Synchronized Chaos December 2013: Defining and Asserting Identity


Greetings readers, tinsel and light and sparkles and redemption and rebirth to those who welcome those sorts of things. Happy Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and other celebrations to all of you.

This month we bring you pieces centered on identity: fully embodying and understanding one’s self, and claiming the right to define oneself on one’s own terms.

Poet Linda Allen also draws upon the Christmas holiday as a motif in her cycle of three poems. She begins with a piece describing a winter snowfall, then another where the birds and outdoor scene echo her grief and wonder, and then a final poem which focuses on the widowed speaker’s bittersweet emotions. The natural world becomes a voice and vocabulary for her speakers, a way for them to communicate who they are and articulate their thoughts. Geese, trees, cold weather become not just a pretty landscape, but a common heritage, a way to refer to and thus talk about the same things.

Leila A. Fortier also uses natural as well as spiritual imagery in her poetic writings, rendering her speakers’ ‘ocean’ of memories through italicized fragments resembling an inner dialogue. Having the space to think, to sort through one’s own thoughts, is an important part of developing a personal identity.

In his poetry, Mitchell Grabois intersperses personal thoughts and memories with reflections on historical events, ethnic identity and American culture. His speakers use childhood innocence, rebelliousness, and wry humor as ways of coping, of existing within a changing world.

Emma Eisler’s poetic piece, like some of Fortier’s work, shows a speaker experiencing a complex and troubled interpersonal relationship. In “Flight and Fall,” her character longs to be heard, to be known for who he or she really is, rather than just seen as a symbol of the excitement and glamour of the carnival.

Arthur Gonzalez’ fantasy novel The Photo Traveler, as reviewed in Elizabeth Hughes’ monthly Book Periscope column, presents a narrator who discovers his ability to transport himself through time while escaping an abusive home situation. His moving through history to understand himself and his special role in the book’s drama resembles the internal journeys of Fortier and Allen’s poetic speakers.

Christopher Bernard reviews the current show at San Francisco’s Meridian Gallery, “By Mainly Unexpected Means -” This assortment of artwork, from 20 Silicon Valley artists (in residence at Palo Alto’s Cubberley Studios) combines the old and the new, the analog and digital, the human and the technological. Like Arthur Gonzalez’ protagonist, Gavin, the work travels through time, overlaying multiple layers of thought and history in order to better reflect and convey our world.

Amina Aineb illustrates the vulnerability of the individual in her poem “A Bizarre Way of Walking to a House.” Her writing evokes her young female speaker’s sense of being alone in an unsettling world.

Christopher Bernard’s review of poet Jack Foley’s new collection Eyes highlights the poet’s unique use of multiple voices within his text. Bernard’s piece emphasizes how Foley’s interlineated text encourages people to think rather than getting comforted or instructed, and to pay attention to language and form as well as content. By deconstructing identity in this way, Foley draws attention to the concept, and calls on us to do the hard work of creating ourselves and our world, infusing our words, lives and society with meaning.

The American Conservatory Theater (ACT)’s recent production of Beneath the Lintel, as also reviewed by Christopher Bernard, gives us protagonists with elusive personal identities. We have a murder mystery involving books, stories and libraries, where we are not sure who the perpetrator or victim really are, or even if they exist.

Martin Rushmere follows in this vein with his review of the Marin Theater Company’s production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a drama which critiques the way social expectations define us and our relationships. In the drama, we see a husband forced to choose between love and honor, and a wife who chooses autonomy and self-definition over her roles as wife and mother.

Like Nora in A Doll’s House, Ayokunle Adeleye takes a risk to assert his beliefs. His strident poem in support of a Nigerian university faculty and staff strike states his position with clarity and without apology. Following in the vein of his earlier writings, he advocates for justice and government accountability and transparency within his home country.

Thank you very much for making Synchronized Chaos Magazine part of your December solstice and holiday celebrations! We wish you the light and joy of the season as you read.
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