Red Wolf Journal Issue 11 (Spring/Summer 2017)
Our theme: “Sweet Sorrow”
Cover art: John Henry Frederick Bacon, Romeo And Juliet
Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2017 issue.
What? Sweetness in sorrow? In heartbreak? In saying “goodbye”?
Do we see poems as memento mori? We attempt to immortalize what is already lost, or passing. What emotions well up when memory brings us back to the people and events that have filled our scant lives with richness, and our souls with an overflowing spirituality? In retrieving them through memory, in our poems, we filter everything into universal truths; through the impersonality of art, we invent fiction in order to see what truths continue to haunt us thus expressing our humanity. There is a kind of moral imperative in art. What is art but moral, though some may disagree.
Fellow sojourners, there is sorrow in the parting, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet says, but sweetness too. There is a difference, whether the parting is temporary or lasting. When Juliet says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, she had meant it in the first sense. Parting is only sweet if her lover departs but is expected to return, thus filling her heart with joyful anticipation. The French says it well, au revoir (till we meet again). Imagine if one is at all times with one’s lover, wouldn’t the law of diminishing returns set in at some point? Aha. Perhaps we are creatures who need melodrama, because there is an intrinsic duality in our nature. We are ruled by the principle of opposites. How complicated we are, waxing and waning, goodness commingling with bad stuff. C’mon nobody’s an absolute angel or saint. And if the lover never shall return? If your heart still pulses with true love, a sweetness would have gone out of life, wouldn’t it? The tea would have gone tepid. Then of course, if the lover does return, the concomitant crap also returns. Nothing’s pure bliss. Love, or the lack thereof, could even drive one to suicide, as Romeo did, in the end, and Juliet too, in her turn. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “Parting is all we know of heaven,/And all we need of hell.”
This life is a paradox. We don’t know what joy is, till we’ve known sadness. We do not see light without shadow. We cherish life because there is death. Is it possible to experience pleasure and pain at the same time? Yes. This can come in whatever form. Our time together is pleasurable, deepened, heightened by the knowledge that we will ultimately part. So the deep abiding human experience is grieving. We grieve past relationships and things. We grieve injustices and anomalies that come up again and again to cause pain and suffering. We grieve our ageing bodies which we all know will one day bail on us. We grieve the dead. Death comes to us all. We do not know what comes after. Like birth, death is a mystery. This hit us acutely, and then with a dull nameless ache. If we see into our selves, we hear an echo. We move constantly between the poles of hope and despair. Human consciousness elevates us and also besieges us with a sense of loss and uncertainty. From our angst we have found religion, philosophy, spirituality, art. What art does, it survives us. Remember that one time when Meryl Streep quoted Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart, make it into art”? Bittersweet.
The sweetness in the memory, not in the sense of anticipation, alas, the second time round. Also in the sense of accepting the deep mystery of existence, by finding a peaceable way of being.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
As sweet ol’ Charlie Brown would say, “Oh, good grief!” It is ultimately up to us to find sweetness in sorrow, if only to bear that sorrow.
Interpret the theme however you wish.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS 25 AUGUST 2017. SUBMISSIONS CLOSED.
Poems will be published in ongoing posts on this site. Each posting will be announced on the Red Wolf Journal page on Facebook. Your poem may be published at any time from March to August 2017 so please check back here. If you do not see your poem(s) appear, you may deem it as not accepted for publication. We will not be sending out any acceptance or rejection letters.
The entire collection will be released in PDF format in due course. An announcement will be made at that point.
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Editors, Red Wolf Journal