That which at first appears to be a lyric essay may be something else, just as the converse may also be true. And that which at first appears real, under scrutiny, demonstrates a deficit of reality. So writers use language to shore up cordons around the insufficiently-real object or phrase or event precisely so that she may vivisect it into a desired product, torture it into manageability.
But sometimes, too, that which at first appears to be untrue may in fact be be too true. These lyric essays tap into the unheimlich with sound and symbol, parataxis and fragment and white space, jargon and footnotes and folklore, with breaks and failure. The line and the asterisk become simultaneously familiar and queer; in their anomaly, we find likeness. And the uncanny, not unlike joy, makes us monosyllabic.
When all we could say to an essay was yes, when we could only echo each other’s yeses back at each other, when we typed yesyesyesyesyes, when we as readers and as editors became unintelligible, and when we deferred to quoting passages from the essays that were threatening in how their beauty and honesty wounded us—this is when I knew that we found not only an essay we had to include in this issue but also an essay that would resonate with you.
I was tasked with spotlighting one essay. I dragged my feet about it to the point of complete indecision, and it was that very day that Raquel emailed me for my answer. I realized, though, after reviewing the submissions once more, that my choice had already been intuitively made several weeks ago. Samuel J Fox’s “Only the Gentle, Only the Strong” is written in a familiar, an uncanny complete indecision that epitomizes the genre in that that state of mind leads to keen reflexivity: “My soul sounds like lawnmowers and bluegrass basslines. My soul sounds like a noble attempt at Delta blues….My soul sounds like a decrescendo of castanets and trumpets. No matter how I phrase this, there is always the aspect of an eerily somber realization that I am alone.” The essay, precisely because its dreams are so tender and real, is so eerily somber that my body vibrated and the images of boots and beds and bars and Bud Light, reverberated in my rib cage like trapped animals long after I finished reading.
The sensations I had while reading the other essays were not dissimilar. Each warrants praise and compliment, but I think the best compliment to them and their authors is to allow yourself to feel both afraid of and welcomed by the uncanny in them and to discover that strangely familiar beasts also reside within you.
Guest Editor’s Spotlight:
Only the Gentle, Only the Strong by Samuel J. Fox