Issue 10 – Landscape
Slowly the room begins to revolve and one by one the continents slide
into the sea; only the woman is left, but her body is a mass of geography.
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Mon corps, topie impitoyable.
- Michel Foucault
The gallery where I was supposed to be meeting my boss was on rue Louis le Grand. I was early, so I walked around those mournful streets that spoke from the Place de l’Opera. I did not remember ever having been on that street, but there was, uninvited, some sort of pre-memory that I kept bumping into. Sometimes I am sure that the walls of this city absorb the feelings of the pedestrians; all the loneliness and panic, all the history of fear and love embedded in the walkways and the archways, the lampposts and the blind windows. Then I saw a café with a red-awning, Le Casanova, and that’s what opened the memory. I remembered arriving there, looking for him – my ex. That must have been last fall. I remembered opening the door and finding him sitting at the back eating a croque monsieur, probably, drinking from a little pichet of red wine, and I was delighted to have found him, hidden within the walls of this inscrutable city.
I like Paris because it fits my moods, and because I generally find what I’m looking for. Whether Paris is the cause or simply the effect is subject to debate (though logic tells me Paris will always be coolly omnipotent, hiding and revealing at its will). However, my choosing to live here is based, at least partly, on this symbiotic relationship to my surroundings, the way in which I feel moved by them but still in control. Most of the time I feel that this city does not need me but occasionally, when the timing is right, when coincidences string up perfectly, I feel that things are happening in a way that has some sort of pattern that involves me.
Katherine Jackson, New York based writer and visual artist, published an essay in volume 95 of the Southwest Review (September 2010) called Bridges to Somewhere. Her essay is a personal mapping of her neighbourhood, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and as she describes its literary history she implies herself in its narrative. She considers wandering around a city as a creative process : "Walking is a form of drawing," she writes. "What matter if pathways are described by the fingers or the feet – or numberless other drawing tools? Drawing is a way of moving through the world, or many worlds, and tracing – mapping – this motion." She too can’t help being daunted by constantly bumping into the memories and histories – "160 years’ worth of poetic mythologizing" – that have been absorbed by the cityscape. The theme of this issue is Landscape: the works collected here question the ways in which landscapes hold personal and collective histories, and the way that the individual body becomes a topography of memories, the physical inextricable from the emotional. Our scars, broken bones, and freckles are inseparable from the memory of how we got the scar, who we were with when the wrist broke, where the freckles were collected. We know that tectonic plate movement and glaciers can shape landscapes, but this issue elaborates how one’s surroundings are also subject to human alteration; literary and artistic activities shape a landscape and our perspectives of it.
Harriet Alida Lye – Editor in Chief