This Letter from the Editor appears in the January 2021 Issue of The Open Doors Review. To view the magazine, click here.
By: Lauren T. Mouat
Every new year offers the symbolic concept of renewal, a chance to remold and reforge ourselves in the white heat of our new intentions. We look with longing toward our epic future selves that do not know fear or doubt, that are confident, accomplished, radiant and that most certainly have finally achieved flat abs.
Have we ever looked forward to a year with more enthusiasm than that of 2021? In Italy, this year celebrates the 700 year anniversary of the death of the great poet Dante. If last year’s motto was, in the words of the poet himself, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” this year’s might be, “My course is set for an uncharted sea.”
Whatever heroic visions we have for our future, we are not the same people we were at the outset of last year and we are not living in the same world. In this historic moment of isolation, more than ever we create the reality of the world around us based on what we choose to engage with. What do you choose to imagine? That is where you will live.
I have always believed in the importance, the necessity, of creating art. Times like these demand it. Art exists in a place where you can’t compare only the dichotomies of yes/no, black/white, up/down, right/wrong. These superlative places are good for campaign slogans, propaganda and bumper stickers, but they won’t do for our lives. A two-dimensional universe simply doesn’t do us justice. I believe art offers a way to communicate that is subtle, subversive and ultimately irreversible. Peer into another’s soul and know them. Knowing them, you know yourself.
As soon as Open Doors was out in the world, it was growing. Submissions started coming in, united by an excitement and a hope that is missing from our news headlines. The pieces in this issue are tied only by their authors’ connection to Italy. Some live here, some long to, some have magical memories of visits to Italy and others have been planning to come here for years. Italy is just the starting point to highlight voices from around the world.
Cynthia Boorujy’s poem “Over the sea Wall,” is a riot of color on a hot day by the sea as memory competes with the desire to protect and prepare. “Il Mare Mi Parla,” by Charles Edward Carey is written in his second language, Italian, a language lyrical enough to capture the “ritmo” and seduction of the whispering sea.
Many pieces were related to the difficult year we have gone through, to lockdowns and quarantines. Kelly Medford’s “Red Bedroom, Quarantine” is a meditative perspective on a space that we are all familiar with but which we now recognize in multiple layers of rest and confinement. Norah Leibow ponders the future of an America she is less and less proud of in “The Only thing to Talk about.” Sezgi Uygur details the year spent in Istanbul and its unexpected repercussions on her identity in “Freedom from the Known.” In “Italianizzata,” Rachel Zitin revels in feeling more and more at home in Italy, only drawn closer to her adoptive country by lockdown.
Some pieces reflect on Italy directly like in John MacDonald’s “Bramito”, a story about the tragic aftermath of the August 24th, 2016 earthquake that devastated towns like Amatrice, Norcia, and Visso. “Il Mio Cuore” by Maggie Johnson celebrates the Duomo of Florence and “Palestrina” by Lillia Parker paints a lyrical picture of Rome. John Phillips’s piece “When poetry and entrepreneurial innovation meet” illuminates a modern day Italian poet Francesco Terrone.
Three interviews focus on authors and artisans living and working in Italy. I can’t thank Flavia Brunetti enough for her participation as the guest judge of the first issue of Open Doors. In our conversation we talk about her book All the Way to Italy and falling in love with Rome. Eva Giovannini, Italian author and journalist, spoke to me about her new graphic novel, “Oriana Fallaci: il Vietnam, l’America e l’anno che cambiò la Storia.” Artisan Laura de Cesare spoke with me about the art of weaving, its roots in the history of mankind and modern innovations and the importance of always following the things that make you dream.
“Young Eagles” by Justin T. Walsh takes us to Amsterdam in a split-second capture of pride, grace and exhilaration. We might all feel a little “Suspended in Midair” this year but as this piece by Sezgi Uygur shows us, what an enlightening state that can be. May we find the “right kind of blossoming,” as in Walsh’s poem, “Rise.”
It is my greatest wish that this magazine can offer a place of gathering for those out there with the intention to build and create. As Jennifer Lewis pens in her visual poem, “Why We Create Art,” “We’re all linked if we have the empathy to see it.”
Thank you to all who submitted to this very first issue of Open Doors and welcome to the new year.