In Margaret Meehan’s “WE BELONG DEAD” we considered the overlap of the beautiful and the monstrous, studying examples of that overlap in history and poetry. The issue ends with Chelsea Weathers’ editor’s statement and two mirror-stitched excerpts from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and John Gardner’s Grendel (1971). Frankenstein’s monster and Grendel, the monster from Beowulf, both resort to violence after rejection by their human counterparts. Frankenstein, as he recounts his process of observing and becoming emotionally attached to a family living in a cottage in the woods, only to confront them and be driven away by their disgust, demands of Dr. Frankenstein the only thing that he believes will abate his misery: a female monster partner. Grendel too laments that he has no friend—nobody to talk to or to share his life. The desperation and loneliness both monsters feel drives them to seek revenge. They are extreme examples of how one’s environment can affect identity, their ill treatment made manifest in their murderous acts.
All the components of WE BELONG DEAD meditate on how we consume materials from our pasts, and how those materials might consume us and shape our presents and futures. To remember the past is not to relive it; a repetition is not a return. Returning to the past may be impossible, but if we cleave ourselves wholly from it, we deny a potential to embody our histories, and to learn from them.