Welcome to TriQuarterly Issue 153. Launching an issue at the beginning of a new year means that much of the preparation takes place as the old year draws to a close. We assembled the final versions of the poems, stories, essays, and videos for this issue at a time when television programming and social media feeds abounded with yearend photo retrospectives. Everywhere we turned, we were met with some of the most compelling images of 2017—images that ranged from aerial views of the Women’s March in Washington, DC, with thousands of posterboard signs bouncing above thousands of pink-eared hats, to images of refugees touching ground at the end of long and treacherous journeys. Through these images, we relived the many highs and horrors of 2017, cheering once again for a young woman, her face full of calm and resolve, taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest; looking once again into the eyes of a young girl shot in Myanmar. Staring into these photographs reminded us of the power of art, of how we as artists can utilize our individual media to present audiences with frank, resonant depictions of the cultural crises of the day.
The contributors to this issue all hold and use this power. In her story “Not Mildred,” Brandi Wells takes the notion of a border wall and amplifies it, introducing us to a man so fearful of the external world and its dangers that he conflates safety with imprisonment, going so far as to construct a doorless wall around his home. While it is the male figure that erects the wall, it is the women—the man’s wife and daughter, each of their own generational mindset—who work together to survive it. The tale is at once outlandish and unsettlingly plausible, containing a warning reminiscent of the one Margaret Atwood attaches to The Handmaid’s Tale: “Never believe it can never happen here.”
Caroline Beimford also explores the human capacity for fear in her essay “We Who Are about to Die Salute You.” In a tone that seeks more to comprehend than to critique, she takes us deep inside “prepper” culture, introducing us to a group of camo-clad men who gather once a week to swap tips on how to survive the coming apocalypse. Exactly what it is they’re preparing for, they can’t say—the number of scenarios involving gangs, terrorists, natural disasters, and even the “antichrist system” is simply too high—but they take comfort, and pride, in their acts of preparation.
Indeed, a concern for the future permeates much of the work in this issue. In her story “We Are Trying to Understand You,” Joy Baglio imagines a stark endgame to our infatuation with artificial intelligence, while Kristen Arnett’s “Suggestible Hauntings” examines a culture so willing to pay for the next thrill that the act of playing ghost becomes a lucrative profession. An enthralling video essay by Kathleen Kelley and Sarah Rose Nordgren offers a visual representation of these concerns. Blending elements of the natural with the artificial, it sets a miniaturized woman down inside a manufactured world and asks us to consider: which one stands in control of the other?
New poetry from Daniel Borzuztsky offers a harsh and unfamiliar view of Chicago’s famous lakeshore, challenging readers to “[c]ome, watch the police remove the homeless bodies from the beach”; and Tracy K. Smith finds a soul-deep connection with an elderly woman in “Charity.” “I am you,” she says, “one day out of five, / Tired, empty, hating what I carry / But afraid to lay it down . . . ”
In the current political and social climate, we all may hate what we carry. It can be tempting to fall into complacency, to simply look away. Thankfully, we have the power of art to challenge and remind, and to stir us to action. We hope you’ll spend some time with this beautiful and important work, and we invite you to pass it on to others.
Faculty Advisor: Susan Harris
Director of Planning: Reginald Gibbons
Film Editor: Sarah Minor
Fiction Editors: Aram Mrjoian, Noelle Havens-Afolabi, Marina Mularz, Stephanie Tran
Nonfiction Editor: Molly Sprayregen
Poetry Editor: Dane Hamann
Social Media Editor: Aram Mrjoian, Ankur Thakkar
Copy Editor: Lys Ann Weiss
Media Architect: Harlan Wallach
Technical Advisors: Alex Miner, Rodolfo Vieira, Nick Gertonson
Staff: Adam Lizakowski, Ahsan Awan, Andrea Garcia, Anne-Marie Akin, Bonnie Etherington, Caitlin Sellnow, Caitlin Garvey, Dan Fliegel, Devin O'Shea, Ellen Hainen, Gretchen Kalwinski, Hillary Pelan, Jayme Collins, Jennifer Companik, Jonathan Jones, Joshua Bohnsack, Madina Jenks, Marssie Mencotti, Megan Sullivan, Myra Thompson, Nathan Renie, Pascale Bishop, Patrick Bernhard, Salwa Halloway, Sara Connell, Sarah Jenkins