Books and Songs That Carried Us Through 2021 — by Inverse Contributors

Books and Songs That Carried Us Through 2021 — by Inverse Contributors

As we come to the end of this difficult year and enter the new one, Inverse Journal has asked its contributors to participate in a collective piece where they share—with our readers and their fellow contributors—the one book and/or the one song that stayed with them throughout the year or during a considerable part of it. Below are entries from some of our contributors who responded to the online survey and shared their picks for this 2021 as it passes by. In a human world where catastrophe and devastation also wreak their havoc on meaning-making and signification, one imagines that books and songs are imbued with a restorative and restructuring power—with both operating within and outside of human time. It with this thought in mind that Inverse Journal presents a limited selection of such books and songs curated and picked by some of the same contributors who make this space possible.

Making Sense of the Word: Kashmir — Four Poems by Danyal Hassan

Making Sense of the Word: Kashmir — Four Poems by Danyal Hassan

Danyal Hassan presents four poems that—in trying to make sense of the word ‘Kashmir’—develop a manifesto-in-verse against the nauseating exotica and orientalist framing that Kashmir is subjected to while a history of war, subjugation, and dispossession remains conveniently ignored—and at the expense of such exoticization and orientalization.

Literariness and Media Art: Theoretical Framing — by Claudia Benthien, Jordis Lau, Maraike M. Marxsen

Literariness and Media Art: Theoretical Framing — by Claudia Benthien, Jordis Lau, Maraike M. Marxsen

Abstract: Literariness suggests a certain quality within texts that “makes of a given work a work of literature”. The various literary devices that establish correspondences within literature are also prominent within language-based media art. Formalism was guided by the question of which attributes define literary or poetic language. Linguists as well as literary theorists have claimed that the idea of literariness as a poetic ‘deviation’ from standard language is relevant to both written and spoken texts —which is important when examining audiovisual artworks and their oral performances of literary aesthetics. Self-referentiality is also central to the theory of performativity. The ambiguity of poetic signs is grounded in the often indecisive tendency towards figural or literal signification. Irina Rajewsky fosters an understanding of intermediality “as a category for the concrete analysis of texts or other kinds of media products”. For the purpose of investigations into ‘medial configurations,’ she proposes three subcategories: ‘medial transposition,’ ‘media combination,’ and ‘intermedial references.’ Republished from The Literariness of Media Art (Routledge, 2018) by Claudia Benthien, Jordis Lau, Maraike M. Marxsen. Via CC BY-NC-ND.

Monologue on the Sea — A Poem by Olayioye Paul Bamidele

Monologue on the Sea — A Poem by Olayioye Paul Bamidele

Olayioye Paul Bamidele presents a poem “about the need for black people to unite irrespective of tribe, culture or tradition.” According to its poet, the poem’s inspiration comes from “the story of slaves being mistreated by their traders, as narrated to me by my father.” The young writer and Mass Communications student adds, “These slaves were mistreated at home and betrayed abroad. Later these people became the freedom fighters of Africa and the founders of the Négritude movements across the globe.”

Dialogue in Comics: Medium-­Specific Features and Basic Narrative Functions — by Kai Mikkonen

Dialogue in Comics: Medium-­Specific Features and Basic Narrative Functions — by Kai Mikkonen

From The Narratology of Comic Art (Routledge, 2017) by Kai Mikkonen. Abstract by author: Conversation is a basic element in the medium of comics, where much of the narrative appeal is derived from the interplay between dialogue and action. The speech balloon, a favoured visual symbol for voice and utterance in the medium since the mid-twentieth century, has become a symbol for comics. In Italian, famously, the word fumetto—the word for a speech or thought balloon—also refers to the art form itself, whether in the form of a comic strip or a comic book. In fact, dialogue is such a central feature in the medium that it may sometimes be difficult to think of it as a distinct element. A character who speaks his thoughts aloud when apparently nobody is listening is a much-used convention, and many comics, for instance, ‘talking heads’ or humoristic comic strips that deliver a verbal gag, focus on speaking. Perhaps paradoxically, dialogue scenes may be more distinguishable when their use is more restricted, for instance, in comics when action is predominant and only occasionally interrupted by a scene of talk or when first-person verbal narration is predominant, as in autobiographical comics that occasionally lapse into dialogue. Republished via CC BY-NC-ND.

Untitled — A Poem by Dustin Pickering

Untitled — A Poem by Dustin Pickering

Dustin Pickering presents a short poem whose “general spirit”—as the poet suggests—”can resonate across different subjects.” One of these, in the least, is the irremediable misery of those who do wrong to others.

How to Care for Delicate Purple Petals — Four Poems by Martin Pedersen

How to Care for Delicate Purple Petals — Four Poems by Martin Pedersen

All the way from Italy, Martin Pedersen presents four poems that explore memory and experience in four unique ways. From memories of a mother and a grandmother to the experience of thirst and the experience of solitude, Pedersen’s verses are characterized by a purity that arrives with age and silence.

End of the Day — A Short Story by Shabir Ahmad Mir

End of the Day — A Short Story by Shabir Ahmad Mir

Shabir Ahmad Mir presents a short story that unfolds in an undisclosed setting, with characters that lack proper names. The absence of specificity in this piece of short fiction allows for an emphasis on multiple metaphors, with a set focus on its action and its descriptions. Within its plot and narration, a “soldier-king” embarks on a gruesome and tortuous journey with “the Body” in what can perhaps be considered one of the darkest pieces of short fiction to find its way into the corpus of contemporary Kashmiri literature in the English language. As such, extreme reader discretion is advised given the portrayals of graphic violence with which this text confronts its reader. In reference to his novel “Yalo” (Picador, 2009), the Lebanese author Elias Khoury once said, “Writing is a mechanism of resistance, a mechanism against torture.” Perhaps such words may find considerable validity in Mir’s short story as the weight of an act—or series of acts—lingers perpetually, while the disposable becomes irremovable and unerasable, like a permanent burn mark on the one who carries out the act or series of acts. Whether the plot to Mir’s story is circular in structure and whether the story contains a circular ending is debatable and equally probable.

The Engraver at Panthchowk — A Poem by Mashood Rather

The Engraver at Panthchowk — A Poem by Mashood Rather

In Mashood Rather’s poem, a mother seeks her son and a son seeks his mother, with the two kept from each other by a spectral curtain that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead. The engraver tasked with pronouncing “death with each chisel mark” is their intermediary in these haunting verses where life and death converge as they do tragically upon a valley.

TORTURERS R US — An Essay by Christopher Hirschmann Brandt

TORTURERS R US — An Essay by Christopher Hirschmann Brandt

Christopher Hirschmann Brandt presents an extensive reflection-as-indictment on the practice of torture by nation states, and in particular the United States of America, which he calls home. Unlike many political leaders who use the first-person plural “we” to refer to their countries and their peoples in a patriotic tone, Hirschmann Brandt employs the collective “we” inversely to interrogate the repeated uses of torture to bring to light the urgent need for accountability. In doing so, the author provides a broader cultural and historical context required to understand the uses of torture by the United States along a far longer timeline with cited examples covering entire eras and centuries.

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