corner of her cell.  She measures her days

with skeins of crewel threads, snipping them

at pre-destined length, with tiny sewing scissors. 

She sieves afternoon light in grams of flour,

translating it into her recipe of onion bhajis. 

Counting the stars trapped in a weathered rosary

of tulsi beads, she falls back into her reverie:

cross stitch, chain stitch, smyrna, herringbone;                              

each stitch knotting an unheaved sigh. 


Interview With Usha:

In a previous exchange, you had mentioned that this piece is particularly close to your heart. Could you speak more to that statement? 

‘Drug Mule’ is based on drug trafficking and the use of women as drug carriers.  The poem is close to my heart as I am committed to gender equality and I feel that the vulnerability of women is being exploited.  According to BBC statistics (2005), 18% of the UK’s female prison population are foreigners and are imprisoned for drug related offences. It is also a painful fact that older South Asian women are being used as drug mules. It makes you wonder if these women are criminals or victims.  

How do you incorporate social justice in your poetry?

Many of my poems are themed on social justice, especially on race and gender equality.  As a member of an ethnic minority community in the UK, I am very much aware of differences and my poems highlight the need for more integration.    My third collection, Immigrant (Eyewear Publishing, London, 2018) highlights the politics of being an immigrant professional interacting with discrimination and reflects on the binary perspectives of assimilation and marginalisation. 

My second collection, Night Sky Between the Stars (Cyberwit India, 2015) reflects my pre-occupation with Indian womanhood and articulates concerns of a marginalised gendered identity.  The poems in this collection draw heavily from Indian myth, rendering voices to female mythical characters and projects Indian womanhood in a different light.  

You have written three books of poetry as well as a book of translation from Sanskrit. How has your work in translation influenced your more personal writing projects?

My translations from the Sanskrit certainly influence my poetry in the form of thematic concerns and uniquely Sanskrit literary devices such as vyatireka (comparative excellence), dṛṣṭānta (a figurative device that can be described as ‘simile-like’ or parallel) and vakrokti (creative twist). 

How has the global pandemic affected your writing process?  

I am an English teacher in a secondary school on the Isle of Man, where thankfully, the effect of the pandemic has not been that severe.  So, the schools are open and functioning (we were only briefly shut in Spring. We re-opened in Summer).  I usually have to find time to write, amidst a busy schedule.  I am currently a PhD scholar in Postcolonial Poetry with Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.  So, in the last two years, my writing has been put on the back burner. 

The global pandemic has brought a creative surge, especially in poetry, signifying that the human spirit rises above global challenges.  At this difficult time, a considerable number of poetry anthologies, themed issues of journals and discussions on poetry have all come to the forefront.   Poetry is a healer!  

Some editor friends have been keeping my work alive by soliciting submissions and giving me opportunities to participate in poetry webinars.  Coincidentally, a friend of mine alerted me to your call for submissions on Social Justice.  My writing has certainly picked up again.  

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

 It’s not over yet!

It was a real struggle to get my first collection into print, despite being published internationally.  I was about to quit.   The above advice, ‘it’s not over yet,’ was given to me by the founder-member of the Isle of Man Poetry Society, the late Jeff Garland.  Soon after this conversation with Jeff, I received Arts Council and Culture Vannin grants and my first collection, On Manannan’s Isle was published on island in 2014.  I have not looked back hence.  

What are your upcoming projects?

As mentioned earlier, currently my research takes priority.   

However – Translation wise, I have completed the translation of the Sanskrit epyllion, Ṛtusaṃhāram by the legendary Kalidasa.  I am seeking a publisher for this project.  

I am also translating Jaisankar Prasad’s Hindi epic, Kamayani (1936) that falls under the Chhayavaadi school of Hindi Poetry.  Chhayavaad has been interpreted as Neo-Romanticism, I would call it Romantic mysticism.  Kamayani addresses human emotions in pathetic fallacy, personification, and mythological metaphors.  This has been a slow process as I would like to do justice to this epic, amidst time constraints.   I have found this translation extremely challenging, but highly inspiring and enlightening. 

The poetry goes on! I don’t think I am ready for another collection yet. But recently, I have started submitting to journals like Superstition Review!  Thank you very much for accepting my work for your blog on social justice.   

Virtual Theatre Production of “Antigone at the Border”

ASU’s Master of Liberal Studies Director & Assistant Clinical Professor Angela Giron will be performing the role of Tiresia in the theatrical co-production by Teatro Bravo (Phoenix) and Borderlands Theater (Tucson), Antigone at the Border. Congratulations, Angela!

Tucson’s Borderlands Theater and Teatro Bravo of Phoenix come together for a groundbreaking collaboration of digital theatre-making. Based on interviews with DACA recipients and Latinx Border Patrol agents, Antigone at the Border sheds light on the emotional labor and mental health toll experienced by Latinx border communities affected by US immigration policy as both enforcers and the enforced. 

Written by Mark David Pinate

Directed by Ricky Araiza

A Virtual Theatre Event, Friday and Saturday November 20th & 21st, 6:00pm MST. Sunday, November 22nd, 4:00pm MST

Ticket Sliding Scale: $5-$100

Check out the Borderlands Theater website for more information on Teatro Bravo and Antigone at the Border. Click here to purchase tickets.

Sea Level Rise and the Two Cultures, a Guest Post by Thomas Belton

High tide rushes out upon the sour smell of sulfur and methane gas released from the drying peat beneath our feet. Ribbed mussels exposed along the creek bed seal their twin valves tightly and go to sleep under the drying sun as gulls and terns plunge into the shallowing water searching for killifish and flashing silversides in the receding flow. The water is brown and silt-laden under skies blue and wispy with tattered clouds. Walking out onto the marsh we look like hobbits carting heavy equipment into the misty mountains, each slumped under the weight of canisters of dry concrete, steel rods and a jackhammer. We’d come to drive steel rods into the salt marsh until we met refusal against a subterranean gravel bed, possibly deposited a thousand years ago by a hurricane. Some of the rods go down seventy feet, pushing the limits of the jackhammer to anchor our devices, delicate things called “surface elevation tables” or SETs. These devices will let us measure the marsh surface elevation, which over time will let us know if the land is sinking or rising.

The dreadful mathematics behind these measurements are inexorable, the SET like nature’s chronometer tuned to silt accretion on the marsh’s surface or its erosion and loss due to sea level rise and global warming. This fearful symmetry is a balance we must measure and maintain if life along the coast is to be sustained. For by all measures the coastal lands in New Jersey are expected to lose this long-term war with the sea because climate change is no longer a hypothesis but a fact that must be understood, measured, and adapted to. As seawater heats up it expands like steam whistling from a kettle, the shoreline sinking under this expansion, water permeating rivers and coastal bays like a child’s bathtub filling with bubbles. The air above these waterways fill with moisture, as well, which moves inland on the sea breezes until cooling heights bring it down again in rainstorms and floods. Unseen and distant, yet no less important to this rise in sea surface, are the shrinking glaciers in the mountains and calving icebergs at the planet’s poles. Until at last, their melting tonnage is added to the mass of the seas, which move they must, inland and up over the millions of homes that line the earth’s waterways.

Adaptation is the key to what we need to do now. For to survive in our flimsy houses along the beach, our skyscrapers in New York City, or even the quiet village a hundred miles upstream of the coast but whose tidal intrusion brings salt water and killing infiltration of drinking water wells along the estuaries, we must adapt to what the world will become. For scientists these facts, based on field-collected data from ice cores and SET tables, are an abacus we cannot ignore. A multitude of empirical facts like those we collect from our SETs alarm us as to their long-term implications. Yet the populace seems asleep, wary of the predictions from natural scientists whose job is to watch and measure.

In his famous 1959 book “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution,” C. P. Snow the scientist and popular novelist posited that there are two modes of knowledge, the humanistic and the scientific. He postulated that because of these differing educational approaches, which are mutually exclusive, they generate two opposing worldviews. His famous challenge to the “literary intellectuals” after hearing them harangue about the illiteracy of scientists was to challenge them to describe Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics. He noted, “The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of, “Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”

This dichotomy, Snow felt, impeded any meaningful communication between the two camps without serious translation. Subsequently there emerged a furious debate on whether the phenomena really existed at all, and if it did, whether a means existed to bridge the two cultures. Snow felt it might which he described in a subsequent book entitled “The Third Culture,” which called for an infusion of both science and humanities into higher education. I have been fortunate in my own education to have lived in both worlds, first by studying Classical Languages and then Marine Biology. So, I can see both sides and understand this dichotomy in practice. In fact, even among practicing scientists there can be a communications breakdown due to the forced early specialization required in universities. Listening to an engineer’s explanation of an event sometimes makes me feel a “stranger in a strange land.”

For science uses not only a technical vocabulary but also a different way of processing information. In fact, we now know from neurological studies that humans use different parts of the brain to process information. This phenomenon called the “right brain – left brain” dichotomy where research showed that the two different hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The left-brain is logical, sequential and rational, analytic and objective, and tends to look at the parts of a problem. In contrast, the right brain functions more randomly, is intuitive, holistic and synthesizing, and subjectively looks at the totality of a problem.

Most individuals are born with a distinct preference for one of these styles of thinking although some are more whole-brained and integrated. Left-brain people are naturally adept at logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy, with linear reasoning and language functions such as grammar and vocabulary lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain. In contrast, right-brained individuals focus more on aesthetics, feelings, and creativity with an enhanced sense for processing visual and musical stimuli. They are also good at spatial manipulation, understanding facial perceptions and possess what we call artistic ability.

This “right brain – left brain dichotomy” found useful application by speech pathologists when dealing with left hemisphere brain injuries. For example, in cases of aphasia, or speech loss, due to left hemisphere head traumas they will use music therapy to reintroduce language since this involves the right side of the brain, which reaffirms the grammatical rules lost to the damaged left hemisphere. Thus, when I turned to studying science after years of Latin and Greek poetry my brain fizzled a bit at first under this new paradigm. But with perseverance, I mastered the fundamentals and gained proficiency in both worlds forcibly creating the third culture envisioned by C.P Snow within my own cerebellum.

Yet the discontinuities of the two cultures paradigm I found persisted when I moved out of Academia and took my first job, especially due to the unique characteristics of an applied scientist working for a government agency where my endeavors required both practicality as well as accuracy. I was also fortunate in as much as my position as a “research scientist.” Now many layman and people un-attuned to the process of science may not see the significance of this statement. To elaborate, a scientist or a technician may use science but not study science or understand the underlying principles that drive its conclusions.

For example, a mathematics teacher may understand the elements of algebra and calculus, which he dutifully teaches to his wards in a junior high school. Similarly, a structural engineer will use these same mathematical equations to devise a stress diagram for building a bridge based on the know load capacity of commercially available steel plate. However, in selecting his steel he may have access to a dozen metallurgical mixtures using various combinations of chrome or titanium to augment the mineral composition of the steel. These are both applications of science. Yet the materials scientist who painstakingly devised experiment after experiment to test hypothesis on which mixture would make the best steel superstructure for the bridge, he engaged in research using the time-tested methods that have come down to us from antiquity on how best to pose and answer scientific questions.

The scientific method of research has four steps including the observation and description of some interesting phenomenon; the formulation of a hypothesis to explain this phenomenon; the use of the hypothesis in an experiment to predict your phenomena and quantify the results of your observation; and the lastly performance of experiments testing your predictions by other independent researchers. In my own field of marine biology and environmental science, this hypothesis might be as open as “How many fish are in the sea?” to more pragmatically “How many bluefish can fishermen catch before the population crashes?”

Research by the National Marine Fisheries Service addresses this latter question, which entailed catching and tagging bluefish off the Atlantic coast. The released fish were subsequently captured by fisherman from Florida to Maine with a promise of monetary reward if the tags were mailed back to the Service. After careful deliberation and years of capture, the Service concluded that the bluefish population off the east coast had a complex, size-specific migratory behavior. They self-sorted into similar size and age schools that started inshore then moved progressively offshore to seek larger prey as they grew. Moreover, these schools moved seasonally in echelon up the coast to feed on the billons of tiny animals called zooplankton that grew in response to the annual explosion of microscopic one-celled plants called plankton, which thrived in the cold yet nutrient-rich northern waters. Because of these studies and others like it, the United States government sets both commercial and recreational fishing quotas based on science as validated by research. The policy of the limits on certain types of seafood is typically protested by fishermen, but buoyed by the scientifically defensible research, thus policy-makers can assure them that their actions are not indiscriminate but based on a sampling and what each fishery can endure.

It is unfortunate that many of today’s politicians and policymakers confronted with the same kind of empirical facts about “climate change” and its more insidious symptoms such as sea level rise and the increase in extreme weather events, fail to see the facts and trust the scientists hired to inform them. Adaptation is the human genius. From the first hominid making a stone axe that saw flints spark and the savannah grass around him flame up to the eighteenth-century alchemist who invented chemistry by mixing chemicals in pursuit of gold, the analytical mind of man has lead the way to the modern world and all it technological wonders. But scientists are trained to be skeptical and to only weigh evidence despite the shaman in the corner of the hut screaming at his loss of prestige.

Climate change and sea level rise are the latest challenges to our long-term survivability on the coasts of the world. If given unfettered resources and allowed to work closely with planners and policymakers, the 21st century and its unusual hazards might be managed more effectively. If not, what we will see are a series of short-term fixes after each extreme weather event, or a hap-dash collection of sinking impoundments as each mile of coastline falls beneath the waters.

As I note in my book, “Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State” (2010) data from deep sediment cores suggested that stable barrier islands with shallow lagoons and salt marshes behind them evolved in New Jersey only 4,000 years before the present. Prior to that the ocean swept in unhindered to crash against the continental margin. Native Americans arriving on the eastern coast of North America around 10,000 years ago may have witnessed the slow rise of these shoals into islands, their greening by windblown seeds and eventual colonization by diverse animal species during winter freezing of the bays. Eventually this gave rise to the unique forested ecosystem that Europeans found in the sixteenth century and which persist in protected areas today.

The tragedy is that in this current era our children may have the reciprocal experience of watching helplessly as the islands are reclaimed by the sea due to human negligence. The waves pushed ashore will be aided by the unseen hand of man, the greenhouse gases of our industrial revolution undoing in a century what it took a millennium for storm surge and wind to create. So, from my perspective sea level rise research projects are more critical and convey a greater sense of urgency than any that have gone before. Because of the greater risk at stake it is important that we study, plan, and act now before it’s too late.

The coastal landscape in New Jersey will most likely be different to my grandchildren’s eyes, as it was to mine and my father in his day. And seeing this change they may wonder what we did, or did not do, to protect that most valuable natural resource. And I’d like to think I could answer that I helped to preserve a beach or a forest. Even a headwater swamp reclaimed to forest along a mountain ridge along the Appalachian trail. And when they saw it, they might say, “Yes, that’s beautiful.”

Contributor Update, Khanh Ha

Join Superstition Review in celebrating some exciting news for contributor Khnanh Ha. Orison Books has announced that Khanh Ha’s story “The Woman-Child” is the winner of The 2020 Orison Anthology Award in Fiction. His story will appear in the 2021 volume of The Orison Anthology in the fall next year. Orison Books titles have been reviewed or featured in The New York Times Book ReviewPublishers Weekly, Poets & Writers, Foreword Reviews, Booklist, The Chicago Tribune, The Jewish Review of Books, The Millions, The Rumpus, Lit Hub, The Washington Independent Review of Books, Pleiades, River Teeth, Beloit Poetry Journal, and many other places. Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh and The Demon Who Peddled Longing. He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, finalist to Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, a twice finalist of The William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Award.

Congratulations, Khanh!

Be sure to check out Khanh’s website, Facebook and Twitter.

ASU Undergraduate Writers Showcase

Kelsey Kerley, Issue 26 Student Editor-in-Chief

Join the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing on Thursday, November 19, 2020, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Arizona time for an ASU Undergraduate Writers Showcase. The event will take place via Zoom and is free. For more details and to register for the event, click here.

Carolina Quintreo, Issue 27 Poetry Editor

Special congratulations to Kelsey Kerley, Superstition Review Issue 26 student editor-in-chief and Carolina Quintero, incoming poetry editor for Issue 27. Both will be featured in the ASU Undergraduate Writers Showcase. Kelsey can be found on Twitter and Instagram. Carolina can be found on LinkedIn. We are so proud of both of you!

Humanities Dialogues at Poly: Stop Motion Animation, Juvenile-Lit Censorship, Transnational Feminist Activism

The fall 2020 Humanities Dialogues online at ASU Poly concludes on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m., with presentations and dialogue about the work of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication scholars:

Wendy Williams, Assistant Professor of English
“Visual Storytelling: A Closer Look at Stop Motion Animation” 

This presentation will consider how visual and multimodal literacies are at work in students’ stop motion animation projects. This research is part of a multi-year study investigating how college students interpret and compose visual narratives such as picturebooks, comics, animation and short films.


Kendall Dawson, MA student in Narrative Studies
“Molded Youth: The Implications of Children’s Literature Censorship”

This presentation will focus on commonly challenged juvenile fiction books and the material deemed ‘inappropriate’ for our youth. 

Rafael Martinez Orozco, Assistant Professor of Southwest Borderlands
“Undoing Global Paradigms:  and Spiritual Exercise”

In 2006-2007 Elvira Arellano, a single mother, migrant, deportee and asylum fighter, circumvented the law to advocate for human rights. I’ll analyze the ways in which immigrant women like Elvira Arellano use spiritual activism as a component of global immigrant rights movements to produce new feminist discourses that de-center nation states and complicate colonial models that uphold racialized and gendered borders.

The series is coordinated by the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts’ Faculty of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication. Contact Professor Ian Moulton at his email, Ian.Moulton@asu.edu, with any questions or concerns. Be sure to check out what the ASU website has to say about the event as well. 

Special congratulations to Kendall Dawson for her presentation on literature censorship. Kendall Dawson is the interview editor for Issue 26 of Superstition Review this semester. Check out Kendall’s Twitter and LinkedIn. We are so proud of you, Kendall!

To Hear the Universal Voice of Violence, Guest Post by Palash Mahmud

Milkman: To Hear the Universal Voice of Violence

One fine day Aristotle proclaimed man is a political animal which is still echoing at the very moment of our time, however, this omnipresent idea of politics pushes the lives of “us” and “others” into troubles, into a split nut but not equal halves, always in discomfort; and one bad not-fine night the same Aristotle preached woman is a mutilated male lacking of principle of soul which is still resounding from “over the road” to “over the water”, nevertheless, that ubiquitous logic of womanhood pull all of them back to the blind alleys of losses and sorrows, always in silence. Politics in knife-edge times and womanhood in tight-knot communities are the two prime themes have been dissected under the spotlight of Anna Burns’ exquisite narratives in ‘Milkman,” which won Man Booker Prize (2018), National Book Critics Circle Award (2018), and The Orwell Prize (2019) respectively and most recently won for the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award. It is one of most award hunter-gatherer novel in this century.

Back in early October in 2017, the whole world was suffering from the Harvey fever infected by the sexual exploitations by the men sitting at the centre of respective power structures. I was doing an assignment on Rebecca Walker’s seminal personal essay “Becoming the Third Wave”, a reaction to the hearing of Anita Hill’s harassment allegation, where she opined so intensely asking “how many men not used their protected male privilege to thwart in some way the influence or ideas of a woman colleague, friend, or relative” and “assault of the human spirit”. In addition, I was swaying in indecisiveness to choose a thesis statement of my research paper for the course titled Research Methodology in Literature and Cultural Studies during October, 2018, at the first anniversary of #metoo movement, Milkman earned the acclaimed 50th Man Booker title and I had immediately decided to write up on it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had to travel inevitably to Singapore at the eleventh hour of my writing the first draft of the paper. And I had to keep on the writing while I was waiting at the departure terminal, on the flight, in the immigration queue at Changi Airport, in the hotel room at Outram Park, on the Bank of Singapore River at Boat Quay and at the café and restaurants in Little India. It was an overwhelmingly tenacious and forceful experience I had gone through. Now I find a resemblance between my writing-while-flying or writing -while- travelling and middle sister’s, the protagonist of Milkman, “reading-while-walking”.

The author has invented a unique narrative technique, apparently almost-stream-of-consciousness but in author’s testimony it is not, and applied it so adroitly to tell us the story of an unnamed girl, a middle sister, standing at the last dot of her teenage year deviant from status quo, opted for living in Victorian mise-en-scene and tagged as over-the-pale by her communities, and  then milkman, an associate of obsessively nationalistic paramilitary, appeared in a shape-shifting white-van on the scene without any hint out of nowhere and approached her and she could not deny him only because he was not rude and then she turned into an epicenter of gossips and rumors that unlocked the Pandora box of state-sponsored-violence, civilian terrorism, community policing, almost panoptic surveillance on every citizen, that locked the main gate of reality- as if what is not happening is seen but what is going on is hidden- above all, the narrative is a marathon race between state and individual, especially women experience in it.

Politics emerged in Milkman with negation to exercise its power like thunder creates a crack in the sky; they drew a map of “religious geography” and created a nationalistic weather, and swayed between in unitary territory (totalitarianism) and in sectarian territory (nationalism) of power in “troubles”, an unspecific time in seventies in Northern Ireland, they administered a dichotomy of “groupdom”, of renouncer-of-the-state and defender-of-state, of over the road and over the water, on top of that between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The first negation they imposed on freedom by conducting never-ending recordings of everything in the territories as “They even photograph shadows. People here can be deciphered and likeness discerned from silhouettes and shadows”, on the basis of “audible clicks”, they decoupled the right butter and wrong butter, they compressed the room of information as ‘Every resident was supposed to know what is permitted based on what was not permitted”, by that the reality is distorted in many folds and James-Bond-like-lies and Walter Mitty-like-hope occupied the civilians’ mind.

The protagonist, the middle sister, acts as an archetype of every woman at anytime, anywhere in the world. The experience she went through, at first with the “lewd remarks” and “manipulative nosey questions” by her first-brother-in-laws; with an imbalance characters of her third-brother-in-laws because only he regarded woman as an “essential element” or “higher aspect” contrary to Aristotle’s half-formed-creature; with aggressive stalking and talking of Somebody McSomebody, her wannabe husband; with compulsive contacts in rendezvous with her maybe-boyfriend who wanted to live together in red light street; and finally, the antagonist, milkman, tracked and trailed her without her knowledge backing up by paramilitary references and fell her into an “emotional numbness” that pushed her to find his invisible existence everywhere in her room. In response to anomalous approaches, she took refuge in “silence” in her defence. As in Milkman, Anna Burns questions the relationships between female experiences and male domination, in other words, does women‘s silence generate men’s privilege or vice versa? They also show how both silence as a resistance and power as an aggression can naturalize an individual’s sexual harassment in society.

Like silence, “marriage,” is another weapon “after territorial boundaries, is the foundation of the state” to consume privileges and to exercise domination over women. Like nineteenth-century, the traditional women take the position of in-charge of patriarchy, her mother so adamantly pursues her to lead “an ordinary life” by marrying McSomebody, and her longest-friend convinces her to “stop her stubbornness”. They are pleased to tell her the purpose of woman body that “they called menstruation stopped inside you because you were excessively sporty” and they also teach her physical violence is undefined until “your blouse ripped off” and sexual charges is denied until they have evidence of “one-quarter rape”. “I, too, came to find me inaccessible. My inner world, it seemed, had gone away” is one of the most heart-twisting sentences in the entire narrative which scratches the mental aberration a woman can go through, that claims an existential answer also.

“Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking”, comments Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the judges for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, “and form in surprising and immersive prose.”  The form of the words, syntax, and narrative technique is as interesting and important in parallel as the contents of the book. They are influenced by Russian formalism like not calling the characters and places by their proper names and German phenomenalism like looking at the reality at different angles, like in French class the chorus get suspicious about fixed idea of le ciel est bleu, like the Russian literature middle sister was reading-while-walking obsessively.

In an interview with Aubrey Moraif in New School Writing, Anna Burns says, “My own history and experience of growing up in Ardoyne in Belfast at this time of huge pressure undeniably informs my interest in these issues. This is based on my need to understand and explore how these pressures built up and worked out in that specific time and place, as well as of what this might mean for similar places throughout the world in all different time frames.”  This alluring and brilliant novel forces us to ask about the nature of reality and its validation, to see the experiences of women in the time of turmoil and to hear the universal voice of violence. 

Contributor Update, Kirsten Voris

Join Superstition Review in congratulating past contributor Kirsten Voris on her feature in the recently published Embodied Healing: Survivor and Facilitator Voices from the Practice of Trauma Sensitive Yoga. This collection of essays explores the applications of TCTSY–Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga–as a powerful evidence-based modality to help clients heal in the aftermath of trauma. Kirsten is a featured essayist in this collection, edited by Jennifer Turner (North Atlantic Books). The anthology is available for purchase via Penguin Random House. All proceeds from sales of this book will go towards direct service initiatives aimed at opening classes that otherwise would not have funding. Since being featured on the blog, Kirsten also co-wrote Trauma Sensitive Yoga Deck for Kids, which is a deck of  50 yoga shapes created for trauma-sensitive yoga facilitators, and can also be purchased via Penguin Random House.

Congratulations, Kirsten!

To see what else Kirsten has been up to, check out her Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to also read her nonfiction piece featured in Issue 18.

Contributor Update, Sean Prentiss

Join us in congratulating past Superstition Review contributor Sean Prentiss on some achievements he has made since being featured in Issues 13 and 15. In February of this year, Sean released his collection of poems Crosscut, which is his poetic debut and tells of his time spent working as a trail builder in the Pacific Northwest. Crosscut is available for purchase through University of New Mexico Press. Sean also co-edited The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction, which was published in January of this year and explores the relationship between neuroscience and creative nonfiction. The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction is available for purchase through Bloomsbury. The last bit of news Sean is celebrating is his the release of his forthcoming Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, set to release sometime in 2021. This anthology is an advanced level creative nonfiction textbook and anthology, available for pre-order via Bloomsbury.

Congratulations on everything you have accomplished since your Superstition Review features, Sean!

To see what else Sean has been up to, check out his website and his Twitter. Be sure to also check out his pieces featured in Issue 13 and 15.