When we study literature, especially at the undergraduate level, we often find ourselves reading “great” works: important novels, collections of poetry and collections of short stories. We strive to place ourselves in center in order to have a global understanding of the work of an author or an artistic movement. It’s rarer to find occasion to consider the little things – fragments, incomplete manuscripts, and works that have been lost or ignored by those building the canon.
But the fragmentary and the fleeting have always contributed to the development of literary movements (we must think of the proliferation of “small reviews” in the European avant-gardism of the early 20th century) and should not be dismissed. Sublunary Editions, an independent press founded in 2019, is dedicated exclusively to the publication of short literary works. Its catalog contains innovative texts, new and old, and often translated from other languages into English, by authors such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Christina Tudor-Sideri, Thomas Pilaster, Osvaldo Lamborghini and Pierre Senges.
Firmament n°1 – Winter 2021, published in January of this year, is the first issue of Sublunary Editions’ new quarterly magazine and offers high-quality intellectual engagement with literature and language. Its mission is one of constant questioning and exploration. As editor-in-chief Jessica Sequeira writes in her editorial note: “Clarity is rare as we continue to find, lose focus. Objective? Our planet, a conscious star, stumbles in its search.
As the tagline notes, Firmament No. 1 is a magazine of “thoughtful medleys”: fragments of forthcoming press releases as well as interviews, columns, and individual prose and poetry by artists and literary scholars from around the world. It’s also a magazine that embraces the collaborative spirit of art and translation: half of the bylines in the table of contents list two or more names — author, then translator.
Indeed, the Firmament n°1 takes as one of its central themes the problem – or, perhaps more correctly, the puzzle — language and translation. In the piece “Fragments 1, 2 and 5”, the writer Tony Messenger repeats, almost as in an incantation, “Language is a border”. Attempts at writing or translating are always questions of how to cross that boundary from darkness to clarity, to enter a new world of understanding. “Language is a border, a border that I continually try to cross. Why this desire to decipher? This desire to understand. Not knowing but understanding.
The work of the Firmament n°1 We can say that she is motivated by this “desire to… not to know but to understand”. The magazine’s articles do not seek answers; They offer manners so that the individual launches himself in the search for answers. In the first entry of his column for Firmament, Joshua Rothes – founder of Sublunary Editions and designer of the magazine – suggests that “most writing done with a specific set of goals is, after [philosopher Derek] Perfect, ultimately self-destructive,” but that “this process of undermining our stated goals is the most important part of the creative process.” Discovery comes from collapse, understanding from diversion.
In this, Rothes pleads not only for this particular creative mindset, but also for Firmament and the press itself. Drawing inspiration from Parfit and the philosopher Richard Rorty, Rothes says that “the writer should demolish the monuments and build sand castles instead”. The brief and the fleeting are objects of beauty:
“As writers, we must embrace the self-defeating nature of our task, the limits of language and metaphor to capture any meaningful truth for more than a fleeting moment, when it slips through our fingers again. “
This mission of exploration and discovery of beauty — for the writer and for Firmament — is ambitious, but everything that accompanies the undertaking of artistic creation is just as ambitious. I don’t mean Firmament promises to be a literary magazine hit this mission, for to reach something would inherently mean that the process of getting there has come to an end. The exploration never ends. Firmament, then, promises to keep exploring.