Outside and inside, utterly individuated

by Lisa Brockwell, Guest Editor Issue 3

Welcome to Not Very Quiet. I am proud to have been guest editor of this third issue of the journal.

For most of the history of literature, with some rare exceptions that prove the rule, women have been positioned as the object in poems (the very best we could hope for was muse status or being ‘the beloved’, both loaded, precarious and fairly one dimensional places to be). It is important to remember how recently it is that we have had the opportunity to take up our pens and create ourselves as the subject. And how many women today are not permitted, by circumstance or by decree, to take up their own subjectivity.

That subjectivity is precious; its very existence is a political act. I believe that spaces like Not Very Quiet are more important than ever in 2018.

But identity is only one starting point in the process of making art. I believe it is important to acknowledge where I see and experience the world from. I also believe it is entirely possible for imagination, art and spirit to transcend our specific experience and liberate us from the binds of that identity, but only if we are honest and clear about the power relations and politics of that situation in the first place.

Any poetry worth its salt enables us to begin in that radical place of female subjectivity, and to then explore the world and ourselves and ask all kinds of taboo questions from the specific vantage point of our individuality. Poetry allows us, and requires us, to be utterly individuated. It undermines all orthodoxy, even, and perhaps especially, the orthodoxy of identity politics. That is its strength, its living power and the one true thing it offers the world.

As Fay Zwicky put it:

Poetry has always seemed to me a source of hope, a means of speaking against any orthodoxy, be it religious, political, or social. It has offered a place for the dissenting imagination that hankers to encompass not only the truth of what is, what has been, but what might be or what might have been.

It’s been a real joy to read so many poems of individuation, submitted from all around the world. And so many poems that engage in response and dialogue, either overtly or obliquely, with the work of Fay Zwicky and Grace Cossington Smith, artists who were both engaged in the investigation of questions of individuation and belonging, spirit and intellect, light and dark, ideas of being ‘outside’ or ‘inside’ and all these terms might imply; the weight of tradition and the liberating possibilities of the imagination.

I’d like to thank the founding editors of Not Very Quiet, Moya Pacey and Sandra Renew, for their vision in founding the journal, and their care in sustaining it. A very special thank you to Production Manager Tikka Wilson, whose commitment to excellence is the engine that drives the project.