Editor’s Note | Work

As Andrea Abi-Karam wrote in their book Villainy, “I WANT A BETTER APOCALYPSE THIS ONE SUCKS.” Everywhere there is the proliferation of work and labour (which are not the same) and their dissolution too; capital encroaches, demands, regurgitates. It offers little in return to most and too much to a few. How does it feel, then, to live in this rapidly metastasizing century, to eke out a way to survive, to try and make both life and work meaningful when one has capsized into the other? 

Nothing makes me happier and sadder than adding discounted objects to “nobody’s shopping/ -Cart throat”, as Trevor KS puts it in the poem “Ghostwriter.” Never checking out, suspended in the limbo of wanting some other thing that will improve my life. The poem tries to break this horrific suspension by reminding us we are alive, that we could want something else. Eva Rosenfeld’s story “Roost” is deeply attuned to the melancholy of efficiency and order, to the slow withering of gentrification, where everything becomes “a wayward and brutalizing place.” Anything else requires a course correction—except when, suddenly, the teeming universe renders it impossible. 

Zoey Greenwald immerses us in the strobing, metamorphosing, materiality of the club. “Is party where culture makes money? Is culture where money makes party?” In-between outfit changes and both playful and threatening interruptions, pleasure and a kind of togetherness inhere. No matter what, being a girl takes work. Being a girl is endless. Asa Drake’s poems traverse beauty and ownership and illness and sick leave and grief as the speaker attempts to calibrate her hours. Is any time still free? These poems direct our attention to the “fresh unbothered fruit” that belongs to no one and to everyone. 

In Justin Davis’ poem, “Murkiness in the West,” anything can be commodity. The Western hemisphere’s hazy future stretches back to a history wilfully punctured with absences. Maybe the future is already foreclosed. Maybe there’s room for a different kind of vision. Stephanie Kaylor lays bare the hypocrisies of professional poem-world, where sex work is reduced to metaphor, and asks who gets to call themselves a poet. In her long, incisive poem, the question posed in the title, “WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF WORK?,” raises another question in turn. What kind of work counts?

Issue 12 of MQR: Mixtape reckons with and recasts the everyday alienation of labour, and foregrounds work that is delegitimized and misunderstood: the work of care, sex work, domestic work. In putting this issue together, I searched for writing that approached work sideways, that attended to its collapse, that reckoned with the racial capitalist pressures of our world, and also took nothing seriously at all. 

I want to thank Khaled Mattawa for the opportunity to guest edit this issue, Aaron Stone and Elinam Agbo for their invaluable help, and the contributors for trusting me with their brilliant work. Reading and rereading these pieces, I feel angry, cold, sticky, hopeful, vulnerable, bare, ashamed, and open. Dear reader, I hope you’ll find that the joys and discontents of this mixtape resonate with you too.

— Urvi Kumbhat

Urvi Kumbhat is a writer from Calcutta. She is currently a PhD student at Princeton University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Lit Hub, Protean Magazine, The Margins, and elsewhere.