Emergence Magazine
Chapter 3


How I See (Bird Folks)

by Sydney Cain

My Name Is Beauty

As a Native scholar and poet, Jake Skeets considers the necessary interrogation of colonial naming and narratives, and how the Indigenous application of writing as a technology can reshape our world.

Read essay
Behold the Land

Sheila Pree Bright focuses her portrait lens on the Southern landscape, where she encounters personhood and spirit in the presence of the land.

View gallery
My Wild-Like Refuge

During the pandemic lockdown, J. Drew Lanham’s backyard, a newly sanctioned “wild-like refuge,” comes to life as he notices the wildlife that inhabits the nearby faraway.

Read essay
R o o t s
Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves

Joy is the soul stirred / underneath the journey, / gaze snagged on wonder, / not knowing final destination

Read poem
Beings Seen and Unseen

Amitav Ghosh discusses how capitalism is entangled with the silencing of nonhuman voices and how literature is one vehicle for centering stories of the land.

Read interview

Letter from the Editor

The concept for our third volume was conceived during the winter of 2020/2021 at the height of the pandemic. By this point it had become clear that the COVID crisis had ushered in the era of the apocalypse. Predictions of a future threat became lived reality as failing societal and economic structures revealed the fragility of our modern industrial way of life—cracks in the system became chasms. In a matter of months we witnessed a reckoning with America’s racist culture, the rapid increase of the effects of climate breakdown, and floundering and corrupt political systems. So much has been revealed—both the light and the dark—that we have no true sense of what has been set into motion.

Living with the Unknown emerged from this place of deep uncertainty and from our conviction that stories, above all, can guide us as we transition into the next chapter of our collective future. This volume took shape through questions: How can we find our footing in a groundless reality where everything can fall apart at a moment’s notice? What pathways to healing must be walked? What strategies for survival need to be developed? What does living in an unfolding apocalyptic reality look like? What are the creative possibilities that are now emerging, or waiting to be embodied?

The stories in this volume explore these questions through a narrative arc comprising four themes—initiation, ashes, roots, and futures—moving from the raw unknowing of transformation to a place of rooted possibility. We commissioned new work from writers, artists, photographers, and poets, inviting them to respond to these questions and themes. Throughout these chapters you’ll experience fallen leaves, emerging cicadas, changing Arctic landscapes, reflections on motherhood and beauty, kinship among trees, inward migrations, and imagined post-apocalyptic realities.

After reading our mission statement, people often ask, “What makes storytelling a radical act in dark times?” I used to offer long-winded responses about the ancient and archetypal power of stories to unravel the forgetfulness of the sacred that has engulfed our culture in an age of ecocide. And while I still believe this is true, more and more I find myself returning to something simpler and more essential: listening. A good story has the power to make you listen deeply, tuning your ear to something beyond yourself.

In a culture where we are increasingly taught only to speak, listening is a radical act, especially when oriented towards silenced voices, nonhuman voices, and the voice of the Earth herself—all of which have essential stories to tell. The words, images, experiences, and music gathered here are born from this radical space of listening. I hope they can be a light in the darkness as we embrace the reality of LIVING WITH THE UNKNOWN.

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
Executive Editor
November 2021

Living with the Unknown

Oscar-nominated composer Volker Bertelmann (also known as Hauschka) created a companion soundtrack for the third volume of our print edition, Living with the Unknown. His visceral score offers a potent space to encounter the questions and ideas posed in this volume.

Listen online or purchase the limited-edition 180-gram vinyl LP, featuring artwork by internationally acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton and a 24-page concordance produced in collaboration with her studio.

Purchase LP
Composer: Volker Bertelmann
Sound Engineer: Ben Winkler
Audio Engineer: Michael Buchholz
Pro Tools Engineers: Paul Müller Reyes, Alexander Nikoleit
Orchestrator: Jan Andrees
Vocals & Additional Engineering: Alev Lenz
Violins: Karina Buschinger, Isabelle Engels, Milica Kovacevic
Violas: Mischa Pfeiffer, Tomasz Neugebauer, Mircea Mocanita
Cellos: Laura Wiek, Jan Michels, Teemu Myöhänen
Contractor: Karina Buschinger
10 10