Barzakh is a multi-genre journal with an internationalist stance. Emerging out of the English department at the University at Albany, SUNY, our focus is on innovative poetics, in keeping with a tradition of forward-looking department-based journals that spans from Don Byrd’s co-editorship of Jed Rasula’s Wch Way in the 1970s to The Little Magazine in the 1990s (our first issue features an interview with Rasula, and issues of both journals will be made available in our archive). We envisage the archive as a way to bring together our various departmental projects and initiatives, past and present, and to connect them to analogous or anomalous ventures elsewhere in the rhizomatic spirit of crossings that is Barzakh. Ours is not an “ism” but as an “isthmus” (see below) that links disparate articulations (between tongues, between histories) in the interplay of text, sound, and image. Welcome to
: a word / concept that names the connecting link, the “between” of something, such as different spheres of existence. As a temporal concept it can be, and historically was, considered an interval of time — say, the time between death and Resurrection in the Qu’ran, similar to the Bardo Thödol ofthe Tibetans, or the travel between life and death as the Egyptians imagined it. The Arabic word has the literal meaning of“barrier,” “veil,” “curtain.” Thus traditionally seen as a separator, it is however also and more interestingly thinkable as a “between” that links, and in that sense can be translated as “isthmus.”
For the great Arab mystic & poet Ibn Arabi, Barzakh is a kind of purgatory—the temporary and yet historical place which constitutes this, our world where we live and love and labor, aware that what we need most to find our way through is what the poet John Keats called “negative capability,” i.e., the ability “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” The idea of the Barzakh is thus not to map a territory but to travel along boundaries, crisscrossing always-to-be-redefined regions, in the process creating rhizomatic assemblages, de- and re-territorializing language-intensities as shifting fields of forces.
As Stefania Pandolfo writes in the introductory chapter of Impasse of the Angels: “The purpose … is not to map a territory, but to travel on the boundary of what Maghribî writers of decolonization have called a différence intraitable: a hiatus which destabilizes the assignment of places and parts, which displaces the categories of classical and colonial reason and opens a heterological space of intercultural dialogue — an atopical intermediate region that might be called a Barzakh. There, in that interstitial mode of identity between languages and cultures, between genders and categorizations a certain listening becomes possible.”