August 21, 2013

Zine: Tender Journal

The Tender Journal weaves images and words
into a hypnotic exposé of human experience.

When Rachael Allen and Sophie Collins sent me the digital copy of the first Tender Journal, I started reading it on my computer that night. The definition of 'tender' on the first page was 'the act or an instance of tendering; offer.' There were phrases that caught my eye on my first cursory glance at its contents; lines of poetry that jumped off the screen in spite of my drowsiness. I decided that instead of reading the journal from my laptop I would print it out in color and bind it. I have always had a bias for reading things off paper and I feared that without printing the journal it may lose its cohesion. I brought my printed and bound copy of the Journal on the metro the next morning to my first day working at a new job.

It's difficult to synthesize what Allen and Collins have created in a short synopsis. Drawing from sources all over the world, they have woven a patchwork of sensory and cerebral images of words and art that feels something like a living organism. The commonality of its creators is that they are all women, from Egypt to England to Canada to Spain. The pieces are so varied, that is essentially where the commonalities end; an effort to correlate them further would be reductive to the singularity of the submissions. Their combined effort results in a vacillation between entertaining reflections on seemingly banal instances to descriptions of intimacy and pain that are searing in their cathexes.

If osmosis is too time consuming we can always be eaten instead. To be molded and re-modeled by external forces, to be devoured by images and spat out anew. Because if you can't be an image you can always eat one, or let it eat you. It doesn't matter which way around is, either way you get inside each other, because intimacy is important. And besides, it's only through intimacy that we can have the courage to be taken apart, re-built as something better. That is, after all, what we're trying to do. They always say that if you haven't seen him in a while you can surprise him with a new you. Wouldn't it be fun if you could get into his veins instead. Regel, "Like Butter."

Perhaps the most unexpected piece is a collage of descriptions and images on the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq. It has a dual emphasis on ecology and history, including Saddam Hussein's draining of the water to punish tribes for participating in anti‐government rebellion. The piece moves seamlessly between the outward and inward, and in doing so reveals a greater truth about the confluence of nature and its inhabitants. Human life internalizes its surroundings, not only in a sense of "living off the land," but actually mimicking its processes and living like the land.

The act of draining the marshes is at once symbolic, deeply tragic and hugely significant in understanding our position within this anthropocene. Our tragedies can be seen diagnostically as an extended meditation into the movement of water and the healing potential of reflooding. Jones, "The Draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq."

I finished reading the piece on the Mesopotamian marshes as the metro ride ended. I couldn't get it out of my head; I had a million things on my mind that day, but in those moments between the noise of living I stared out the window and thought of floods.

I have achieved nothing. There used to be a fever or a fervour that made me swing from side to side, never restful or at peace. Now I simply look at my thoughts as though from above refusing to be moved. Metcalfe, "Translating Kafka."

It is hard for me to understand art or poetry on a much deeper level than my reaction to it. I am not suited to be a formal critic because I can't separate the quality of the work, its pentameters and dimensions and prose, from the feeling I have when I experience it. When I was reading the Tender Journal, I found it to be so imbued with struggle and exposure that it felt I was talking to the writers myself in an intimate conversation about the satisfactions and sadnesses of life. Jan Carson's "When Things Were Over People Forgot" reminded me of The Unbearable Lightness of Being in its ambivalence in the meaning of life and the destruction that accompanies love.

People wished to forget. They favored forwards over backwards. They could not remember a time when the future had been more accessible or appealing. A cross section of the community--approximately nine hundred participants in total--were rigorously surveyed and agreed that things would be much better forgotten once they were over.

"For example films," suggested one participant, "Who has time to talk about something they've already seen?"

 "Or television programmes, or people, or vacations."

"Similarly surgery. No one wants to remember the stitches coming out."

Carson, "When Things Were Over People Forgot."

Allen and Collins cast a wide net while they were compiling the journal because they wanted all women to feel represented within its pages. The two were separated as Sophie moved to Belfast, Ireland to carry out research on translation at Queen’s University, while Rachael lived in London where she worked as a literary editor. The creation of the journal required a high level of collaboration and some creative friction in its production.

The friend of the friend's
skinny daughter throwing up
while giving blood

The limp rag on the face of the dead
son of God
moving down the stone of his dead knees

Toder, "Cleaning the Basilica."

Tender Journal seems to traverse the spectrum of the human experience as effortlessly as it does the geographical distance between its writers. From the explicit descriptions of physicality in Laura Elliott's "The First Husband Poem" to the translated interview with Spanish poet and journalist Luna Miguel to the frenetic desperation of Daniela Olszewska's "THIRTEENZ," the journal is a glimpse into its creators' minds and melanin. Sometimes people fear their own intensity; the pieces presented in Tender Journal don't only accept it but embrace it. The submissions of Tender Journal are an achievement paralleled only by Collins' and Allen's ability to organize the excursions into the psyche in a way that makes the reader feel more whole, more connected and more human at its conclusion.

Read the first issue of Tender Journal here.

Carolyn Lang, who likes to write and travel and spends most of her spare time in Middle Eastern restaurants. She is the combined effort of everyone she's ever known. Carolyn keeps track of things that fascinate her here.