Welcome to “Construction(s),” the third and final issue of Lantern Review’s 2019 season. Like each of our previous issues this year, Issue 7.3 takes its title from the words of its contributors. In choosing a name, we were inspired by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé’s and Melody Gee’s poems “The Beach, and the Important Failure of Utopia Creation” and “And So More,” which meditate on lineages that “continue their constructions beyond our mortal selves” (Kon). Indeed, each of the pieces in Issue 7.3 engage with the notions of “construction” and “constructedness” in some way—performing, challenging, investigating, dismantling, and remaking them in turn.
In some of the poems, like Gee’s tender address to a child still in the womb, the body as an artifact of construction takes front and center. Limbs, lungs, lines—gestation evokes the act of writing just as a child’s growth in utero evokes the wonder of the creative act—of witnessing one’s own words take shape into a poem on the page. So, too, does Karan Madhok’s “ultra sound beam” engage with awe, probing bodily tissue to construct somatic and semantic wonder. As in Gee’s poem, Madhok’s speaker delights in the forces of making that lie beyond our control, their wonder amplified by a sonogram’s visual document: “precise and magnified / and alive.”
In other pieces, like Jane Wong’s “After He Travels Through Ash, My Grandfather Speaks” and Annette Wong’s “Interstitial,” the poets celebrate the act of defying constructed borders. In Jane Wong’s poem, the speaker’s late grandfather is reborn, young hairs sprouting from his body “like seaweed / like the spindles of a newborn hairbrush” as he travels between the realms of the living and the dead, while in Annette Wong’s piece, the speaker revels in her mastery of border crossing: “always . . . leaping” across seams and interstices. “Let me train your gaze,” Wong’s speaker challenges the reader, daring us, à la Gloria Anzaldúa, to reclaim marginality and hybrid identity as a type of superpower.
Still other poems in the issue dive fully into the work of world-building—from culture and rhetoric, as well as from personal memory. In Kon’s poem, the speaker meditates on what it means to construct and perform a public identity, beginning with the question, “What is like to make your own utopia?” while in Tessie Monique’s duo of epistolary pieces, the speaker splices together a richly textured portrait of a childhood lived in the interstices of continents and languages, in which a young child tentatively weaves an emerging identity: taking language(s) “between [the] teeth,” “try[ing] to find an exact / middle.”
Finally, the stunning works of visual art included in this issue—cover artist Sisavanh Phouthavong Houghton’s paintings from her “Secret War on Laos” series, “Aftermath” and “UXO” and Tonya Russell’s photograph “Frozen Colors”— dismantle color and field and reconstruct them in new ways. Phouthavong Houghton’s angular compositions evoke the brutal legacy of war, disrupting and fracturing our field of sight. Meanwhile, Russell’s photograph plays with the dappled forms of unidentifiable objects reflected on a surface. The image’s abstract textures invite us to engage in imaginative construction ourselves as we assemble meaning from the shapes we see.
Even as, in Kon’s words, “History has a way with our lives, of constructing its own narrative of [us],” the poems and visual art in this issue defiantly pursue the creative act. In this age of steel-slat barrier walls and chain-link cages, of policed borders and bodies at home and abroad, Issue 7.3 powerfully considers what it means to construct, to deconstruct, to shape and perform multiplicities of the body, of language, of identity anew.
We hope you'll enjoy the delights that lie herein.
Peace and Light,
Iris A. Law and Mia Ayumi Malhotra
Lantern Review Editors