Click here to edit subtitle

Meniscus Volume 8, Issue 1

Editorial Comment

This issue of Meniscus has been framed by two events, one global and one personal for one of the co-editors. As writers were submitting pieces for the current issue, the COVID-19 virus was at the periphery of our consciousness but, as the closing date came and April launch date approached, it became apparent that these were no ordinary times and all of those involved in bringing the issue to the world were themselves caught in the tension of maintaining standards in our ‘daytime’ work, while working from home and under containment. Our titular image and explanation of Meniscus, of “how surfaces, curves, tension and openness interact ... the way in which the surface of the water features, and the uncertainty of the water’s containment, seems to analogise the excitement and anxiety inherent in creative practice, and the delicate balance between possibility and impossibility”, became a reality for our daily lives as well as our own creativity.

Then shortly before settling to read through the 876 poems, 75 stories and 48 pieces of flash writing originally submitted, the lead editor of this issue suffered a fall and was diagnosed with a meniscal tear, no less. The medic was no doubt puzzled by a gasp of recognition, despite the extreme pain, and it prompted a revisit to the other meanings of ‘Meniscus’ beyond physics and biology.

From the Greek μηνίσκος, Meniskos means literally crescent moon, but also can refer to a necklace, a curved line in battle, a lens with a crescent-shaped section, (a concavo-convex or convexo-concave lens) and more obscurely, a disk placed above the head of a Greek statue, presumably to protect it from weather (or bird) damage. Coincidentally, in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealanders were encouraged to consider home confinement as being in a bubble, a perspective of crescent moons and curving lenses.

Whatever the imagery evoked by these circumstances it generated a desire for the current issue of Meniscus to contain writing which arrested and diverted, which reassured while it disturbed. But then, in the middle of this period of disaster, the Irish poet Eavan Boland died. Her work has, for decades, embodied the power of the written word and of poetic expression in the face of apparently imponderable crises. In her case, this primarily took the form of the articulation of women’s experiences in society, in family, and in history: the marginalisation of women; the struggle to claim a voice, and find a space from which to be heard. But more than social battle, her work exemplifies what can be done in and through creative expression: how grief can be rendered endurable, hope made real. Writing about women’s rights, she says, ‘Remind us now again’, she writes in Our future will become the past of other women, ‘that history changes in one moment … that it belongs to us, to all of us’. In this moment of history, and honouring her life’s work, we extend this sentiment to ‘all of us’, all of us living in and through the global crises we have inherited.

All the pieces published here have been selected for their depth of engagement as well as the quality of the writing, the idea and story and, yes, their containment within the circles of their worlds. Once again, the huge response to our regular call for submissions reflects the journal’s global appeal – and our willingness to take on very young and very experienced authors, work written in dialect, translation and idiom, formal and informal structures and merged genres; the work must stand alone, and continue to reward after several readings.

In this time of enforced social isolation, artists have generated music, poetry, films, paintings, stories and readings, which they shared though the internet and social media. Many readers rediscovered personal libraries and took up ancient cloth-bound editions, tatty old paperbacks or found e-books to enrich unexpectedly long days. Several online reading groups selected Daniel Defoe’s ‘A journal of the plague year’ for discussion; a fascinating and informative piece of writing which, despite his career as a journalist, is a work of fiction, published not long after ‘Robinson Crusoe’, in 1722. Defoe was only 5 years old in 1665, the year the bubonic plague killed a quarter of the population of London, and his narrator is a middle-aged citizen who remained in London and took on the role of chronicler and observer. So many of the circumstances still resonate with our times; houses where the sick were identified were shut up and cities shut in. Playhouses, ale houses and entertainments were shut down and gatherings of people discouraged and dispersed. These formal and legal measures by the mayor and councillors of London, “Orders concerning loose persons and idle assemblies”, taken in a time without awareness of sanitation, germ theory or viral transmission still seem extraordinary. Just as many measures have employed military terminology if not tactics— Lock Down, Kit Up, beat the odds, or war time jingles- Stay Home, Stay Safe, — against the COVID-19 plague in our own times, Defoe writes,

“A plague is a formidable enemy and is armed with terrors that every man is not sufficiently fortified to resist or prepared to stand the shock against.”

This issue of Meniscus proudly includes a selection of writing called up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where writers as chroniclers or observers, like Defoe’s narrator, or unashamedly ‘loose persons’ and entertainers, have shown willing to ‘stand the shock’ against this plague.

It also includes a small set of writings that are the product of an initiative of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP) – which publishes Meniscus. The AAWP called out to members for examples of how their thinking and being has found expression in creative forms, for a project titled The in/completeness of human experience. Over 200 short pieces were submitted in a very brief (9-day) window, and like the writing in the main part of Meniscus, they speak to in/completeness, resilience and playfulness; offer clear-eyed exposition of the impact of this historical moment; and test out what established forms can offer. Most of the selected works are being published in the AAWP’s scholarly journal, TEXT; others, which seemed to have more of a ‘Meniscus’ sensibility, are presented here, embedded as a little collection within the main issue. The whole issue, we hope, will enrich your experience, and later your memories, of living where with this ‘formidable enemy’, and resisting the shock of the real.

Gail Pittaway

Jen Webb

for the Meniscus editors


Author Index

  • Alberta Natasia Adji
  • David M. Alper 
  • Amirah Al Wassif
  • Ayesha Asad
  • Tomas Baiza 
  • Ranald Barnicott
  • Kris Beaver 
  • Tony Beyer
  • James Borders 
  • Felipe Botero
  • Owen Bullock
  • Gianoula Burns
  • Mira Chiruvolu
  • Stephen Coates
  • Elizabeth Colbert
  • Zoe Cunniffe
  • Adam P. Davis
  • Christine Davey
  • John M. Davis
  • Anne Di Lauro
  • Martin Dolan
  • Gabrielle Everall
  • Christie Fogarty
  • Mukund Gnanadesikan
  • Kristin Gustafson 
  • Marlon Hacla
  • CM Harris
  • Genevieve Hartman
  • Dominique Hecq
  • Suzanne Herschell
  • Nadia Jacobson
  • Helena Kadmos
  • Con Karavias
  • Sharon Kernot
  • Dean Kerrison
  • Katharine Kistler 
  • Polchate (Jam) Kraprayoon 
  • Jeri Kroll
  • Jennifer Kyrnin
  • Wes Lee
  • Rose Lucas
  • Elizabeth MacFarlane
  • Kevin Madrigal
  • Sara Cahill Marron
  • Craig McGeady
  • Peter Newall 
  • Kimberly Nguyen 
  • Kristine Ong Muslim
  • Victoria O'Sullivan
  • Sarah Pearce
  • Sarah Penwarden
  • Antonia Pont
  • Kathy [K. M.] Preston
  • Mark Putzi 
  • Sarah Pye
  • Giovanni Quessep
  • Dustin Charles Radke 
  • Sandra Renew
  • Bruce Robinson
  • Will Russo
  • Christopher Carter Sanderson
  • Francesca Jurate Sasnaitis
  • Jeff Schiff
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Murzban F. Shroff 
  • Ian C Smith
  • Ed Southorn 
  • Don Stoll 
  • Emily Sun
  • Jessica Temple
  • John Thampi
  • Duncan Tierney
  • Michael Thomas
  • Ken Tomaro
  • Tim Tomlinson
  • Julie U’Ren
  • Olga Walker
  • Cathy Warner
  • Mags Webster
  • Evey Weisblat
  • Anne Marie Wells 
  • Wendi White 
  • Anna Genevieve Winham
  • Marjory Woodfield