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When Language Runs Dry

Zine, #5, Claire Barrera & Meredith Butner, 52 pgs., chronicpainzine@gmail.com, chronicpainzine.blogspot.com, nevertwice.etsy.com, $4 (US) plus postage

In their fifth issue of When Language Runs Dry, editors Claire and Meredith continue to validate and create space for the expression of experiences with chronic pain. As a partner to someone living with multiple sclerosis, I have appreciated this zine’s work since I discovered it back on issue one. The whole run of the zine is a valuable resource for bringing into focus the complex realities of living with pain that might be invisible to the outside world. Indeed, a common theme in contributions to the zine is one of struggling to be believed — when pain is felt, but not seen, and too often dismissed by family, friends or medical professionals.

Contributions range from perzine-style memoir to poetry and comics. Nitika Raj traces the history of her endometriosis back to childhood bouts of inexplicable pain and draws connections to experiences of sexual abuse. These connections between traumas, and her subsequent role as an activist, lead her to see her pain as “a teacher guiding me towards my path.” Starling offers an insightful interrogation of pain as teacher, drawing on her own experience: “If the forces of life, the universe and everything are what whacks us, pain is no more the whack than it is our bodies response to that whack. And our body’s response to that whack is our bodies telling us to move or somehow change.”

Each piece is its own window into the possibilities of understanding one’s own embodiment and being. Where on one level there is pain and obstacle, on other levels there are degrees of self-awareness, body-awareness, and world-awareness, revelations of where one is and what one needs. Clearly, the journey through chronic pain is not simple, but the way these pieces wrestle as a collection with the darkness and the deepness of it all, they add up to a beautiful affirmation. The perceptions accrued along the way — and so well-delivered in this zine — could stand to teach the world a lot about itself. (Joshua Barton)

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