An Invincible Winter

Albert Camus, in his essay “Return to Tipasa,” writes about returning to beloved childhood haunts in his native Algiers. Rain pours incessantly. The second world war is over but has left its mark on everything, including Camus. He is here on a mission: to recapture some sense of younger, happier days. The essay reads quick, and is probably best known for the triumphant line: “In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” But there are other, quieter lines:

“To be sure, it is sheer madness, almost always punished, to return to the sites of one’s youth and try to relive at forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty.”

None of us editors are forty just yet, so perhaps we will be spared the punishment, if not the madness. But in looking back over ten years of the Rust + Moth catalog, we each got the chance to distill and better understand our own aesthetic preferences. Suncerae with her hands in the dark, pulling bittersweet fruit from the ground and lifting up women’s voices. Josiah wandering the melting streets in a fever, looking for and finding strange new poetic architectures in the clouds. Matthew, gathering up lines like leaves, seeing their past, and then stitching them together in the shape of the tree they fell from. Which leaves winter to me.

I’ve chosen a suite of poems that speak to pain, impermanence, and fleeting moments of quiet wonder. Mono no aware, perhaps. This Japanese phrase translates roughly as “the pathos of things” and emphasizes the transience of life. In so doing, mono no aware is said to heighten our appreciation for beauty at the expense of an abiding melancholy. I was surprised to see how much grief there was in the poems I chose. So many people — and animals — in pain, or dying, or dead. Why?

Camus, writing from Tipasa, says that “I should like to shirk nothing and to faithfully keep a double memory. Yes, there is beauty and there are the humiliated. Whatever may be the difficulties of the undertaking, I should like to never be unfaithful to either one or the others.”

These poems keep their double memory. They are difficult, and they are faithful. I love them all.

I’ve also included a series of chapbook reviews that highlight full collections from some of Rust + Moth’s most luminescent correspondents. And as a final look back, let me just add that any poem in which the three-legged dog gets the carne asada is a good one. Thank you to each of our readers and authors for walking with us these last ten years.