The beautifully trapped and contained world of the Sand Literary Journal No.16
Being a great fan of the small, Berlin, English bookshops, I find myself wondering about the local authors of this brilliant city and the short snippets one can find. Literally Speaking, the events held to promote English short fiction, especially engages in this. However, I've recently discovered a zine-like journal in many of these English bookshops including Books and Bagels and The Curious Fox, called SAND Literary Journal. They were originally founded in 2009 and have been publishing a collection of pieces twice a year, run entirely by a volunteered force in Berlin.
I had the pleasure of reading Issue No.16, but all seem to have a well-designed unit with an apparent aesthetic theme and a beautiful typeface. No.16 contained a sort of blurry and abstract aesthetic, with art that is full of colour and, yet, has very undistinctive shapes and structures, which seemingly goes well with the topics addressed within the texts.
The journal is full of literary diversity and delves into short stories, poetry and some texts that are so flexible they can't be specified. The language of the authors varies from abrupt one word statements to the lengthy, lofty and poetic, usually with the feeling and theme of being trapped or contained. The SAND team even admit in the editors note, 'although we didn't select this issue's work with any theme in mind, the pieces assembled here share an uncanny obsession with containment, with boxing things up and the (sometimes) letting them out'. Due to the sheer amount, I've chosen a few, favourite pieces from the journal to review and analyse.
One of the short stories that I particularly loved was Breach by Loie Merritt, nearer the end of the journal. I found her language to be particularly rich, diverting between paragraphs that relate imagery of death and discomfort to the uncomfortable and toxic marriage between the narrator and her husband. She dreams about hurting her husband: 'I think that I should not hurt my husband today. Though I could, in any number of ways. I could keep a secret, swallow something hard, allow myself to be caught in a lie' (89). She actually rips out the gas line of his car, and he, likewise, hurts her by taking pictures of her in the shower and sending it to 'several numbers I don't recognize' (94). Meanwhile, there are things falling apart and dying in the house representing their spawning hatred for one another, seemingly focused on a dead wasp that's never dealt with. She also delves into memories of women's bodies; one at a medical school in which she dissects a dead woman, as a medical student assumingly, surrounded by dead embryos and another where she has a slightly erotic swim with a friend from her youth. There may be something in the dead embryos and could easily represent any kind of fertility, or lack of, as she states: 'I am thinking about the fish eggs inside my body that want my husband's sperm. My internal gears are equipped with desires and might mirror his after all, and while hating the truth, I love the potential for chaos.' (95). I found this piece so particularly emotive, with the connection between dead bodies, dead wasps, the rotting foundations of the house to a rotting, marital relationship was very unique, especially considering the narrator's love for the chaos and tragedy in her marriage.
Loie Merritt has her own blog in which she publishes some of her short stories and poetry, which you can check out here: https://loiemerritt.wordpress.com/
I want to smoke cigarettes with you beside the hot garbage by Joe Rupprecht was a unique piece. I can make an assumption that it is a form of poetry, but with very little breaks and a lot of flowing lyric, Rupprecht creates an all-together, "deliberately random" text that is as aesthetical as it is poetic. It creates the idea of one running thought, and seems to be a glitchy, broken-up memory of an erotic, and potentially short relationship: 'my body is a whole sentence I say as a earthy boy of language and pulp inside of a flaming tube for us to share by day and night or whenever works for you' (35). He is offering his body as a thing to share, not entirely his own, and allowing himself to be possessed and owned by his lover. Beautifully disruptive, these long ongoing thoughts without commas are then broken with the word 'glitch', like a nostalgic dream that is broken up and restricted by modern realities.
Another short story that is particularly small, is George L. Hickman's An Elegy. Although brief, it summarises both slightly comical, saddening and realistic perspectives of being transgender today. It begins with: 'we ask each other, my brothers and I, if we could ever love someone with or deadname', of which 'we say to ourselves that we could utter that name again into the creases of someone else's neck.' (27) This wonderful, erotic imagery entwined with the real reality of having a name that is dead, what the meaning of that name carries and the real suffering that would come with being called that name once more. George's piece seems to echo itself in a haunting way, seemingly reminded of a past life: 'the ghostly outlines of Anastasias and Marianas and Victorias must inhabit our rhythm' (27). It reiterates the SAND journal's original context of being contained or trapped and that, as a transgender man, the memories of past lives are enough to afflict a new life without society's extra prejudices. I especially loved the quote about mothers in contrast to the brothers in the tale, and how, very regularly people in the LGBT+ community need to form their own families: 'just like our mothers taught us to before they watched us plunge needles into our birth-giving hips and mourned the idea of ever seeing us in our wedding dresses' (27). As part of the LGBT+ community, I see very little in terms of queer and trans literature, even today, and the fact Hickman is highlighting the experiences of our community is enlightening and I would love to see more poetical pieces such as this merge into the literary scene.
Other collaborators included pieces by Elena Karina Byrne, who uses symbols of insects and colour in her work Afterlife Parlor for Insects; Maggie Milner, who wrote the first poem of this edition about a reignited love affair; Mary Locker, who writes about a group of stoned teenagers trapped in an auditorium, and many more unique pieces can be found in the No.16 Issue of SAND.
These pieces did all link to containment one way or another, but overall SAND is a very professionally created and executed work that allows such a broad spectrum of Berliner authors to experiment in their writing, themes and ideas, as well as provide unique additions to anyone's bookshelf.
You can find the SAND Literary Journal's website here where you can purchase this edition and get any updates on future editions, as well as trying your luck and submitting your own work: http://sandjournal.com/
Likewise, their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sandjournal/