Notes from the Boiler Room
On behalf of the entire crew, welcome to Terra Incognita, number one. We are greatly pleased to have you aboard for her maiden voyage, not merely as passengers, but as traveling companions and fellow navigators. Terra Incognita is a vessel built for the trade of printable cultural and intellectual wares, e.g., literature, visual art and thought. The bilingual nature of the magazine is a direct reflection of its projected range and vision. Terra Incognita the printed medium is the first bud of a nascent project aimed at fostering cultural exchange between the richly diverse communities in which Spanish and English are spoken. Destiny brought us together in Spain -a country which, contrary to popular belief stateside, is in Europe- but all Spanish and English-speaking writers and artists, regardless of origin or merits, are welcome to submit their work. Terra Incognita’s mission is comprised of three primary objectives, listed here in no particular order: 1) to develop contacts with and serve as a meeting point for established or emerging artists within our linguistic demarcation; 2) to create an outlet for work by new or unknown artists, especially those from communities which do not or cannot provide such means; and 3) to facilitate an open forum for the discussion and debate of contemporary social issues. To have any hope of achieving these goals, it is essential we speak, as it were, with a forked tongue. It is simple enough to set down our best wishes, but keep in mind that any prelude to an expedition bound for the unknown must necessarily fall short of mapping out a set course, which will unfold only as the logbooks are filled in. The crew must remain flexible, open to changes in tack as necessity dictates, and above all, fearless. For that matter—and despite all the commercials -things are not what they seem. Just as we perceive the light of stars which millions of years ago burned out to black holes, our endeavor to build bridges will surely call for burning a few along the way - maybe even the Captain’s. Similarly, Terra Incognita is drawn to work which in some way indicates that the boundaries between life and the creative process are easily blurred, or cease to exist altogether. The Polaris we pursue radiates with the simultaneous transience and timelessness of this life.
What we do know is that the journey will neither be fast nor easy. Far from a drive-thru to self-gratification, it is rather akin to a pilgrimage towards self-empowerment and solidarity. Thus we depart with the same illusion, concerns and obscure visceral yearning that first drove wooden ships to new worlds. All our grids are blank, save for the underwater currents traced by the impetus of History itself. Indeed, like the revolution of a minute hand to a new hour, History has carried us full circle from the Age of Discovery, depositing us on the threshold of a new millennium in the Age of Globalization. With the recognition of this historical context, at once a termination and new beginning, comes the realization that we are out of time. May the winds be kind as we traverse the strange and murky waters ahead.
Robert J. Lavigna, Editor.
Two years ago, we embarked on a sixth-month journey that included Spain, Mexico and various parts of the United States. Upon returning to Madrid, we felt an urgent desire to create a space that could incorporate the creative voices, art, and thought we intuitively felt were taking place in the variety of cultures where Spanish and English are spoken. We saw a space where new poetry, political thought and down-to-earth pieces on plumbing could all exist side by side. While plumbing didn’t survive the process (don’t ask), we believe that the first issue of Terra Incognita reflects this vision. Experience has shown us that important and well-known artists in one country can be relatively unknown in others. We feel that one possibility of these global times is to increase the cultural flow between various countries beyond the more typical commercial ideas of what that might be. With this in mind, we’ve published English translations of poet José Hierro, who in 1999 won the Premio Cervantes, the highest literary award in the Spanish language. In addition to this, we’ve published more emerging writers and artists in the hope of breaking down longstanding assumptions about what is American, Spanish, or Latino culture. As a result, our first issue features three American women poets in both English and Spanish, young Spanish writers such as Miguel Angel Curiel and Diego Arboleda, and visual artists Patty Villalobos, an American photographer living in Madrid, and Laura Mesa Lima, a native of the Canary Islands. We also aim to bring down other barriers, such as those often erected between what is considered political and artistic. Thus, we have included in these pages an interview with American poet, musician and social activist Rick "Klaus" Theis, as well as an article by Subcommandante Marcos. We believe that this range of art and politics can enrich our sense of what both can accomplish. Theis explains in his interview that, similiar to the arts, politics can try to save what is beauty or mystery in a people’s culture, and to this extent, Terra Incognita’s goal is to scout out evidence of just such mysterious beauty in all its possible political or poetic manifestations. This has encouraged us to publish parts of personal letters as a way to reveal how great writing can occur in unexpected places. Lastly, we would like to demonstrate the cultural diversity of those writing in English and Spanish. We feel the poetry of both Cuban-American Virgil Suarez and Marta Lópes-Luaces, a native Spaniard living in New York, helps to reveal the complexity of geographical and cultural forces influencing artists who live in and between two languages.
To conclude, Terra Incognita is an attempt to reveal the varied and intermingling worlds loosely connected under the semantic umbrellas "English-speaking" and "Spanish-speaking," and to show the breadth and ambition of contemporary art and culture occuring on both sides of the Atlantic.
Alexandra van de Kamp, Editor
William Glenn, Editor