Philip Graham in Ninth Letter:
When I saw artist Nikki Terry’s painting my heart. your soul., I felt it expressed everything Ninth Letter was attempting to convey in this pandemic anthology. While at first glance its stark red colors could serve as an x-ray of this year’s tormented emotional landscape, a closer look reveals a meeting place between heart and soul, a necessary balance, something even calming and redemptive in the midst of trouble. While its essential tenderness is personal (it was created in 2018), Terry’s painting also points to a larger truth for us all: that our need for connection in the face of tribulation can help us make it through.
The various entries in this anthology (including two additional works of art by Nikki Terry) engage with the multiple calamities of 2020 and live for connection. Tabish Khair’s pandemic sonnets reach across the centuries for inspiration, transforming the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s love sonnets into the crushing details of our Covid landscape: endangered healthcare workers, the further enriching of the rich during the pandemic, and the inevitably brief resurgence of the natural world as humans hunker down. The hidden story behind James Lu’s account of China’s cynical betrayal of its citizens living abroad during the pandemic is the Chinese people’s hunger for a government they can trust. Gladys Vercammen-Grandjean’s delicate short essay tells us of a Dutch word that has gained a whole new level of meaning during this year’s extended quarantines: “skin-hunger.”