Routine comes from the French term route — road. Tangled paths, a network of streets, crossed lines, connected dots. The term routine might evoque all these images. These days in particular, routine brings to mind daily habits, recurrent actions and, for better or for worse, monotony. Therefore, a time of repetition. Does repetition convey a sense of safety? Does sticking to a routine help in uncertain times? These questions inspired the choice of routine for our fifth issue of Purple Ink.
We investigate this theme through nine poems that allow diverse perspectives. Eritrean writer Ribka Sibhatu, for example, guides us to a new land, a “foreign land” where one does not feel at home, and only the presence of the moon, “Grandmother Moon,” that routinely appears is reassuring.
The weekend poem by Maria Stepanova shares its serene and peaceful flow of uneventfulness, hailing the thoughtlessness of the resting body. However, the Sunday mood awakens the consciousness reminding it of the body’s finitude and brevity of life. The Sunday stanzas, although rendering the same morning images, highlight the poet’s resistance to the tension of the upcoming weekdays and epitomizes the significance of personhood and individual freedom. In the pandemic, the poem sounds nostalgic yet resonating with the contemporary fear of devaluation of the uniqueness of human life.
Both Camila Melo Parra’s “Castle’s of Ash” and Andrea Cote’s “In the Clorox War” look at routine’s power to drive compulsion, fascination and obsession as forces of distraction, focus and desire. Particularly throughout the past several months, as many of us find ourselves confined to the home, passing the time has become a great concern as well as confronting loneliness and solitude. As Cote focusses on acts of cleaning as part of daily routine, she speaks to humanity’s tendency to rely on repetition in times of boredom and even fear as a coping mechanism. Melo Parra, like Zoila Forrs in “I Discover You,” employs similar themes of yearning in her depiction of the search for a love lost, whereby search, just as cleaning, channels our focus into a productive force of routine in moments of solitude.
In a similar vein, Mostafa Ibrahim’s poem, “A Feature Film” along with Ahmed Mohsen’s untitled piece look at time as a fundamental aspect of routine. Echoing Cote’s concern with how to pass time and fill one’s day in an era of monotony, Ibrahim discusses how repetition pushes time into cyclic motions, making past, present and future one and the same, later underscored by Mohsen who offers time as the most fundamental manifestation of routine itself.
Leena Kellosalo tackles the potential pitfalls of time as routine in her pair of poems through a rumination on predestination. Ultimately, she encourages engagement as a means of spiritual and bodily awakening in order to challenge the original sin’s deterministic view of humanity. By emphasizing the importance of choice as a pillar of life, she frames routine as both influence on and influenced by the human condition.
Ibrahim, Mohsen and Kellosalo’s poems are accompanied by a mediating translation from their original languages into Spanish, then from Spanish into English. Because the English translations were composed with the Spanish as referent, we felt it important to lay bare the multilayered process of translation throughout which multiple refractions of the same piece are produced. In doing so, we hope not only to underscore the importance of collaboration inherent in the works, but also to engage a larger audience through a multilingual approach that de-emphasizes English as the singular target language or lingua franca of readership.