Notes from the Boiler Room
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the third issue of Terra Incognita. As an annual literary journal, each issue seems to mark out its own temporal geography and be its own humble witness to the previous year’s events and histories. Since this magazine resides in both Madrid and New York, it is hard not to mention the events of September 11th 2001. If anything was made clear from the loss and shock of last September, it was that the dialog between different cultures is more necessary than ever and that our treasured ideas of security and the freedom to live as we choose (that “choice” being multitudinous and varied according to cultural backgrounds and beliefs) is something that will come less out of drawing stern boundaries between countries, beliefs and languages than out of learning a tolerance for blurriness and ambiguity on a world map that is already becoming its own unknown, its own terra incognita, as each day it redraws itself in unexpected ways. A lot of mention was made in the wake of September 11th, often by artists themselves, of how it was difficult to make art in such a new, overwhelming context. While some of this artistic anxiety was natural and completely understandable given the recent events, it also seemed to stem from a core belief that art was peripheral, and as such, the most disposable aspect of culture when times get a little tough. But if art is doing its job, the deep, difficult, often unlovable job, of showing us who we really are—the dark sides of that as well as the wonderful—it is always relevant and capable of negotiating the fears and overwhelming aspects of difficult times. The attack on the World Trade Center, the acrid, dank smoke pluming its way over to Brooklyn, where the P.O. Box of this magazine is located, was one haunting, unable-to-be-censored image of something being rewritten in us all. But it was not a story that had begun that day. It was and still is a part of a story that has been writing itself throughout human history; lack of tolerance, cultural judgments, anger and fear are, unfortunately, age-old themes. September 11th was stark evidence of how these longstanding themes are working themselves out in our own present times.
Since this journal attempts to demarcate an open, lyrical territory in which surprising relationships and uncanny connections may occur among different worlds and points of view, I believe its aims are more relevant than ever. With this in mind, we have included an article on September 11th, but one written by a Spaniard, Ramón García, rather than an American. International reaction to that day’s events is rich and provocative and a potentially fertile ground from which to dialog on the future growing out of this tumultuous, yet highly interesting, now. Our hope is that each issue of Terra Incognita continues to widen the way in which the “now” is perceived by offering a varied, unpredictable array of voices with which to travel the current poetic and political topography. Let’s hope the artists and writers we have chosen from both sides of the Atlantic are intriguing guides.
Alexandra van de Kamp - New York
Terra Incognita unfurls her sails anew, setting off on her third voyage with a cargo of stories, poetry, essays and photography bound for readers on both sides of the English and Spanish seas. From this little boat we launch messages in bottles, trying to reach those people who refuse to conform to the vision of the world spewed by the one-eyed monster—readers who, like yourself, search books, poetry and magazines for a different view of what is happening in the world and what we are doing with it. To this effect, Number Three presents, among other articles, the closing address by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, and "The September Eleventh Notebooks," by Ramón J. García, translator and Terra Incognita contributor.
Far from "The End of History," rapt in a daily TV catatonia, we slide between the fear of terrorist bombs and the applause for the spectacle of "selective" bombing; we shift from fear of the "other," that which is different, to the fear of the rise of the extreme right and its promises of the "final solution." Meanwhile, we are sold more security in exchange for less freedom, more tourists and fewer immigrants, more "economic efficiency" in exchange for fewer civil rights, more flavor and fewer cigarettes... more globalization and less planet, less Humanity; in short, more fuel for a hotter fire.
And in the face of this, what are words? To quote the poet Rafael Alberti, "Manifestoes, writings, commentary, speeches / puffs of smoke dissolved, mists of type and print / What pain from papers the wind will sweep away! / How sad the ink that water will erase!(...)"
In spite of everything, or precisely because of it, it is with great pleasure that we present this third issue of Terra Incognita, this little craft that stays afloat thanks to the efforts of all our volunteers and contributors, to whom we are greatly indebted.
Alberto Domínguez - Madrid
Translated by Robert Lavigna