Representations of Home Creative Journal

ROAM - Spring/Summer 2021 - ROAM 1


“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” (Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal”, 2020)

“You couldn't do this and you couldn't do that, but life went on.” (Anne Frank, The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank, 1947)

As a result of the pandemic, the third edition of the conference Representations of Home (RHOME) scheduled for October 2020 on the theme of Dislocation, was postponed when "locked down we were” (Roy, 2020). However, another branch of the project, Rhome Creative, had already begun to take shape and through it we were able to envision a creative passageway through the pandemic.

The 2017 conference concluded with a reading of poetry and prose, a session warmly welcomed by authors and audience. Of this first selection of creative pieces, Mary Fowke’s “Birdhouse” and Victor Marsh’s “The Testimony of the Child at Play” were published in the Fall 2018 edition of the creative journal Infinite Rust. Given the interest in the creative dimension of the project, we decided to keep it alive and to start our own venue for publication. The pandemic, along with the global state of paralysis the world plunged into, gave room and motivation for the launch of the first issue of ROAM, a new creative journal. Now more than ever, in these times of lockdown and physical distancing, RHOME saw the need to continue its focus on the theme, the motif and the actuality of home, the place and abode that looms so large these days in the lives of everyone on the planet.

Our homes have been experienced as never before, in different ways: as safe havens, sites of cosy domestic calm, or alternatively as places of containment, economic deprivation, even incarceration or violence. Many of us have been separated from loved ones or deprived of our social gatherings and routines. We have also been challenged, having been given time, usually spent elsewhere, to be in our homes, to rediscover what they hold, explore new domestic skills and neglected hobbies, to sift and sort and to reassess our daily lives. We have been led to question ourselves and our values, and to recalibrate our interior and exterior lives. This has involved our broader social obligations, including to the less privileged and most threatened, the elderly, the disabled, the homeless in our home communities and abroad.  While social distancing has imposed severe economic challenges on communities, travel restrictions have created new opportunities, a breathing space for nature and the environment, and re-evaluation of its place in our lives.

Our days, with their humdrum of chores and challenges, are inspired by thought, creativity and the reinvention of forms of expression, as evident in the social media. Randall Jarrell has written that poetry issues from “the dailiness of life,” (1955) and John Burnside how, at times of profound reassessment, it is a kind of “scavenging” (2018, 101) from our lives lived, in Rilke’s “here and below.”

Underlying the current crisis with all the pain, confusion and loss it causes, is a battlefield: “We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it” (Roy, 2020). In light of this, RHOME reached out for creativity and the sharing of experiences and imagination through poetry, prose, image and film inspired by home in these unexpected times. Through all the hardship, it was a delight to see the creativity and inspiration with which authors responded. We only regret not having enough space to publish more submissions.

The pieces selected for the first edition of the journal include poetry and prose dealing with different perspectives on the theme of home in times of pandemic. Mário Semião’s short prose, “Scraps of Time,” addresses the emotional stresses of life confined within four walls; Sónia Lima’s poem “The world when seen from a one-bedroom apartment window” dwells on the challenges and frustrations of being locked down, and Jane Arsenault’s narrative “Home, Cave, Mind trap: It’s all the Same Thing” brings to life the challenges to mental health. Feelings of loss are relived in Linda Levitt’s poem “Far from Home” which offers a perspective on separation from those one loves.  Fernanda Borges’ prose poem, “Nature Scares Me” presents a new dimension to our homely encounters with nature. Creative meditations on household objects and familiars inspire Olivia Dawson’s poetic cataloguing of memories in “Museum of Lost Dreams”, in Kaja Rakušček’s uplifting visual poem, “The Gilded Ruler of the Kingdom,” in Crystal Hurdle’s spontaneous and provocative “Sparking” and also in Marianne Rogoff’s honest and detailed prose piece “The Desk.” The collection continues with Christelle Davis’ tense, if humorous, perspective, aggravated by political turbulence in “Hong Kong Days”, while at the other end of the scale, Sarah Heinz reflects on home and the body, describing life with a dependent infant in her short prose “Breathe.” The unavoidable contemporary questions of economic hardship and homelessness are faced frontally in Zoe Popham’s prose piece “Life is at the bottom of a pyramid” and in Jonaki Ray’s altruistic poem “Homes Locked Away.” This first assemblage of wonderful lockdown pieces concludes with Aymeric Fromentin’s “It Finally Happened,” a compelling imagining of a new normal.

These creative reflections and expressions of the feelings, encounters and challenges experienced in lockdown compose our first issue of ROAM.  They show how, despite the extreme difficulties brought upon everyone, the pandemic has compelled us to revisit and reassess both past and new worlds and ways of living and arrive at new appreciations. We greatly value the rich exchange this call has yielded on the unprecedented event that continues to face everyone and, hope readers will discover a bit of themselves and their own experiences in these creative pieces.

Jean Page and Margarida Martins

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