ANMLY #31 :: Writing Ourselves / Mad (Part 1 of 2)

  •        nessi alexander-barnes
  •        Isaac Pickell
    (content warning: anti-Blackness, slavery)
  •        Alix Anne Shaw
  •        Meghan Kemp-Gee
    (content warning: drinking, domestic abuse)
  •        Olivia Muenz
    (content warning: unsanitary, death)
  •        Lee Soho translated by Soje
    (content warning: abortion, unsanitary/maggots, suicide, incest, sexual violence, self-harm)
  •        Shane Neilson
  •        Nora Hikari
    (content warning: science-fictional medical abuse, body horror, transmisogyny)
  •        Jacob J. Billingsley
  •        Paula Harris
    (content warning: weight/body image)
  •        q
    (content warning: unsanitary, eugenic ableism, gore, ableist & anti-sex worker slurs reclaimed)
  •        Lexus Root
    (content warning: forced medication, needles, blood, death, parasites, unsanitary, sex, body horror)
  •        Shana Bulhan
    (content warning: self-harm, body image/body hate, blood, cissexism)
  •        Evan Reynolds
    (content warning: institutionalization, unsanitary, body horror)

Sometimes we find ourselves met with the urge to move Madly. Other times, the movement as already begun. When I conceived of the idea for this folio, the latter was most certainly the case: everywhere I looked, I was met with intriguing, daring methods of creating art, writing, and scholarship, relationships to craft that defied genre and concrete description. Worse even than a process of active repression, what I found was keeping these practices from the public view was willful apathy. The Mad creator, or the creator-as-Madperson, is relevant only inasmuch as their crazy makes good art. How they get there is unsightly. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

We know it matters. We know our mattering doesn’t come in just three states. The contents of this folio –– part one of a two-part collection –– contains poetry in English and in translation, prose, photography, digital/hybrid visual art, and an installation, and these are just the forms we can fit on a website! Alongside some brilliant creators and friends, I’ve had the opportunity to see Madness in new, exciting, surprising ways, further reaffirming what I entered this process knowing: that our methods are crucial to the shape of our Madness, that our art in all its strange glory grows only more glorious when illuminated.

When I put out a call for submissions on Mad creation, craft, and methodology, it was precisely this unsightly movement that I sought to celebrate. Make no mistake, sane readers: this is not an exclusive look into the “deviant brain” (though we have included some brain imaging for you to peruse) nor an invitation to consume unthinkingly the trauma narratives you believe have “mad(e) us this way.” This is a self-serving folio. The Why I Write essay, gone Mad. It’s for us and open to all, a public reminder that how we make is inextricably tied to what we make –– and what we’re made of. 

While I’m loath to “prescribe” questions or guidelines to those engaging with the folio, I encourage all of us to critically consider our relationships to in/sanity. As a writer, as an artist, what does “crazy” mean to you? Do you fear it? Do you run? This collection offers a third, collaborative option, in which we can bring our whole, multiple, unrecovered and anti-recovery selves to the table to tell the stories only we know how to tell. (If you’re still unsure what Madness is, if you “count” or have a space here, ask yourself this: have I ever been a liability to my own narrative? Have I ever been wrongfully alive?)

With all this in mind, I also wish for readers and collaborators to approach this folio with generous kindness toward those whose wor(l)ds you may never quite inhabit. Find the pieces that tap the edges of your consciousness, read them again. Then, locate the practices of living, loving, and learning already your intimates. Consider, most of all, the myriad possibilities that sit beyond the comfort of the rational. I hope you find in this folio a set of tools for mapping trauma, joy, grief, and humor in ways you never thought possible. I hope you find in this shared, precious space a universe of verbs perfect for the job.

Cavar Sarah
February 2021

Cavar is shown, from above the waist, before a pale yellow wall. Cavar has light skin, blonde hair clipped back with a ringlet evident on the left. Cavar has a large tattoo on the right upper arm in purples, red, blues, and green hues,  and a small silver philtrum or "medusa" piercing. Cavar wears horn-rimmed eyeglasses, and a pinstriped vest in two tones of pale mint or seafoam green. Cavar also wears earrings in the likeness of a clear soda bottle full of amber liquid, and in the left ear, a medium sized brown or bronze ear gauge is apparent. Behind Cavar, the rear wheel of a black bicycle with a wire rack and fender is visible on the left, and the gray-green arm of an upholstered sofa on the right.

Sarah Cavar is a PhD student, writer, and transgender-about-town, and serves as Managing Editor at Stone of Madness Press. Author of two chapbooks, A Hole Walked In (Sword & Kettle Press) and The Dream Journals (giallo lit), they have also had work featured in Electric Literature, The Offing, Bitch Magazine, and elsewhere. Cavar navel-gazes at and tweets @cavarsarah.