The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
-“Everything is Going to be Alright”, Derek Mahon
There is a lot to be anxious about today in 2017, even as Mahon urges us to acceptance and calm. From the threads of global politics to our individual local lives, we jump easily on what is amiss. But we forget sometimes how our frustrations and anxieties are borne from seemingly lighter moods: of hope, of fantasies, of Wonderlands.
As we reshuffled our team after our last outing with ‘Margins’ amidst the anxiety-ridden media and political landscape at the end of 2016, we decided to turn towards lighter perspectives. Wonderland was chosen: we sought to uncover literary expressions of different ideals and visions of the world. To be honest, we started in buoyant spirits but ended up struggling to put together the issue with our team’s hectic schedules (we try doing too many things!) in the thick of our respective university/school terms. But everything is alright now, we are relieved to have worked through that, and we invite you to explore the myriad Wonderlands in this issue with your own emerald glasses!
But first, what does your Wonderland reveal about your vision of the world? In our Wonderland at Unseen, we envision literature being engaged by a growing and inclusive community with contributions from a range of entry points and forms, not just answering 25-mark essays: they can be critical, creative, reflective or even a mix of all/some of these modes!
As for our writers, a great concern for women, food and their desired place in the world is keenly registered across our critical essays (Wayne Tan, Marie-Therese Pang, Ang Kia Yee, Tan Jia Hui, Victoria Chanel Lee) ranging from the English Renaissance and Romanticism periods to the Spanish Flu and New Culture Movement in China. Others register quieter journeys in original poetry (Ainne Frances dela Cruz, S.) and prose (Lee Russell), seeking to travel from the limitations of our known worlds to open new possibilities for the self.
This issue features an unpublished poem by Lisabelle Tay (‘Acropolis at Mid-Season’) paired alongside Percy Bysshe Shelley’s canonical poem (‘Ozymandias’), alongside an extract from J. M. Coetzee’s fictional autobiography (‘Youth’). With these selections, we yoke together ancient worlds, 1960s London and present-day tourism, as Ivan Sim offers his own spin of every literature student’s rite of passage: responding to unseen extracts.
A special mention goes to Delphie Yap and her winning essay ‘What Makes Me Who I Am’ in the recent All In! Young Writers’ Festival 2017 YOUTHSpeak Essay Competition. Her strong and resonant piece captures the vicissitudes of pursuing our own individual Wonderlands. Yap writes pointedly of how “we all want to tell a story of our own, but we don’t start out knowing how, because finding the right words is like finding a place in this big, complicated world.” We nod our heads in assent.
Another special shout-out goes to our founder Chloe Lim, who has trusted myself, Jerome and the team with moving Unseen forward. It goes without saying that the team is indebted to your vision and insistence on seeing it through, and we wish you the best focus and nimbleness of mind in your final year of undergraduate studies and beyond! You’ll always be our proud mama.
Journey with us down the rabbit hole in your next adventure with the Unseen team, as we look to encourage more (new) friends to connect with literature alongside and beyond the subject at school! We wish you happy days of lying down outside, cloud-watching in riots of sunlight, and remember, our doors are always open to comments, suggestions, contributions and new friends joining the team!
Unseen The Magazine
Photo Credit: Leonard Yip