Sarah Jane Weill

It’s hard to discuss this issue and the wonderful work of our talented contributors without addressing the pandemic. In times of social distancing, the word “boundaries” means something different. For the first time, at least in recent historical memory, erecting and enforcing physical boundaries has been vital for the health of our communities. Humans are social creatures, but now we must isolate in order to survive.

Initially, when discussing the theme for this issue back in December 2019, we were thinking about how boundaries uphold the structure of society. Whether they are helpful or hurtful, boundaries enforce our experiences of daily life. We wanted this issue to explore a range of physical and emotional boundaries, calling into question which we need to keep and which we need to destroy. The stories, poems, and art in this issue still reflect this intention. Together, they artfully examine the varied manifestation of boundaries across all facets of life.

At the same time, this issue of Caustic Frolic now exemplifies the shift in “boundaries” as a word. Staying behind closed doors, we are eliminating other unnecessary divisions. Technology has given us the power to connect and communicate across physical boundaries. In the small ways we can, we are showing up for loved ones and strangers alike. As we continue to live separately, for however long necessary, we must remember to continue to examine which boundaries are necessary and which to fight against. We cannot hide in the rooms we are in. We have a responsibility to use the digital and creative channels available to us to be there for each other, to fight for the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone.   

Beyond the timeliness of our issue’s theme, recently I’ve been reflecting on what it means to publish during this pandemic. On a personal note, art has kept me afloat during these strange times. Since I began sheltering-in-place in March, I’ve attended concerts via Instagram live, virtual readings, and Zoom writer talks. I’ve participated in a collective journaling project; whose email prompts make me smile every morning. I’ve written as much or as little as I’ve needed to every day. Without all of this art, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with all of the uncertainty; the creative community has reminded me that even when physically isolated, I’m never quite alone.

All of that being said, I feel even more honored to have the responsibility of curating and publishing the Spring 2020 issue of Caustic Frolic. With the current need for writing and art as sources of comfort and hope, it is with the deepest gratitude that I help introduce the inspiring work of our contributors to the greater creative community and to you, our readers. Additionally, I’m thrilled we added a subsection of the digital edition of this issue addressing the pandemic. Using the journal as a platform to document this historical moment was another reminder of the power of creativity. To those that submitted to this subsection, I hope this was a fruitful and cathartic exercise.  

To our contributors, thank you for sharing your thoughtful and moving work with us. To all of our readers, I hope this issue makes you think about all the ways we are connected and divided, wherever you are.

Holly Van Hare

In anticipation of receiving submissions for this issue, we once posed the question: What is a boundary? And the answer, honestly, is complicated. There is a boundary right now between you, reader, and us, who exist to you now simply as words on a page. There is a boundary between West Virginia and Ohio, between mothers and their children, between a county prison cell and freedom. So what do these boundaries have in common? And what do they serve to teach? 

When we devised the idea for a theme of “boundaries,” in the fall, we could not have fathomed the relevance this term would have in spring of 2020. These past couple of months during the global pandemic have been rife with new limitations of all kinds— six feet of distance between you and anyone else, six months of distance between me and any normalcy. And we, as a globe, have been forced to learn to maintain these boundaries even when we may not want to. 

During the coronavirus shutdown, we have found that while physical boundaries between us must expand, some of our emotional ones have slimmed down. We have shrunk the space between the people and things we value most, that make us feel close to one another: honest conversation, artistic expression, the sharing of fear, and the projects we care about. I’ve invested newfound time in old friendships, spent hours talking on phone calls and FaceTimes. Of my little, barriered life, my friends probably know more than they did of my busy, boundless one. Working on this journal, too, is something that has brought us closeness in a time we thought it impossible. The words and images we sought to share served as a refuge from the dismality of the present. We hope that reading and viewing its contributions does the same for you. 

A boundary is liminal; it is a flawed, perfidious thing that can be both put up and torn down. It can be spacious or small, transparent or opaque, but it always serves a purpose, productive or otherwise. 

The wonderful and varied submissions in this issue pushed these boundaries and more; and as editors of an experimental, interdisciplinary journal, we feel that this more than fits.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our staff of talented writers and editors, as well as our faculty advisor, Kimon Keramidas, for all of their time, generosity, and expertise this spring. We could not have achieved this issue’s publication without the support of our team.