In the Winter 2017 issue of Open Minds Quarterly, Paola Bohórquez remarks that “when we seek difficult literature, we are seeking understanding, we are seeking empathy.” The issue is dedicated to writers who “disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”
The writing collected for this issue is indeed difficult to read. Stories and poems such as Alexandria Narae Young’s “Fish Oil” and William Ryan Hilary’s “Rx Square” are heartbreaking. Some pieces, including the interview between Bohórquez and Sylvie Gravelle, challenge us to think harder about what we read, to ask deeper questions of ourselves as readers. Others, like John T. Plumeri’s “I Want This” and dm gillis’ “psychosis poem,” bring to the surface thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to have. Many of the pieces in this issue focus on family and relationships, but the overarching theme, as Sylvie Gravelle succinctly puts it, is that “sometimes you don’t overcome.”
When we set aside the impulse to recover “negative” stories, ideas and feelings with happy endings, silver linings, bright sides or hardship overcome, we bear witness to the kinds of sadness, anger and pain that cannot be healed. These wounds defamiliarize taken-for-granted ideals like romance, love and family, exposing their impossibilities and imperfections. By witnessing stories such as these, we uncover both the brutality of the ideal and the knowledge of self that abuse and oppression try to snuff out.
Featuring work by 20 authors, cover art by Linda Bayley and new sections, including interviews and cartoons, the Winter 2017 issue of Open Minds Quarterly is both a challenge and a comfort to read. We at OMQ hope that this issue’s writing, by doing the work of uncovering, will inspire readers to question and resist the systems, icons and ideals that bring violence into our lives. As British anarchist punk band Chumbawamba sings, “nothing ever burns down by itself / every fire needs a little bit of help.”