The Offing: Happy Birthday!

A Year In Review

In June 2016, The Offing officially became an independent publication. Two years have now passed, and we remain committed to our mission to publish work that challenges, experiments, provokes—work that pushes literary and artistic forms and conventions, particularly work by and about marginalized voices.

In celebration of the generous support we have received from family, friends, writers, artists, and readers, we look back at some of our favorite pieces from the year.

Image courtesy of Shanequa Gay

From Marginalized and Mythological: Shanequa Gay’s Disruption of the Pastoral Landscape by Shanequa Gay:

Marginalized and Mythological: Shanequa Gay’s Disruption of the Pastoral Landscape is an intricate historical study of the global cotton and textile industries, tapping into the violent commodity made of Black bodies through control and decoration. Integrating imagery of the Black body into paintings, toile schema, from found objects, Gay pulls at the thread of “the devil is in the details” behind textile’s epicurean consumption.

Gay uses components of domesticity—hand painted tea sets, table linen—where each object becomes a specific site within the larger narrative of textile production and its varied performance throughout society. In collaboration with costume designer Elizabeth Rasmusson—who designed and sewed both the table linen and a 1950s style dress—objects give a contemporary take on French 18th and 19th pastoral drawings juxtaposed with Civil Rights era protest scenes, and reimagined Levi’s advertisements where men with Martin Luther King masks are mounted. The idyllic and civil resistance become part of the same far-reaching, deeply embedded tapestry of commerce and subjugation. Rather than approach history by lifting one veil from another, Marginalized and Mythological ambitiously aims to lay it all out at once.

—Aricka Foreman, Editor-at-Large

From “The Blackout” by Nora Almeida:

“The past overtakes the present, which is facing a dirty window overlooking a construction site. At the extreme periphery of the window I can see a narrow swatch of lower Manhattan skyline. How many days have I sat here writing? Soon today will be absorbed into all of those other days. And these words into oblivion. It is difficult to sleep, writes Borges, of Funes. On this palimpsest.”

Fragmented and sharp, this essay shows us the confounding workings of matter and memory. Circling around an event, the New York City blackout of 1977, a void, Almeida pulls us into her contemplations on this in a self-similar relay which is perhaps the thought processes not of one person but of an entire city. Loss, the void, is a vacuum in which memory vacillates images through humans and through the landscape; a birthplace of a fractal-like creative potential. After reading, I was left with the shards of memories not mine, not even Almeida’s, a clarity of another’s memory, a city’s memory, spaces constructed in my mind through Almeida’s experimental staccato writing—blackouts, both technical and mental, and their filling. How do humans fill the voids?

—Marlena Gates, Assistant Editor, Essay

From “Attica” by Leena Mahan:

“The internet won’t stop showing me Victoria’s Secret ads and so when I try to be a serious intellectual and scour the JSTOR archive on my laptop in the library, women in their underwear flash by in the margins in quick succession, like a flipbook animation, as though dancing along the periphery of my screen. The sun starts setting early and I begin to feel sorry that I left the house, and that I gave Victoria’s Secret my email address without hesitation, and that I was ever born. I get overheated and unzip my winter coat on the street, and a man who had only glanced at me before turns at the waist and stares, as though I’ve slipped the straps of a silk nightgown off my shoulders and stood there before him completely naked with the fabric pooled around my ankles.”

From the moment I started reading “Attica” I was hooked, but this passage is the one that took me in 110%. The whole story is a pitch perfect encapsulation of a specific kind of ennui and this illustration of the mental spirals we send ourselves into about the little things when our real problems exist on a much more macro level is such a clear example of Mahan’s canny and tight prose. A stunner of a story that shows us the rippling currents of danger and uncertainty that lie just beneath the banal, “Attica” unsettles in all the best ways.

—Mary Pappalardo, Assistant Editor, Fiction

From “Cliffhanger” by Hala Alyan:

“I say please stop I leave this out too how I still defend him how a wound
like that over a decade becomes a kind of heart”

What stays with me every time I read “Cliffhanger” is the breath. How I feel both pulsating & even as a reader of this poem, how it is both familiar in its rhythm & also breathless in it’s recounting. Hala Alyan’s piece & its navigating of what it means to live & relive the traumas that have occurred, the traumas that change our gate & our memories, the pains that happen & mark time. She presents us with a landscape of navigation through her spacing, the indents between phrases reminding us that there are always things we cannot fill in, but we can “clear our throats”, we can speak, we can live past what haunts us.

—Nabila Lovelace, Editor, Poetry

Drive In Nights, Courtesy of Thomas Hawk

From “Chick Flicks for the Miscegenated Woman” by May-Lee Chai:

Once when I was visiting for the weekend, we got into an argument about Out of Africa. Mama had it in the VCR and she wanted me to watch it with her.
“I can’t stand that movie. It’s so racist!”
“I love Meryl Streep. She’s such a good actress—” my mother began.
“She plays a white woman who runs a plantation in Africa. She’s stealing land from the Africans! There’s a scene where Iman is kneeling down before her. Iman, the supermodel Iman! I can’t stand that film!”
“I wouldn’t do that,” my mother said. “I would build schools—”
“They don’t need your schools. If white people didn’t steal their land, Africans could build their own schools!”
My mother was silent for a minute. “I think I like the scenes with Robert Redford. He sits and just looks at her. She tells him stories and he just listens to her while looking like he adores her. Men don’t do that in real life. Movies are better,” she said.

This beautiful, deeply moving essay explores the intersection of film and reality, past and present, personal and universal, and the ways in which American cinema fails to represent—therefore failing to protect—the stories of minority groups.

—Amanda K Horn, Associate Editor, Enumerate

From “Angel Dinner” by Ilka Papp-Zakor, translated from the Hungarian by Timea Sipos

Angel meat is delicious, kind of sweet. Though it doesn’t save well. But on ice it can last until Christmas. And the skin, if any remains intact, is also great, long-lasting, you just need to wash the twinkling dust off it, the kind that moths have on their wings. Once cleaned, it’s like pig skin. You can sew shoes out of it. And work gloves.

In the evenings, if we’ve finished our daily tasks, we gather together, us men from the village, sometimes bringing along the inquisitive youngsters, too, to show them what men’s work is. We carefully surround the nests. Who knows how dangerous a group of sleeping angels may be. And then we all shoot at them at the same time on command. After a few campaigns like this, we don’t need to do much more to get rid of them for the year. When we have enough meat, we strap the last few to dynamite. For fireworks. Then the wives sit outside their houses, wringing their hands, complaining, as they watch the zig-zagging, sparking little angels above the forest. This is how we know that the celebrations have begun.

“Angel Dinner” has been haunting me since I first read it. I can see it vividly in my mind’s eye: the presence of angels; the sumptuous feast; the arrival of the deer. The sharpness, delicacy, and care of the prose, meticulously translated by Timea, carry the short story with ease. And the ensemble produces the kind of feeling I search for when I read short fiction—a yearning, to be unfulfilled save by my own imagination, to find out what happens next.

—Anna Claire Weber, Editor, Translation

From “I Cannot Run This College on Less Than a Billion Dollars” by Homa Mojtabai

Dear Alumni,
I have terrible news. The value of our beloved alma mater’s endowment grew only 21%, bringing us to a paltry billion dollar valuation. With a student population of 1,600 demanding undergraduate-clients, that means we have less than a million dollars to spend per capita, not that we would ever spend a penny of our precious capital. No. We must make this quaint learning community function on fumes and dreams, because it’s impossible to run an institution of higher education on anything less than a billion dollars.

We need your donation.

—Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Editor in Chief

Communion and Rupture

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, The Offing staff shares images that prompt poetic pairings.

Changes in The Offing

A publication — indeed any organization — that cannot make a foundational commitment to this work does not have the imagination necessary to engage in truly transformative idea generation.