It was my now-husband’s colleague—a brilliant professor of British literature— who introduced me to William Blake. I mean, like, really introduced me—to the man, not just the poems. The man who sat around in his private backyard with his wife, both of them naked and unashamed. The one whose Swedenborgian beliefs, including the idea that a concubine could make a marriage spectacular, made him stand out, and not necessarily in a good way, among his 17th-century contemporaries, who didn’t tend to regard him with much professional respect anyhow. The man could write, etch, draw, deliver a joke, spin an elaborate narrative; he believed that art and spiritual transcendence were connected, and he may or may not have been involved in some early forms of mind-expansion, if you catch my drift. I’m leaning toward the affirmative with that one.
So is it any wonder that Aldous Huxley used Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as a trampoline that flung him into the mescaline-tripping The Doors of Perception? And that Jim Morrison was inspired by Huxley when naming one of most vibrant bands of the 20th century? Art inspiring art inspiring art.
Blake is a guy with whom I’d like to clink frosty mead glasses. He may not have impressed his stuffy neighbors and friends back in the day, but to inspire future artists is astounding. Wouldn’t we all like to believe we have that power? That our writing might open a door in someone’s mind, and a dim light might peek though, and then that person’s art might open a door for someone else? And on and on and on—each piece of art, music, literature creating a palimpsest on pieces past.
We’re doing serious things here, folks. We’re publishing keys. Keys to doors that can’t wait to be swung wide open. Many thanks to our resident Blakes in this issue, who have us looking down long hallways, hunting for the brilliant places beyond the next passage….
In “The Door,” Toby Donovan wants you to know that there is a sturdy reinforced door in your head where Post-Its have been left for you. Please pay attention. (Note to self: This is a really fun read.)
I won’t call Michelle Gray’s “A Scanner Doorly” Kafkaesque, but we do have a main character who has an honest-to-gosh relationship with a door, and we have the door’s point of view to boot. But I know a good metaphor for modern urban isolation when I see one, and I see a good one here.
Prairie L. Markussen’s “In Defense” is a perfect poem. Women’s medieval bodies are under assault, but the speaker talks back, finding momentum with alliteration, and questions whether we can pass through the door that divides the living and the dead if our faces do not match our passport photos. But so as not to get too serious, Markussen allows Heidi Montag, in her endless wisdom, to provide the epigraph.