Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some Details

Yes, we have a box of copies of Correspondence No. 1 left, but it is the last box of copies. I think. This is worth mentioning for anyone who was worried that the journal had become unavailable. Your concern is appreciated but totally unwarranted. The journal is, for the time being, the lone item available through our Online Store; we also accept orders through the postal service (please send inquiries to our email address). This collection of new work by unfamiliar writers is, concisely, a book to be read after purchasing. More information re the contents here. It is shiny.

The holiday season is a terrible time for us all, I presume, and I could relate an anecdote about being stuck sixteen hours on a train just to get across New York State, if there was anything else to unfold other than sitting still and reading Wuthering Heights. As our calendar is about to end, sentimentalized remembrances of the quondam year grow ever inadvisable. I will taciturnly refrain from congratulating the editors of The Corresponding Society for realizing this project of ours, but cannot help but fleetingly making plain my anticipation for next annum, which will shortly see a new issue of Correspondence (possibly exciting enough to pose serious health threats to the literate) along with other projects and occasions. I must restate that issue No. 2 is looking very attractive. To fill the empty hours until that’s ready, please refer to the Author Catalog on our website, which is looking slightly tidier than usual tonight. Notably, the entry for contributing editor Adrian Shirk has been newly enriched with her poetry and fiction.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dancing Skeleton Reading

Making Skeletons Dance is a reading series, co-hosted by Correspondence contributing editor Adrian Shirk, at Unnamable Books of Brooklyn. The general theme is young writers presenting work about family. Below are the pertinent details about the next event:

Venue: Unnamable Books
Location: 456 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
Date: Tuesday, December 16
Time: 8pm-9:30pm
Featured Readers: Robert Balkovich, Shannon Harrison, Lily Herman, Lonely Christopher, Sophie Johnson, Ian McKenzie, Adrian Shirk

Coincidentally, Unnamable is one of the few distinguished independent bookstores in Brooklyn that we’re aware of and they happen to stock the first issue of Correspondence.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Is The Bad Quarto?

As The Institutionalized Theater continues to build our production of Hamlet, I continue to write notes and ideas on both the play and this project as a way to develop my directorial approach. The following is an essay I wrote in the summer (around the time we moved out of the research phase and toward production) as a way to clarify textual matters. I was frequently asked what my “take” on Hamlet was --- my first answer was that we’re doing The Bad Quarto, which usually prompted a second question re what that meant. I wrote an essay focused on the textual complexities of Hamlet so I wouldn’t have to repeat my explanation awkwardly every time the question arose. I was going to use this essay in the show’s programme, but I think I’ve decided it’s too detailed for that purpose. Here it is:

A Document in Variance
by Lonely Christopher

Works titled The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark were printed in different editions in the form of the quarto, comparable to a paperback, and the folio, often not dissimilar from thicker books of Shakespeare’s collected plays, most notably from 1603 to 1623; of all the extant texts three primary variants are remarkably distinguished: the First Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the First Folio. All three are accredited to Shakespeare, and insist upon legitimacy, but the disparities amongst them are so profound that it’s impossible to conceive of one cohesive and uncomplicated text representative of the impregnable, quintessential Hamlet. Hamlet is plural; it is a congregation of sources, manuscripts, editorial influences, and cultural perspectives. The Second Quarto (1605), which in content comfortably resembles the popular understanding of a “definitive” Hamlet, most likely derives from an authorial manuscript (foul papers). The especially complicated late Folio edition (1623) probably originates from a different source; in content it is seven percent unique, although ten percent of the Second Quarto’s dialog is absent from it. The First Quarto (1603), which we are using as a script for this production, is the most radically different and is seventy-nine percent shorter than the Second Quarto. The sources for Shakespeare’s Hamlet include anterior material such as a Nordic tale recorded in Latin circa 1200 CE by Saxo Grammaticus --- maybe by way of Francois de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragique --- aspects of Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, and the indefinable lost Ur-Hamlet of which little is known besides it must have existed (though it is posited by some that Kyd was the likely author). In those preceding works the broad outlines of our Hamlet are discernable --- though the blunt tropes of storytelling have yet to be rendered poetically ambiguous and complex by Shakespeare. The extensive accumulations of pertinent data are manipulated by editors until a recognizable Hamlet is wrought from heterogeneous texts. In the introduction to Arden’s new two-volume Hamlet, Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor summarize the ways in which the data can be presented for a general readership: “1. A photographic, or diplomatic, facsimile of a particular copy of a particular printed book [...]; 2. An old-spelling, or modernized, edition of such a copy of Hamlet; 3. An old-spelling, or modernized, edition of an ‘ideal’ [...] printed edition of a text [...]; 4. An old-spelling, or modernized, edition of the reconstructed text of a lost manuscript assumed to lie behind a printed edition [...]; 5. An old-spelling, or modernized, edition of a play (e.g. Shakespeare’s Hamlet).” A common production title Hamlet uses an idealized conflation of the Second Quarto and Folio; abridging it to a standard play length by excising dialog, scenes, and whole plot threads. The First Quarto constitutes the initial appearance in print of a play --- accredited to William Shakespeare --- titled The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, but what it is exactly is unconcluded. It entered the discourse of textual scholarship in 1823 when it was “discovered,” but a satisfactory explanation of its existence has never been reached. An early popular theory was that it is an altogether different play beside the other Hamlets attributed to Shakespeare --- an adaptation of another source text entirely. The story is more similar in minutiae to the Second Quarto than the Nordic tale, but certain names and aspects of narrative, not to mention dialog, are drastically unlike the canonized idea of Hamlet. Another mostly discounted theory is that the First Quarto represents an embarrassing first draft of what would eventually be crafted into Shakespeare’s “true” Hamlet --- or that it’s even the Ur-Hamlet itself. The fashionable theory, which has given rise to the accusation that the text is a bad quarto reflecting poor authorial fidelity, is that this version of the play is a memorial reconstruction. An actor (most likely he who played Marcellus and Voltemar judging by how closely his lines resemble the dialog of the other texts) wrote down what he remembered of the play and sold it to be printed first for his own gain. Thus the consequent Second Quarto is understood as a correction and usurpation of the initial edition; an effort that presumably reflects much more authorial fidelity. It is surprising to a modern reader how unstable all of the extant material is. For example, in the Second Quarto Hamlet is considered by others a youthful student until his age is remarkably revealed to be thirty in the last act, whereas the Bad Quarto features a reasonably teenaged Hamlet. Additionally, though the title Claudius is traditionally given to the character of the King it is doubtful that any conception of Shakespeare as a singular and historical author ever thought of the King with that name. Claudius is only named as such once at the beginning of the Second Quarto and the Folio and thereafter only referenced by his position; in the Bad Quarto he is never given a name at all. When one remembers that, in the Second Quarto, eventually an attendant mentions to the King a character named Claudio, the practice of calling the King Claudius seems more like an editorial imposition based on a printer’s quirk than the reflection of one definitive play. In the Bad Quarto many of the names are what might generally be considered “nonstandard.” Our Queen Gertred, Ofelia and her father Corambis, and Montano all suggest a Hamlet as the Shakespearean manifestation of antecedent stories of Hamnet, or Hamblet, or Amleth, or Amlodi. While the names Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are, rendered thus, widely recognizable they actually represent editorially systematized interpretations --- whereas in the three major versions of the play those specific names vary significantly even within each individual text in a way resulting from and illustrating the non-codified spelling of Elizabethan drama that is almost always modernized in print. In the Bad Quarto the dialog is abbreviated and less poetic --- scenes are shuffled, revised in another context, abridged, and deleted withal. Scene fourteen, in which Horatio clandestinely plots with the Queen, is notorious because it is found in no other version. In the Bad Quarto, opportunities to confront the play’s textuality are significant and unique. Threadbare edges of the material present interpretive challenges that must be met with ardent conceptualism. After I confronted the badness of the Bad Quarto, it was given out that this misfit Hamlet, while unpopular and estranged, seems superlative in is freakishness. Hamlet refuses to cohere into something neatly definitional or a successful “organic whole” expressing an “objective correlative” --- through the lens of postmodernity the “real figure” of the greatest writer ever (the author of humanity according to Bloom) seems untranslatable; ergo I posit that we can now say Shakespeare are authors. I think through that statement much more available surface area of the work is discoverable. As Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor wrote in the introduction to the new Arden Hamlet, “If by ‘Hamlet’ we mean a public representation of a ‘Hamlet’ narrative --- that is, a story involving a character called Hamlet who has some continuity of identity with the Amlodi figure of Nordic myth --- then these three texts are just three ‘expressions’ of Hamlet out of the infinite number of Hamlets which have or could have come into existence.” The textual and narrative multiplicity of data that are available to an interpreter can enable a reaching toward the Shakespearean infinite space.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Reading of The Making of Americans

The Making of the Gradual Reading of The Making of Americans
Being the History of a Reader’s Progress
by Lonely Christopher

On Sunday, November 23rd there was a congregation assembled to incite a progression through a notorious text from Gertrude Stein’s corpus that’s widely considered her swampiest and least readable: the six-hour (so-called “first installment” of a) marathon reading of The Making of Americans was staged at The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The event was organized by students operating under the rubric of hybrid poetics, under the instruction of writer and publisher Rachel Levitsky. This petite band had addressed works by Charles Bernstein, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Rachel Zolf (who visited one afternoon) but the class was to conclude by designing and undertaking a monolithic reading project. Beckett’s fiction, the theater of Brecht, and The Alphabet by Ron Silliman were among the diverse suggestions --- but we decided enthusiastically on Stein’s unruly early novel. The Making of Americans is currently available in an unabridged paperback edition from Dalkey Archive Press, but the text was long out of print (sometimes only procurable in heavily abbreviated form) and seldom read in full even by the most ardent Stein aficionados and critics. When I happened to lug my copy to class, we marveled at the blockish weight of the thing and decided the only way to enter it was to hold a drastic marathon reading. Such an approach to this text is not without precedent: Rachel recalled the 1992 Paula Cooper Gallery reading and I soon found a recording by Gregory Laynor on UbuWeb. Our reading was to be mostly localized within the Pratt community, attended only by the brave (or, fleetingly, the curious), and well documented despite its intimate scale. As the date approached I began to feel increasingly guilty about my involvement in the conception of this project. I love Stein --- my poetics wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t discovered this love --- but I can’t deny that reading her can be an excruciating experience; one that yields an intense sort of alphabetic, epiphanic gratification only after sustained engagement. I feared we wouldn’t be able to launch significantly into the 925-page galaxy of the novel in six hours because it takes me practically six months to thoroughly complete a work of hers that is a quarter of that length. Also I had never participated in a “marathon” like this --- some of us read Proust’s voluminous magnum opus once, but it took an entire summer. For me reading Stein had been a private struggle and private pleasure. I recall spending hours feverishly perusing her book How To Write after finding a fascinating rhythm while simultaneously listening to Philip Glass’ Music with Changing Parts; I remember the first time I opened Tender Buttons and was excitingly startled by the calculated abstraction of her object portraits. The Making of Americans makes monstrously adventurous use of the form of the novel; it can be said to be a “hybrid” work, I posit, even in the context of Stein’s corpus. This mammoth thing exists in a space somewhere between the psychological impressionism of Three Lives and the circular taxonomy of a piece like A Long Gay Book. As literature the novel is a rhizomatically exploded familial pastoral. The few scholars I’ve read who are familiar with the whole thing tend to point to the novel primarily as evidence of biographical specificities re Stein’s childhood. That isn’t wrong but it’s certainly also reductive. The Making of Americans isn’t about Stein’s family but about every American family. The narrative progresses sluggardly --- everything considered cyclically --- in such a way that family experience repeats until losing singularity or distinction (thus turning queer --- to invoke Stein’s usage of the term). This sort of problematizes the familiar in a way inaccessible by narratives that conflate the expansive patterned quality of American existence. Stein writes: “And then there were so many ways of considering the question […] and the many ways to look at them led to many queer things.” The reading commenced in the Pratt Institute library at 2pm. Picasso’s portrait of Stein was projected on the wall, each reader spent about twenty minutes behind the podium (although the computerized clock was broken ergo, as it was often hard to keep time when speaking through Stein, presentations ranged from ten to forty minutes), and it was frequently documented by a photographer and a filmmaker. By way of introduction, Rachel Levitsky played a recording of the author reading an extract of her novel and then the first volunteer began: “Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. ‘Stop!’ cried the groaning old man at last, ‘Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.’” The most pleasant discovery we made about the novel is that the reading experience, perhaps especially considering the collective atmosphere of the event, is more delightful than arduous. Stein’s prose can become overwhelming enough to cause a rupture through which readerly bliss can be accessed (this is most true of repetitive compositions like Many Many Women); The Making of Americans is so widely feared and neglected I assumed the text operated as the foremost example of that compositional technique. Yet while it certainly exists quite radically within the form of the novel, it seems that when a readerly surrender to the style is presupposed the book is, from the start, an exceptionally friendly animal. Spending six consecutive hours with it became more of a happy challenge than a malevolent punishment. Halfway through the event some of the audience had wandered off and been replaced with others, but none of the organizers appeared weary or bored (At 6pm Rachel whispered to me, “This is fun, I love this!”). I feel like I experienced the novel more than I read it --- since I didn’t always read along in my copy with the speaker, and for several hours allowed the words to wash over me gently (but, I don’t think, incidentally), I wouldn’t cite my presence at the event as proof that I “read” any of the novel (even when I was actually at the microphone speaking the words I wasn’t internalizing it on the level I would if reading in solitude). I never listen to audiobooks, and am a rather slow and deliberate reader, so my definition of the act of “reading” a text is pretty specific (conservative?). For me the event was more like an introduction to the act of reading, which was much needed considering how untroubled I have been by leaving The Making of Americans untouched on my shelf. When I presently take up the book again and read the pages that we covered during the marathon I might feel as if I’m re-tracing somewhat but I suspect that will be a welcome support (or a foundation as I study closer the aspects of the writing that I may have glossed in listening). Something else that definitely distinguishes the group reading from personal engagement with the text: each individual presenter articulated a unique delivery that shaped the meaning. Some softer and slower styles de-emphasized the cyclic patterns of the writing, bringing out buried resonances; more fragmented and particular deliveries accentuated the ungainly syntax and the gradual progression through repetition. A few casual volunteers, likely strangers to Stein’s idiosyncrasies, tripped awkwardly over the language or even became emotionally disturbed, but that was also educational. I tried to read in the usual way that I verbalize Stein: as fast as possible with extremely precise enunciation that compartmentalizes the grammar (and its queerness) while expressing a cyclic rhythm. I was fortunate to be able to read an exceptionally witty section wherein the character Julia Dehning takes daily walks with her father and tries to convince him that her suitor is worthy to marry. The extensive repetition of the dialog and its slow trudge toward minor variation (and, finally, a tentative resolution) is somehow wholly accurate in its exaggeration and exasperation. I’ve never encountered such well-conceived dialog from Stein outside of her popular novel The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. We averaged a little less than twenty pages an hour and concluded on page 108, but if making The Making of Americans was a gradual process for Stein I suppose it’s apropos that we will be gradual in our way through. To begin to conclude this summary I hereby direct the interested reader toward Stein’s essay “The Gradual Making of The Making of Americans,” from Lectures in America. It might serve as an introduction to what she’s here doing. Now: we will continue climbing the mountain of what she’s here doing as we keep making progress through the novel being a history of a family’s progress. I will finally end with a collaged extract from William H. Gass’ intoxicated foreword to the Dalky Archive edition: “[Stein] mimics the movement of life itself, aims at a target reflected in a mirror, returns, redoes […] because life belongs to the progressive present, it is living, but living is ‘same after same,’ it is variations on a theme, a deep theme, made of the mixtures of natures […] how does it happen that we feel we are present in a present our reruns make us absent from? shifting gears, poking in a purse […] if the feeling failed to materialize, we’d be as good as dead […] and every one of us will die, but only a few, a small sum at any time, can remember --- really remember --- something of some such thing: when our organs no longer peal, when our words no longer rhyme.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Re Several Readings

The 20th through the 23rd of November constituted an exhausting extended weekend of differently purposed readings. It began when Robert Snyderman and I attended an appearance by Bruce Andrews and Cris Cheek hosted by The Poetry Project at St. Marks Church. Events there are always enjoyed. Bruce was very friendly and read well --- Robert thought he made “good use of the microphone.” Cris Cheek was wearing a dress, which I was informed is a kilt, and his was sort of layered, performative, hybridized work that I was glad to become introduced to. I’m afraid I damaged myself pretty thoroughly with red wine at a small, friendly gathering later where I demonstrated an absence of moderation and skirted misadventure. I vaguely remember some words on about Hamlet with Mr. Cheek; my teeth were most likely purple by then. I was in terrible shape the next day and, uncharacteristically, was unable (too nauseous) to drink during our customary Thursday night salon/reading series, which ended up being kind of rough. On Friday we had to pack into a van and travel to Vermont for a Corresponding Society appearance at Bennington, Saturday was mostly spent driving home (except for a trip to Robert Frost’s house, which we couldn’t afford to tour), and on Sunday I participated in a six-hour marathon reading of Stein’s The Making of Americans (to be addressed in-depth in a forthcoming entry). The Bennington College event was decidedly enjoyable for its participants. The featured readers were Correspondence editors Greg Afinogenov, Robert Snyderman, Lonely Christopher, Adrian Shirk, and Christopher Sweeney along with contributors Matthew Daniel and Katie Przybylski. Bennington, Vermont is a distant land surrounded by lumpy yellow fields and purple mountains; the drive from Brooklyn was pleasant despite several run-ins with police who didn’t take kindly to a bunch of kids listening to Puccini in a speeding car with expired insurance and registration. Bennington College is an adorable place where students are encouraged by the administration to engage in safe sex, drink recreationally, and start contained fires. The reading was held in a gorgeous, well-furnished room with a fireplace and a quaint stereo system we utilized to play Grieg records on a loop. Several readers stayed behind and were never heard from again. We are eager to repeat the experience at different schools and will presently attempt to organize something else. This veritable spree of readings would be even more protracted if the Unnamable Books event hosted by Adrian Shirk wasn’t delayed indefinitely, but alack. It will be rescheduled and when it is it will be noted here.

Monday, November 17, 2008


An upcoming appearance by The Corresponding Society:

The Corresponding Society at Bennington College
Venue: The Welling Living Room at Bennington
Location: One College Drive, Bennington, Vermont
Date: Friday, November 21st
Time: 9pm-10:30pm

(&) Other forthcoming readings of interest:

Gertrude Stein Marathon at the Pratt Institute
Venue: The Alumni Reading Room at the library of the Pratt Institute
Location: 200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday November 23rd
Time: 2pm-8pm
Description: In spirit of the epic 1992 Paula Cooper Gallery marathon reading, we invite you to the first installment of THE MAKING OF AMERICANS: a six-hour vocalizing of Gertrude Stein's most unread work. Stop by the Alumni Reading Room any time from 2 until 8 to listen, or sign up to read for a 10-minute time slot by e-mailing Jenna at

Making Skeletons Dance
Venue: Unnamable Books
Location: 456 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
Date: Tuesday November 25th
Time: 8pm-9pm
Description: A reading series with familial themes, hosted by Robert Balkavich and Correspondence editor Adrian Shirk, featuring Ian Alexander McKenzie, Shannon Harrison, Lonely Christopher, & others.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Response from a Happy City

Lonely Christopher (web editor) mentions or comments on anecdotally the following aspects of last week: atmospheric excitement, public spectacle, holograms, 1968, hipsters under arrest, constitutional discrimination, preventing Asian land ownership, emotional vulnerability, the machinations of political power, a malevolent nincompoop, the same shit on a different day, bullshit that makes one feel better, a stupid car on fire in the middle of the road.

A collective nervous excitement was temporarily demonstrated in New York City last week --- during the time the polls were open and the subsequent exceptional day or two. Shortly after dusk on Tuesday, a varied assortment of individuals were already crying and yelling in the street. (I learned that Ohio was called for Obama from a kid running by on the sidewalk, screaming in disbelief into his phone, as I sat outside with my computer, trying to pick up a wireless signal to check The New York Times online.) Halloween seemed like an unenthusiastic rehearsal compared to the public spectacle that ensued that night. Members of The Corresponding Society spent the evening in a small apartment, equipped with television and Internet access, crowded with drunk and anticipatory students. The coverage of the election results was rather depraved in its theatricality --- but maybe it only seemed so nightmarish because I haven’t been exposed to news networks in several years (do people routinely appear for televised interviews via hologram these days or was that some bizarre novelty?). The neighborhood of Brooklyn in which I reside, Bed-Stuy, erupted in rowdy celebratory gestures upon the announcement of Obama’s victory. When CNN declared the win, I was on the phone arguing with my Republican mother about the political unrest of 1968. (She mentioned, “I married your father in ’68 and later he was flying planes over Vietnam.”) Our packed room of students watched McCain’s dignified concession speech, followed by Obama’s sort-of-general but incredibly-important-seeming address; then we drank a few bottles of champagne and sat out on the stoop to listen to the ruckus in the street. Outside: black Brooklyn residents expressed feelings of empowerment, white hipsters were beaten and arrested in Williamsburg, apparently there was some dancing on buses, and somewhere on Staten Island a few white thugs jumped out of a car and attacked a black kid on his way to his mother’s house. As far as the sweeping Democratic victories, the night seemed an indication that our country is capable of reforming after an awful decline into villainy --- but the occasion was also gravely marked by the establishment of discriminatory measures that will surely retard the social and cultural development of our nation. On a night when Barack Obama became the first president elect to include homosexuals in his acceptance speech, three states voted for constitutional bans on same-sex marriage (and I hear tell Florida decided to retain the antiquated legislative ability to prevent Asians from owning land, which is also unbelievable). Regardless, New Yorkers were walking around in a pleasant daze on Wednesday with an emotional vulnerability resulting from the shock of something tremendously positive actually happening in the political system. It was as if every smiling stranger was constantly poised to yelp, “Obama!” --- and his name did frequently punctuate all manners of daily activity. Reactions from our community of young writers were and continue to be more taciturn, but nobody is displeased about the general outcome. We are a group apart from the machinations of political power but we remain aware of how misdirected our country became under the Republican regime that was, for eight years, ostensibly led by a malevolent nincompoop. I was waiting for a slice of pizza last Wednesday when a woman ran into the parlor and screamed at the proprietor, “We won!” The man, kneading dough at the counter, looked at her wearily and replied, “I don’t know lady --- I woke up this morning in the same goddamn world as ever.” Maybe more optimistically, I overheard a fellow poet say, in apropos of Barack Obama’s win, “I know it’s all bullshit but it makes me feel better.” It’s difficult to provoke the city for long; nearing a week later everything has settled again. A car on fire in the middle of the road isn’t, as it was when I saw it on Wednesday, a car on fire in the middle of the road in a country that just elected a significantly atypical politician to serve as the next president, but simply a stupid old car on fire in the middle of the road that’s annoyingly blocking traffic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Letter on Election Day

Maybe if students reemerged as an actualized, politicized network of organized assemblages the apathetic disunity and ennui that broadly characterizes us would develop into the tenacious need for a paradigmatic shift and renegotiation of hegemonic structures that informed the widespread and revolutionary unrest that reached its crescendo in 1968. Students probably aren’t as pathetically dependent as the general on the crutch of false security (an artifice in exchange for which many acquiesce to the machinations of regimes of power that offer the public, to placate in order to subordinate, but a hollow parody of what they think they need); ergo the student is possibly capable of a critically informed perspective less structured by fear instilled by whatever system perpetuates the hegemonic pressure at the time. This has been the first presidential election that I’ve been aware enough of to be ravaged by (those previously I’ve lived through I’ve experienced with sluggardly developing recognition, but have also spent most of my life being a dumb kid in a rural town); the damage wasn’t extensive enough to lead to total self-destruction because I don’t have access to television and (myopically) rely mostly on the coverage in The New York Times and The New Yorker to inform my political understanding. What I feel I witnessed was a sort of extended carnival, in the specific sense, during which some of the more dangerous and ugly of our expressions of national backwardness were flamboyantly paraded about in the manner of a vicious pageant at the end of the world. My mother, with whom I’ve had increasingly frustrated topical confrontations in the previous months, pointed out to me that this is a historically significant election in our textbook history. In New York City (which is practically a noncontiguous territory of the United States), in my daily academic environment, I have been exposed to an implicit support of the candidate we perceive as not as dastardly as his opponent --- but the typical treatment of this election by my peers, co-workers, and the faculty of my school wasn’t really politically sensitive or adamant: we just knew that one candidate was totally preferable (and could barely conceive of a being stupid enough to think the opposite) but were generally preoccupied by the farcical crudeness of the spectacle that was readily viewable on the Internet. I personally imagine that the next president is going to have a tremendous role in determining what happens to and in our disgraced superpower; withal it sort of seems as if the general is struggling painfully toward a perspective that in some obscure way represents our position in the 21st Century rather than some frightening alternate universe. The relative liberty enjoyed by most students in this country might appease us, enabling our disinterest at a time when war is the normative state and our culture becomes ever disabled, but I don’t know what measures (voting? solidarity? taking over the campus gymnasium for a few self-important days?) could contextualize a student position in the national political discourse. The community of writers in which I participate is a very politically problematic/ambiguous group of students: almost all of us lack any sense of a political praxis (although our work is inevitably politicized); a faction of us declined to vote in this election for various reasons (from apathy to nihilism and beyond) --- I don’t know exactly what that means. I don’t presume to defend or really criticize this position and I envision the idea of a political actualization of students without positing it as imperative. Living as artists in New York City we are rather culturally/politically/ideologically divorced from the general and, in that way, are unaccredited expatriates (yet not the Beckettian kind involving underground resistance) --- still, like the revered expatriates of high modernism, our ability to function as artists is menaced by the enforcement of fascist politics. So nobody (except for Sweeney, but that’s too disturbing and complicated to really address here) wants the US to become more fascistic. At this writing I am casually uncertain about the outcome of the election --- knowing that the general is troubled enough to perform as it did four years ago and that the government is structured to enable an outrageous calamity as it did eight years ago --- withal I’m incapable of a developed position on the absence of the student in political discourse (which possibly is the result of the hegemonic political system being incongruous with a critical grammar of the student or artist). Whatever happens I will presently sit down and write a poem and that poem will not be about the recently decided presidential election but, unavoidably, it will be a poem by a writer informed (evidently and unconsciously) by his sociopolitical orientation, which happens to be especially complicated right now. (Lonely Christopher, web editor)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Upon Directing Hamlet

Tom Newman: Hamlet isn't just Hamlet. Oh no, no, no. Oh, no. Hamlet is me. Hamlet is Bosnia. Hamlet is this desk. Hamlet is the air. Hamlet is my grandmother. Hamlet is everything you ever thought about sex, about geology…

Joe Harper: Geology?

Tom Newman: In a very loose sense, or course.

--- from Kenneth Branagh’s In the Bleak Midwinter

I’ve never seen the film in which the above lines are delivered but, out of context, they seem to me to address the greatness of Hamlet. The exchange not only suggests the multiplicity of the play but also the meta-textual arena through which we must experience it. Hamlet isn’t singularly profound according to an “objective” literary valuation --- we make it great (I couldn’t decide whether to italicize “we” or “make” right there). Appreciation of Shakespeare’s writing is often directed (imposed?) by academic context but, better looked into, the apparatus of valuation becomes as complicated and informative as the work (in its “central” position --- though I use the idea of centrality tentatively because the two aspects that perpetuate the text are probably inseparable and centrifugal). As a director I have developed an approach to Hamlet that I’m now applying through performance; I have come to understand that unqualified awe must be eschewed with deconstructive rigor in a movement toward significant awareness of the play. Since actors that I work with tend to be more comfortable with a process reliant on psychological causality and empathy it’s a challenge to expect them to be able to apply conceptualism that dislodges a motivational approach. Example: my sense of the “character” of Hamlet, developed by protracted close readings through various critical lenses, became more of a critique of coherent identity (or a positive recasting of Eliot’s complaints predicated on an attachment to an “objective correlative”) that reinterpreted Hamlet’s conflict as a schizophrenic fragmentation of selves unable to properly conflate within the dramatic context of the play. That’s a terribly devilish, maybe nearly impossible, intellectualization to ask an actor to viscerally express. Yet, according to a formalist reading, performative identity is a major theme. It’s not a matter of striking a balance between the soldier, courtier, and scholar that are remarked to be all in him --- Hamlet must also be an intertextual being; he must somehow also be this desk. One of the many stylistic/thematic choices we’ve made in rehearsals is to represent Yorrick’s skull with a large mirror that Hamlet stands in front of as he recites his famous lines --- upon considering death’s invalidation of personal existence Hamlet is facing not only a reflection of himself but of the entire audience seated behind him. The thematic conflation that constitutes the skull unfolds into a visualized network of meaning that encompasses not just the fictive situation of the drama but also the context of the production itself. This is the most challenging project I have ever attempted in my life. Although I work often as an (autodidactic) director, I am a writer, both by vocation and education, and feel most operational when embracing the gifts of solitude and interiority that practitioners of my craft tend to put to best use. The collaborative plane on which theater occurs messily affronts my abilities of artistic expression in ways both destabilizing and engaging. The writer’s struggle is private and intellectual while the director’s is discursive and interpersonal. In rehearsal the other day I had to instruct an actor how to move as slow as possible across the stage, without ever standing still, while carrying a very heavy and gnarled tree trunk on his back and delivering lines --- the experience, uncannily, felt like a literalized rendition of the introverted endeavor of the writer in a way that used the interactive grammar of performance. The aspect of theater that I most enjoy when I direct is watching and shaping the relational movement of bodies and beings articulating a text in exciting ways. While watching actors find their way through the material and across the stage with each other, when it really works, I sometimes find myself unable to remain still and begin to pace eagerly in the shadows where I attentively observe. Putting on Hamlet is a way of becoming Hamlet; maybe that’s as much a part of the thing as reading it and thinking about it.

(Lonely Christopher, web editor.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Here are two things, briefly:

1) Correspondence no. 1 is now available for sale at Unnameable Books of Brooklyn.

2) There have been recent entries to The Corresponding Society Author Catalog. There are a bunch of essays and interviews on the Lonely Christopher page and the new Greg Afinogenov page features translations of Russian poetry.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The stated deadline for submissions to Correspondence no. 2 is past but we’re still receptive of work for consideration and won’t disqualify based on negligible tardiness. Despite a particular tendency to prolong the submission period waiting for the procrastinators, who presumably wade in the river Lethe and consequently delay our optimistic schedules through their pathology, we’ve already accrued a cache of shiny new work to benefit our happy second issue. I can’t say how long we’ll be capable of regarding late submissions but it’s possibly appropriate to clarify the somewhat nominal quality of the deadline to alleviate the anxiety of the excusably delayed while encouraging those unaware of the opportunity. It’s early yet to estimate when the book will be prepared but we’re ready to assert the unlikelihood of offensively long delays. Submissions received so late that they miss the nebulous, implied, but unspecific deadline-like timeframe won’t be able to be reviewed and it’s the dilatory writer’s own fault, sort of. The submission guidelines can be found here. Please note that submitting multiple files is extremely unhelpful --- we’d prefer the work all in one .doc file, thank you.

We begin work on our next project but Correspondence no. 1 remains available through methods of purchase both convenient and convoluted. For those favoring ease of use, we now sell Correspondence online, by Paypal, through the store on our website. For those deathly afraid of a newfangled confusion like Paypal we would like to mention that we generously continue to accept orders through the postal service (just email us at thecorrespondingsociety [at] with your address and we’ll reply in kind). This issue includes an essay on the rhetoric of the Apocalypse, a poem with the line, “the book goes in the fire like an internet of seaweed round his cock,” a savage explosion of Persephone’s myth, the entire alphabet, a demand for poetry by Richard Loranger, and much else unfamiliar. It’s also probably still available at the Bowery Poetry Club and through Poem Shop.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lonely Christopher in Conversation with Kenneth Goldsmith

Kenneth Goldsmith studied sculpture at RISD but has become the foremost practitioner of Conceptual Writing. He curates the invaluable archive of avant-garde material called Ubuweb, hosts a radio show on WFMU, and acts as a spokesperson for his contemporary poetics online, in print, and at academic conferences. His books are expressions of what he calls “uncreative writing”: renegotiations of the value systems upon which literature rests. The work ranges from entertaining (Soliloquy transcribes every word he said over the course of one week), to hypnotic (The Weather, a short volume, is a year’s worth of radio forecasts), to presumably readable only by madmen (the thick Day contains every character printed in one copy of The New York Times). Although he frequently suggests the idea of the texts should substitute for the experience of reading them, when somebody is inclined to make the effort she confronts a vacuum in which, paradoxically, everything is breathing with meaning. Kenneth is the subject of the 2007 documentary Sucking on Words, which is available to view online. Though I’ve heard his peers accuse him of being a confidence man, the implications of his work have been addressed extensively by poets and academicians. (Ron Silliman recalls, “I knew people were taking him seriously when, over five years ago, the MacArthur Foundation called to ask me if I thought he was a genius.”) Goldsmith teaches at the University of Pennsylvania; he edited I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, which was the basis for an opera that premiered in March 2007. When I first met him four years ago he wasn’t wearing any shoes. The following is a transcript of a recording from last January when I sat down with him at his Manhattan home and asked him some questions (originally published in an undated issue of The Prattler circa February 2008).

Lonely Christopher: Why do you think writing is such a conservative form?

Kenneth Goldsmith: Because language is the means through which we communicate with each other. If we disrupt that communication flow then chances are, according to the conservative idea, we can never understand each other. And if we can never understand each other, in the type of way we’re speaking right now, we can’t get anywhere. Most likely we can’t do anything. We can’t make business together, for example, if we don’t have a common language. It’s very sacred to a lot of people so they get very threatened by rupture in language.

LC: You have said you no longer think of yourself as a poet or writer but as a word processor. You have also said that creativity is bankrupt. I can’t really decide whether those are pessimistic or optimistic statements, or both, but they sort of scare and excite me. Yet maybe there’s also something restrictive or tyrannical in declaring the death of creativity. What do you think about these reactions?

KG: It’s not really meant to be a provocation; it’s simply an explanation of where we happen to be at this particular time. We spend our time processing language these days. We spend our time processing everything these days. Writing needs to respond to the new environment of the web, which is all about information management. If it’s not responding to that particular situation it cannot be called contemporary.

LC: So do you think that responding to situations presented by the Internet is one of the main concerns of your work?

KG: Very much so, yeah. It’s changed the whole game, hasn’t it? Most writers, of course, don’t want to deal with it. They pretend the Internet never happened.

LC: What does sculpture mean to you and why did you quit it?

KG: I’m not sure how to answer the first part of that question.

LC: That’s the part of the question I’m more interested in.

KG: Oh, is it? Okay. In a city like this, sculpture is impractical. I came to New York as a sculptor. In a city where space and transport is at a premium I couldn’t function the way I could when I was in school when I had unlimited studio space and I could make these enormous things and show them in these big spaces and store them in another place. You come to New York and everything has to change. I think writing is the perfect solution. A sculptural approach to writing is really great. You can actually carve words, be very physical with words, and you can do it all on a laptop in a studio apartment. I think the best way to be a sculptor is to work on the computer.

LC: How do you address the materiality of the word?

KG: Words are really great. They can take any form you pour them into. If you want to make it material you can output it in a thousand different ways. You could make those words into cast iron, you could paint them, you could make dresses out of them... it never ends. On the web you can realize it materially in all other ways, the ways we were talking about with Flash or with programming. That’s the beauty of language. You can’t do that with paint. It’s much more malleable than paint. It’s a great medium.

LC: What is it about Andy Warhol that you admire?

KG: There’s nothing about Andy Warhol that I don’t admire. I think in terms of a writer the thing that struck me the most was Warhol’s sense of the contemporary; he really embraced the contemporary. And it wasn’t always pretty, but he knew he had to be of his moment. As a result, because of being such a part of his moment, he became a part of the culture and now he’s as relevant or maybe even more relevant than he was when he was alive. So I must admire his contemporariness.

LC: How does that work? When I first started thinking about Warhol I was thinking about him actually in relation to the Situationists because I was studying the Situationists and I saw that they wanted to affect change but they designed their movement in a way where all their ideas were easily colonized and they really quickly failed. That failure made me think of Warhol because he seemed to have designed his work and life in a way where whatever the position it was put in it still retained its integrity.

KG: You’re very astute; that’s a great point. But the real thing is that the secret of Warhol was he never intended resistance and therefore something that could never offer resistance could never be co-opted. That’s fucking brilliant. He was completely complicit and by being complicit he was subversive. It was a very brilliant strategy of his. He took a lot of shit for it, too. People didn’t understand.

LC: Can you tell me about the Warhol opera? I know very little about it.

KG: I did an opera based on the book of Andy Warhol interviews I edited that was performed in Geneva by a troupe of six dancers, a dozen musicians, and a bunch of opera singers. It was all chopped up text from the words of Andy Warhol.

LC: What’s the purpose of turning Warhol’s interviews into a libretto? That seems like a “creative” act in contradistinction to both your own ideas about writing and maybe even certain perceptions about the intentions of Warhol’s work.

KG: But this book was a very different type of a book: it was an art historical book, it was a different type of a project. Had this been my project I would have gathered the Andy Warhol interviews and put my name on them (simply retype them and not attribute them to Andy Warhol).

LC: What do you think about the interview as a form?

KG: That’s why that interview book with Warhol was so interesting. Because, like everything Warhol touched, it became a new way of making art for him. Warhol would do a completely untraditional interview and he would end up asking the interviewer more questions than the interviewer could ask him so by the end of the interview you found out nothing about Warhol but you found everything out about the guy who was interviewing him. He was a mirror: you just see yourself in it. He would never show you what he was.

LC: What does plagiarism mean to you?

KG: It’s a fabulous way to write. It’s a writing technique to me.

LC: What do you teach your students?

KG: I teach them plagiarism. I teach them uncreative writing. I teach them how to steal, how to appropriate, how to falsify papers, how to buy papers and call them their own. Anything that’s not allowed. We explore in the classroom and my students are penalized for showing creativity or originality.

LC: What do you think of creative writing workshops and of formalism?

KG: I think they are shit. I mean they’re bullshit. It’s fine for another time but it’s not contemporary. It has absolutely nothing to do with the world we live in right now. It’s high school stuff.

LC: Why do you think creative writing programs have become so popular?

KG: I have no idea. I have no idea why anybody would be interested in that approach. Maybe they want to go to Hollywood and write screenplays, but if you write screenplays all you’re doing is plagiarizing other screenplays and other stories anyway. They’re doing what I’m saying writing should be doing, but they’re not admitting it. Nothing’s original in Hollywood. If you made something original in Hollywood it would never get made. You have to remake the same story over and over again. But of course they can’t admit it.

LC: Can you talk about your ideas of process in relation to art and writing?

KG: Unlike painting (where the artist has to stretch a canvas, prime it, make the thing stand up) writing is a different process but I think it’s an equally intense and important process. Like you were talking about with your work: sort of building a structure, hanging the language onto it, and then letting the structure fall away. I’m a bit of a Structuralist. I’m interested in Oulipian constraints, but then in the end kind of kicking the thing away and letting it stand, like you. Very interesting.

LC: You say that people don’t have to read your books as long as they understand the ideas -- but to me, thinking about a concept of one of your books and engaging with one of them in practice (by actually reading it) are different experiences. To me the effort of reading your books, which are boring texts in a way, provides a fuller experience and a sharper understanding of what it is you are accomplishing. Why do you often suggest that reading your books is unnecessary?

KG: We let them off the hook. Text works on so many levels. There’s the level of language that we’re speaking right now, which is transparent: the language doesn’t exist; only the ideas are jumping from my mouth to your mind and from your mouth to my mind. Or else we could have a you know we could start ehh blep ek app whhwhat am I try um ep uh ahh you juhh ah start to uh hhhheh wait, you know, then suddenly we begin to think of language not as transparent but actually as physical matter. That’s the beauty of language: there’s no one way to understand it, there’s no one way to engage with it. I say you don’t have to engage with it, but I don’t say you’re not permitted to either. I think there’s another experience to be had; it’s not one many people are going to want to do, and that’s okay, that doesn’t really bother me. But I like the multi-tonality of these books. They provide a different experience to think about it and a difference experience to read it. Most books, if you don’t read it you don’t get it.

LC: I’ve heard you sometimes use languages you are not familiar with. Can you talk about that?

KG: When I first started writing I was extremely formal and I realized that by inventing a formal system you could subvert the normative uses of your native language. I was at Whole Foods yesterday and I was talking to the bagger and I had all these groceries and I said, “I’d like you to bag everything by shape or color this time, so put everything that’s red in one bag and everything that’s round in another bag.” So you have an extremely different interaction with what’s most familiar if you begin to apply a different type of structural system to it. So in that way I was able to de-familiarize my own language. I was able to actually work with English in a way where I didn’t understand English even though I understood every word. It was really interesting, organizing things by shape and color instead of by what goes in a bag together naturally. And so I figured if I could do that with my own language then I could do it with any language. And so I began using languages that weren’t mine and organizing them formally (creating a formal device by which the language would fall into place). And I was able to write in any language I wanted.

LC: How do you see groups of artists being configured now compared to earlier when New York had seemingly more vital communities predicated on geography? I feel like, to some extent, student communities that form around schools are incidental and the artistic environment of the city thirty or forty years ago that I tend to idealize has basically been erased or mostly paved over. What does the Internet have to do with this paradigmatic change?

KG: The Internet has rendered geography basically obsolete. Everybody’s scattered everywhere. Thank god there’s the Internet; without it then we’d really have a problem finding each other. I think communities are really, really thriving all over the web and all over the world, but it’s a very different configuration from being in SoHo and going out at night and everybody having a beer together. It’s completely different, but very strong. My best peers are scattered around Europe and all over Canada. And I go there, I’m invited to read and to teach there, and we see each other, and it’s great to meet these people and be in touch, and then they come through New York, and we do see each other, there’s a lot of physical contact, but oftentimes some of the closest people I’m involved with I’ve never ever met. I think that the whole thing has been completely realigned. I think it’s better, though. I think we have tighter communities now than we did before when it was geographically based.

Related Resources

•Kenneth’s page at The Electronic Poetry Center
•Audio and video from the Conceptual Poetry Conference on the Poetry Foundation website
•The documentary Sucking on Words
The Anthology of Conceptual Writing edited by Craig Dworkin
Traffic on the The Eclipse Archive
•Interview with Andy Warhol

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visit Our Website, Visit Our Website, Visit Our Website

In an attempt to overcome a neurotic fear and distrust of technology, and to embrace the futuristic model of e-commerce, Sweeney purchased a domain, or whatever one does to buy notional online real estate, with plans to establish a website to represent our press with the grammar of the 21st Century. Subsequently we learned that it did not require a hired design team we couldn’t afford to build a website that reflected the same minimal aesthetic demonstrated by our journal (though we remain technophobes incapable of proficiently understanding the simplest interface). So we made a website, we did that. Look at it’s pretty name:

(Right now we can’t figure out how to make it so we can visit it without typing the triad of ws before it, so keep that in mind.) While it will supplement instead of usurp this our neglected and unvisited blog, there are several features available there and not here that we think are nice additions and might prove worthy of investigation by interested parties (web parties, in this instance). Firstly, and this is one small step for mankind but really big-seeming to us, we are now able to receive orders for Correspondence through PayPal at our store (which will contain but one item for a while, obviously). Also something we’re working on constructing is the Author Catalog that will include pages for individual writers involved with the press containing online archives for both fans and scholars (students writing their theses on Robert Snyderman will now have improved reference materials). Now it has been announced; we hope there is some interest.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Richard Loranger, Mammal of Verse

When I first met Richard Loranger his book Poems for Teeth was just released. That the work, structured as celebrations of the teeth he’s lost and invocations of those he retains, hasn’t received the attention and admiration of a larger audience of readers seems like one of the greatest tragedies of contemporary verse. His is an eruptive poetry of lightness where being is lifted skyward by a parade of ardent words. In “I Want a Poetry,” which appears in Correspondence No. 1, he declares, “I want a poetry that runs off the page, across the wall, around the corner, onto the floor, leaps out the window and onto the street where it goes for a stroll, meets new friends, takes a wrong turn, and finds something shiny on the curb.” It’s what he desires and, I think, what he practices. His poetry is lively, epiphanic, and it embraces the unnamable slipperiness of what he would call the mammalian condition with vigorous compassion. Poems for Teeth is full of yelps, and stories, and songs, and awareness. Many lesser poets have or attempt Richard’s unbridled energy, but few possess the same exquisite formal ability that turns electricity into something diamond-shaped. For about three years, until he escaped Brooklyn for San Francisco, he was around to act as a sort of patron saint to our band of noisy, youthful poets. Time was when we held an obstreperous reading series at the Bethesda Angel at Central Park (illegal at least for the public drinking); Richard attended a few of those and oversaw them delightfully. His visitation resulted in the writing of a poem (which he insisted would include the use of a z in the plural form of kid⎯I thought he was joking until I saw it) that he gifted us with. Poems for Teeth is an important book for any reader of contemporary poetry (Richard wouldn’t like me using the word contemporary, I’m afraid), seven of his most recent pieces are found in Correspondence No. 1, and here’s the Angel thing:

October 5, 2006: Kidz These Days
by Richard Loranger

I dive into a whirligig of hair & teeth & minds
to trek toward an angel we call eye⎯
aye, eye not I, for we traverse light as a matter of kind,
arching archly toward the metamorph
the gleams a frank identity far more
apocalyptic than the dull drone of one,
drinking a joyous multitude⎯the midnight sky
gorging through a pupil of a moon

A bridge will suck all streets towards itself,
as do these kidz, frolic of the time
formidable & strong strange luminous
free from rank formality the infants need
crying in time the dull drone of one,
yet kidz not these, dodging nothing, no knowing,
not need nor knot that incubates the sky,
a multitude alchemical, a magic cry, an arch.

Here in Foreverland,
Saran Wrapped in the comic clock of I,
you, ewe, bleat a tiny woo of hence & heretofore,
resignedly await the final shear⎯
while on the angel pours a cataract of kidz
masticating all the world as loving siblings do,
feeding the angel’s eye as one anticipates the day,
heaving justly intermingling selves into the mind:
kidz frank, kidz alert, kidz in the kind.

Related Links:

Poems For Teeth on
Richard Loranger at We Press

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two Announcements and an Announcement

1. The Corresponding Society Reads In Brooklyn

If this were The New York Times, the title of this announcement would be “A Reading Grows In Brooklyn.” Anyway: we’re entirely pleased to announce that we’ll be holding a reading on the campus of The Pratt Institute in the verdant Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn (that’s near the Clinton-Washington stop on the G train). The reading is open to the public and will occur in the Alumni Reading Room of the Institute’s quite beautiful library. Copies of the first issue will be available for purchase. Please refer to Pratt’s website for detailed directions, or contact us via email. Here’s the rundown:

Reading at the Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn
Tuesday, October 7th at 5pm
Matthew Daniel
Chanelle Bergeron
Robert Snyderman
Lonely Christopher
Adrian Shirk
Christopher Sweeney

2. Call for Submissions

Queerly enough, we’re more or less on schedule for our second issue of Correspondence. One of the things that means is that we’re currently accepting submissions. We’re mainly looking for poetry, short fiction, drama, and critical essays (though, as evidenced by Tallon’s work in the first issue, we’re also interested in hybrid pieces). Please email us your submission (thecorrespondingsociety [at] in the form of a single, clearly labeled .doc file; you are also encouraged to include a short personal statement. Ten to twenty manuscript pages is our standard length per author. The official deadline is October 1st.

3. From Our Friends at Small Anchor Press

A word from Jen Hyde (director of Small Anchor Press):

Small Anchor Press, a Brooklyn based independent press, announces the publication of Mike Heppner's novella, Talking Man on September 30th 2008. It can be preordered now right here. You are cordially invited to Talking Man's press release party and reading at Freebird Books & Goods in Brooklyn on October 3rd at 7:30pm and a Small Anchor Brunch with Mike Heppner on October 4th at 1:00PM. Seating is very limited, please visit our website for further details. Go to for directions to the reading, or to Mike Heppner’s website for more information about his project. Small Anchor, Mike Heppner and Freebird Books look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Conversation with Sweeney

Christopher Sweeney, the reclusive director of The Corresponding Society (and editor-in-chief of the journal), was recently caught on tape in a conversation, with this blog’s web editor, which addressed specific issues related to our press and journal as well as broader considerations of contemporary poetics and the processes of younger writers. Characteristically he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Lonely Christopher: How would you define The Corresponding Society?

Sweeney: It’s a project that was conceived in, probably, November 2007 amongst a group of writers⎯six of us, I would say, who’ve been living in Brooklyn now for a long time. The group itself began before that with a reading series we started called The Gates Salon (which is basically an open mic for friends, associates, and really anyone who wants to come). I think, to some extent at least, it’s an attempt to begin more concretely developing a community of writers⎯not necessarily along any specific aesthetic lines or particular approaches to craft, but a young group that’s Brooklyn-based (although we don’t exclude people from other locations).

LC: What are the purposes or functions of Correspondence?

Sw: I think the hope is probably, on one hand, that it’s intended to be an outlet for publication for young writers (that’s how it is mostly right now, but we also feature older, more established writers) that we know and are excited about; the second thing is to begin to encourage a journal that is really focused on an advanced development of craft and formal ability.

LC: What makes our establishment of a group (a press) relevant or appropriate considering that the ideologies and formal directions of all the members are so dissimilar?

Sw: I think that it’s obvious looking at The New American Poetry anthology, which published a lot of work at the time focusing on many different journals, and throughout much of the last half century’s work, that oftentimes literary groups don’t form along specific aesthetic lines; often it’s just a lot of talented individuals that grow out of an engagement that does not necessarily translate into congruent ideas. I think it’s often the conflict of ideas, opinions, and styles that leads to better work and better engagement than a sort of unanimous consent or congruence.

LC: How do you feel literary journals function in the landscape of contemporary writing as you understand it and, considering possible paradigmatic shifts that have occurred over the past century (especially re the Internet’s influence), do they function as vitally as possible in our contemporary context?

Sw: I don’t know for sure; I’ve actually had trouble with this question for other journals⎯and our own. In general my experience with literary journals coming out recently is that it’s been pretty bland. Poetry in general has not excited me much in the last fifteen years of work that I’ve seen. I think most of the time literary journals have no effect or no meaning. It’s difficult to maintain a literary journal for its own sake⎯more or less, anyone publishing in a journal, particularly anyone of note, is also publishing elsewhere; so there’s little to distinguish one journal from another. I think one possible use of a journal, one of the better uses that I can currently think of, is as a formal documentation of a literary community through time. I don’t think there is any journal or that there’s going to be any journal that necessarily stands out. I think, in a lot of ways, that a simple documentation of a group is a worthwhile goal for a journal.

LC: What are your expectations and hopes for The Corresponding Society?

Sw: I certainly would like to continue publishing. Our schedule for the journal right now is biannual; I think the ultimate goal is for it to be quarterly. Also the press wants to begin publishing novels and book-length poems or collections soon. Furthermore, the hope would be to increase circulation.

LC: How would you describe an ideal reader of Correspondence?

Sw: I think in some ways the best readers so far have been the people involved. It’s been rewarding and interesting to hear the responses of contributors. While I know just about every contributor, not all of them know each other; it’s been interesting to introduce writers to each other.

LC: Isn’t that a little hermetic?

Sw: Yeah, certainly. I guess I don’t know what expectations to have for a wider reception of the journal.

LC: How does geography relate to the Corresponding Society⎯that is to say are we mostly localized or do we represent work being produced in various locations and coming together through a medium of communication such as the Internet?

Sw: It’s certainly based in Brooklyn⎯but in the first issue we published work by a handful of people from Connecticut, from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Denver, San Francisco, Scotland, and Paris. In a lot of ways it extends beyond Brooklyn; for some involved we communicate primarily through the Internet and the press. The hope for the future is that it will extend even further.

LC: How do you perceive the state of the arts in Brooklyn (especially concerning the writing community, which is so often marketed as strong and important here)?

Sw: It is often marketed that there are strong writing communities here⎯I personally have no idea what those people are talking about. There certainly are writers in Brooklyn, there are many, but I don’t think many of them are interesting. For me, and there’s certainly something I could seriously be missing, but the two dominant trends that I see from where I stand include a style of work which⎯I know you won’t like this⎯harps on experimentalism and novelty for its own sake (as far as I understand it), and then there’s confessional or memoir-based writing that’s more about telling and sharing personal stories than it is about direct engagement with craft (and I don’t find that interesting either).

LC: How do you see your peers developing as writers in contradistinction to your ideas about writing?

Sw: There are actually few people developing along the same lines as myself. I think Dave Swensen (a contributing editor) is someone often working in a similar vein, but that’s pretty much it. I mean, you are someone whose work is very obviously developing in a different direction than mine⎯it’s work that’s really engaged with innovative formal elements. Chanelle Bergeron (a writer in the first issue) is going in another direction still⎯whereas I often take Pound, Eliot, and Crane as my models I see a lot of cummings in her work. I see a sort of wordplay and imagination that I don’t feel I currently have. Then there are certain writers, Matthew Daniel and Robert Snyderman, who I think are⎯certainly not disengaged, but maybe I don’t even understand fully the formal direction by which they’re approaching their work. Robert’s work is somewhat similar to mine in that he takes dialogues from Persephone, Hades, and Demeter⎯but he’s pushing it in a more experimental direction. I’m not really sure.

LC: As somebody who is deeply invested in the model of high modernism, do you think contemporary poetics are problematic and if so, how⎯and what must young writers do to engage with poetics in a more important/relevant way?

Sw: Well, I have spent a lot of time studying, working, writing through the high modernists. I think I’m trying to begin to step out of that⎯not that it’s gone too far but one poet I’ve been reading a lot of recently is John Berryman, who has traces of high modernism but begins moving it in a much less romantic, much more colloquial direction. I think the fact that I’ve been so obstinate with the high modernists has been a fault in some ways, yet in some ways I do get the impression that a lot of the time young poets are not making the necessary commitment to discovering and studying the poetic tradition that precedes them; they sort of skim through, or skip over entirely, Eliot and Pound simply because at first glance it’s difficult. Often it’s those same writers who don’t do much reading of earlier poets. One person I began reading a lot of in the last year is John Donne. So I think there needs to be a more effective engagement with the historical tradition of poetry, and I think there’s just a fundamental danger with attempting to found your poetics solely on the current decade or two of work. The danger with reading contemporary work is always the fact that it’s easy to get caught up in trends and fads and to not be able to discern what’s enduring about any given poet. Unless you can begin to do that you don’t really even have a grounds on which you can judge contemporary work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Theater on YouTube and in Long Island City

YouTube Follies

Something I forgot to mention was that the Institutionalized Theater, an affiliate with this very press, presented two one-act plays at The Bowery Poetry Club at the end of August. Gay Play, written and directed by this self-same web editor, was unfortunately not recorded for posterity⎯but the other piece, Slump Boat Sway, was filmed on some sort of cheap digital camera and is now available online. The monologue was directed by (presumed Corresponding Society member) A.E. Wilson and features performances by Lonely Christopher and MK Chillemi. Although the image is pixilated to the point of abstraction and the sound quality is so poor it sounds like I have a serious speech impediment, interested parties are yet welcomed to check it out at the following links: Part I, Part II, & Part III. And since I am on the subject of video clips of Institutionalized performances that are available on YouTube, I might as well mention some older material as well. The following clips are from our very first show (which was a scrappy endeavor that ended up the subject of at least one major scandal) that culminated in a cacophonic madhouse of a dramatic event called Morning Morning, conceived by Corresponding Society member and Poem Shop writer Robert Snyderman. You can watch the end here: Part I & Part II. It’s peculiar how much stuff ends up on this YouTube. Somebody even took the time to post a video of me tripping over a difficult poem after somebody set a camera flash off in my face at a Small Anchor Press reading a while back (though I won’t post the link to that out of embarrassment). Of course YouTube is all well and good, but I would recommend UbuWeb, an archive of avant-garde materials managed by Kenneth Goldsmith. PennSound, directed by Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis, is also a tremendously valuable resource.

With Golden Thread on One End

This isn’t really related to matters of the Corresponding Society or its affiliates, but certainly worth mentioning. I am currently working as an Assistant Stage Manager on a play, presented at The Chocolate Factory (it’s in Queens!), titled 1965UU. It’s by Mac Wellman, directed by Steve Mellor, and stars Paul Lazar. The show is basically a monologue; the text is quite dense and linguistically tangled, but it still manages to be playful, marvelously humorous, and ultimately profoundly ruminative. The show is running Thursdays through Saturdays until October 4th⎯go see it. For the occasional reader who (for whatever inexcusable reason) does not live in New York City (it’s okay if you don’t live in Queens, Queens is weird), I wholly recommend picking up a copy of Wellman’s collection The Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds (from which 1965UU is adapted). The book is among the few that make me feel a little better about the state of contemporary short fiction (the only other two that occur to me right now are selected bits of Gary Lutz and Girl with Curious Hair by the recently departed David Foster Wallace). Working with the likes of Mac, Steve, and Paul has been a really exciting and beneficial experience for me. Here’s a picture of Paul in costume as the ingenuous Dr. Ravenello:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Three Articles

1) For those of you patiently waiting to receive your copy of Correspondence No. 1 in the mail, know that you shall presently (or as soon as the Postal Service allows, though I certainly accept the blame for running away from the local post office, clutching a stack of packages, at the slightest line [that being the primary cause for any delay]). We are delighted by your order and pray you enjoy the contents of our inaugural issue. 2) If, dear reader, the above address did not apply to you for the simple reason that you have been dragging your feet (as the expression has it) in the matter of ordering a copy (by emailing us) then please note the following: we are finally nearer to a dwindling supply and anticipate selling out the entire print run before the second issue premieres⎯thus it would be apt for anyone to place his order sooner rather than later if he truly desires to possess a copy. 3) Although! We are pleased to announce that Correspondence No. 1 is now for sale at the Bowery Poetry Club, so if you’re strolling down the Bowery you now have the option to forgo the wait to receive a copy from us by mail. The journal might begin to appear in a few other places and we’ll certainly note it here when that happens. It’s also worth mentioning that the first issue is available through Poem Shop, which can be found sporadically in public parks around Manhattan.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hipster Definition

Hipster Week at The Corresponding Society Internet Presence belatedly continues, sort of. Several members of The Corresponding Society have been asked to evaluate contemporary hipster culture for the purpose of better understanding the social phenomenon we are exposed to daily.

On Why There Is No Definition of a Hipster
by Mae Saslaw

There is no static criteria for determining hipsterdom and therefore no established method for distinguishing a hipster. For this reason, an individual's hipster status may be entirely up for debate or interpretation, questionable, or at least shaky. It is easy enough to imagine a hipster denying hipster status⎯and this is common behavior⎯but is it possible to be a non-hipster and self-identify as one? If so much of one's hipster status rests upon one's identification or lack thereof as a hipster, and yet there are no rules governing who is or is not same, is anyone actually a hipster? More importantly, is anyone entering into a discourse regarding hipster status not a hipster? This is the fluid nature of hipsterdom. But why are there no criteria, why is there no litmus test? In any other counter-culture or sub-culture movement of the past thirty years, there have been concrete characteristics of members of the group. For example, the punk movement was clearly marked by dress, music, lifestyle, etc. This has served in the past as a unifying, solidifying necessity for any group: members want to establish their membership and broadcast it in a legible way. Hipsters have avoided hipster solidarity, and I propose two linked reasons: 1) they hate each other because 2) "hipster" has been a pejorative term since its inception. Hipsters typically complain about a lack of authenticity exhibited by other hipsters, and these complaints are misplaced due to a certain phenomenon my peers have described, namely, there is no such thing as an authentic hipster. How does such a "movement" founded on absolutely nothing occur, let alone persist? Given that identifying hipsters is such a slippery slope to begin with, I propose that the very existence of hipsters may be purely linguistic. One can refute or deny his or her hipsterdom, providing evidence such as dress and places of habitation or social activity, but the question will usually remain unanswered. By contrast, punk identity is significantly easier to define, if only because the punk movement produced its own culture. Hipsters produce notions of hipsterdom, but no cultural artifacts to help establish a movement. It is counterintuitive to imagine that mere notions can form identity, and yet they have. Is it not these very notions that are being discussed, and are they not substantive enough to warrant their own discussion? Despite the fact that the word "hipster" exists and has been accepted in common usage, it is barely legible; it reminds me of that historic Supreme Court opinion on pornography: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Hipster Function

It’s Hipster Week at The Corresponding Society Internet Presence. Several members of The Corresponding Society have been asked to evaluate contemporary hipster culture for the purpose of better understanding the social phenomenon we are exposed to daily.

The Hipster Function
by Lonely Christopher

Hipster culture is remarkable because so few of its adherents self-identify as hipsters. The contemporary hipster is not interested in a unified movement, he is not interested in politics, he is not even that interested in individuality. The hipster is a ghost. Hipster culture has already happened and is being rearticulated as a trace; it is a collage of past styles, trends, names. The hipster does not make important contributions to the arts. The hipster has no god. This complicit relationship with cultural colonization and this erasure of being are certainly not sustainable, but sustainability probably isn’t contemporary. In reaction to generations of youth movements with countercultural stances that have been muted by failure and appropriation the hipster affects a sense of ennui and disinterest in counterculture or opposition. Situationism failed, the contemporary hipster won’t even try. It’s not valid to read the hipster as a disgraced countercultural figure; the hipster isn’t part of a counterculture, not even a subculture, but maybe the first metaculture. Hipster culture takes place on the plane of hegemonic culture, not outside it or in a niche. The Internet is integral to the hipster because it eschews centrality, even presence. The preferred accessory of the hipster is a camera, but with it he does not create art; he distances himself from being through representation. This is a striving for a mechanical sameness, a continual series of images that homogenize subjects and reinterprets the individual as a cultural function. The most graspable aspect of the hipster is his uniform: the meticulous hair, the skinny pants, the glasses, the studied irony omnipresent in the fashion. Yet, unlike the symbolic dress of more political youth cultures, it doesn’t signify anything, usually not even the evident assumption that the wearer of the uniform self-identifies as a hipster. The presentation doesn’t cohere into meaning, but neither does it offer resistance to a codifying repetitiousness that taxonomically references the ambiguous vacancy of the idea of the hipster. The hipster is absence. Maybe it’s a valid reaction to contemporary existence resulting from social adaptation. Yet the hipster function is tragic in its inability to create art. The creative expressions within hipster culture articulate the same implicit surrender to vapidity that is evidenced in hipster values; the work is nearly worthless in the context of a wider artistic discourse and, thereby, defenseless. Whereas a contemporary movement in poetics like Conceptual Writing renegotiates meaning in intellectually engaging ways, hipster art can only be self-referential in the manner it relentlessly perpetuates the same placeless, lackadaisical cultural performance. The hipster is surely an important contemporary figure, but what is significant about him is ineffable; it’s about what and how the hipster doesn’t mean.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Hipster in Context

It’s Hipster Week at The Corresponding Society Internet Presence. Several members of The Corresponding Society have been asked to evaluate contemporary hipster culture for the purpose of better understanding the social phenomenon we are exposed to daily. This project may be read as a response to writerly communities developing simultaneously with but separate from ours that embrace values associated with contemporary hipster culture, though the focus is often broader.

The Hipster in Context
by Greg Afinogenov

All previous countercultures since you could really begin to speak of a counterculture⎯I would say, since the Romantics⎯have been fundamentally grounded in an appeal to authenticity. The Romantics prided themselves on their ability to express pure emotion. The Symbolists⎯Rimbaud most of all⎯constantly sought the link to Being, the limit-experiences that break through the surface of daily life. The Surrealists attempted to realize art by using the unconscious (maybe the ultimate appeal to authenticity). The Beats followed the Symbolists, sometimes. The hippies, of course, were a paradigm case: the return to Rousseau, the emphasis on the purity of agriculture. (You could say that the New Left, too, was searching for authenticity in a kind of Frantz Fanonian revolutionary self-realization.) The punks ditched society's rules, exposing its shallowness by bringing forth an animalistic brutality; “Evolution is a process too slow to save my soul,” sang Darby Crash. And what is hip-hop but a constant return to the true and real life of the streets from the obfuscation of the white man's tricknology? (Listen to Brand Nubian for the way this process interacts with Nation of Islam imagery.)

A relatively new trend in Western thought⎯and culture⎯changed this familiar pattern, even before the hipsters. The idea of authenticity, after Derrida (after Nietzsche), became a dirty word. Authenticity was exposed as an ideological abstraction, an unachievable origin point that generates an endless chain of "supplements" which bring us farther and farther away from it. There was no more defending the concept of unmediated experience.

Hipsterdom is the first counterculture to arise with and take into account the condition that we, for better or worse, call “postmodernity.” As such, it cannot appeal to authenticity; it plays with surface, with collage, with costume⎯with everything “superficial.” But of course this could never be innocent while capitalism was around to sell it everything it needed. Thus hipsterdom stopped being a “counter” culture on any substantive level at all: there has almost never been a group of non-mainstream youth so invested in the preservation of the system, for all their Naomi Klein platitudes.

Hipster self-hatred is the return of the repressed appeal to authenticity. After all, hipsterdom incorporated into itself all of its predecessors. The self-hatred, then, is the condemnation of everything it stands for by the value systems it inherited⎯which provide the only semblance of a normative content hipsterdom can ever manifest. This means hipsterdom is constantly at odds with itself, unable to resolve the contradiction between its countercultural heritage and its thoroughly capitalized rejection of authenticity. Authenticity, within hipsterdom, is a zombie⎯dead, yet unkillable, and always threatening.

This contradiction lies behind the most familiar elements of hipster culture. Pabst, high-school sports T-shirts (until recently?), Bruce Springsteen, old vinyl, trucker hats⎯all these are the paraphernalia of a world where authenticity could be easily and unproblematically assumed, the earnest and unpretentious vanished world of the blue-collar male. Of course, this is ironic: in searching for authenticity hipsterdom once more encounters only its superficial, external expressions. (This was Derrida's point, in a way. The hipsters are looking for authenticity, “presence,” but can only seem to reach it by constructing a “supplement,” which seems like a pretty good facsimile of the real thing until you realize that it never resolves the aporia, the gap between the authentic and the fake, which made it necessary to begin with.)

Is there a future for the counterculture as a social formation? I don't think so. The hipsters mark the point where rebels stop selling out and start buying in.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vaguely Pertinent/Miscellaneous/Unrelated

Richard Avedon’s portrait of Warhol imposes a particular/directed reading

And: Unprompted promotional charity on the Internet, self-demeaning jocularity, promise of one lucky winner, praise for a particular play, events punching beings, an Appalachian whorehouse, Shakespeare’s contemporariness, lyrical rhizomatic explosions, postcard biographies, the critical treatment of the life of Andy Warhol, a sculpture made out of information in the shape of its subject, the centrality of absence, an anecdote about identity...

1. The Corresponding Society is giving away a copy of the first issue of Correspondence for fun. This is called promotion, I guess, I’m not sure. To qualify, all someone has to do is read this very entry we have posted on our Internet blog (I pray that qualifies at least one lucky so-and-so) and be the first to send us an email informing us that she is the winner (whereupon we will happily mail out her spoils gratis [though in the more likely event that she is somebody we know and see on a daily basis, who has just avoided spending money on a copy, we’ll just deliver it personally]). We wish every one of the many devotees of this Internet presence the best of luck in this matter.

2. The Corresponding Society urgently implores all residents of New York City to make reservations to see the play Twelve Ophelias, written by Caridad Svich and presented by the Woodshed Collective. It’s playing through August, with free admission, at Williamsburg’s delightful McCarren Pool. The production has systematically astonished just about every available member of The Corresponding Society recently. I saw it first knowing nothing about it⎯it’s just one of those things, those serendipitous events that punch your being unexpectedly. Quite loosely, the conceit involves Ophelia resurfacing to find herself in an alternate existence where Elsinore is a whorehouse in Appalachia and Hamlet is a backwoods miscreant called the Rude Boy. No other recent production predicated upon Hamlet has proven how alive Shakespeare’s play still is, how important, how adaptable. As a writer who has been closely studying Hamlet for over a year, it was an indescribable experience watching the play I love and know so well breathing inside and through a new body. Hamlet is ours, Hamlet is depthless, and this interpretation lyrically explodes Hamlet rhizomatically. Also, it’s a musical.

3. Michael Kimball, author of the new novel Dear Everybody, is also a prolific biographer who writes the life stories of strangers on the backs of individual postcards; recently he profiled the poet Lonely Christopher (though forwent mentioning the subject’s status as web editor of The Corresponding Society) on his blog. To segue awkwardly into the more appropriate use of first person when referring to myself, I was intrigued to participate in this project. When my postcard biography arrived in the mail my reaction was decidedly mercurial, but as a dedicated reader of books on the lives of others I have come to understand and accept that biography is an art of interpretation: a writer doesn’t explicate the life of his subject, he performs it. I recently read two biographies of Andy Warhol, one by Victor Bockris and the other by Wayne Koestenbaum. The former, thicker and more grounded, posed as an objective account of a life but implicitly failed to avoid shaping the Warholian data into a writerly narrative necessitating judgment, a sculpture made out of information and opinion shaped like its subject. The latter was far more flamboyant about its distance from a definitive conception of Warhol; Koestenbaum knew he couldn’t reconstruct his subject in facsimile⎯so he took the available data and thoughtfully used it to build a structure around the absence. When I read my own abbreviated biography I saw Kimball performed a reduction of the accumulation of source data, like a sculptor addressing a block of marble (or maybe a preexisting, larger, and more detailed marble statue), to narrow and redefine my self-narrative into his narrative of my self as his subject. The extremely compact nature of this project is illustrated by how, ultimately, my biography is reduced to a list of drastic labels perhaps meant to suggest taxonomy (ergo I am summarized with words that imply concision yet are calculated to corroborate the stance of the whole piece). While some of what he posits upsets me or strikes me as a misreading (“As a form of self-medication, he started drinking as a high school freshman.”), there is at least one imposition of causal narrative that I found illuminating (“In kindergarten [he] couldn’t tell the difference between writing and drawing, which still influences his approach to writing.”). To put it differently, allow me to retell (rewrite, perhaps, or write) an anecdote from Bockris’ treatment of Warhol without having the text available for reference. Warhol lived with his mother Julia Warhola in New York City; perhaps he mistreated her, perhaps she was taken to drink. Maybe there was an argument and Julia’s resultant departure from the house, whereupon she returned to Pittsburg where she had raised Andy and his brothers. Consequently, Andy’s household might have fallen into neglect (presumably because Andy was helpless without his mom). Julia was probably convinced to come back by those concerned with her son’s welfare, and she did come back, but when she did she stormed into the apartment, threw her suitcase angrily down, and, in front of her son and most likely some of his close friends, declared of herself, “I’m Andy Warhol!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Consideration of Issue One

I seem to remember a failed attempt to startle some species of chapbook or journal into existence three years ago⎯Sweeney lived in squalor in a filthy tenement around East Williamsburg, and I imagine everyone involved became too sidetracked by drunken literary arguments to organize in any way (fortunately, since we were doubtlessly incapable of completing such a project then). I can’t precisely date the genesis of Correspondence, but we began meeting with an associate of Ugly Duckling Presse maybe nigh a year ago (she provided us with vital guidance and information we would have surely otherwise overlooked). I think we collected most of the material rather quickly, despite which the process was slow and punctuated by periods of waiting or preoccupation. Since we have all been writing steadily in the months since we submitted contributions to the journal, and since I was not personally very active in editorially handling the material in this issue, I risk a Proustian flashback reading everything after becoming separated from it. Holding the journal and perusing it altogether is also a novel experience. I suppose I should here embed the realization that the collection is editorially slightly rough (like if Joyce eloquently started a row with you in a bar and you drunkenly followed him outside to fight⎯only to find Hemingway waiting in the shadows to box your ears) but in occasional incidents, annoying but sort of endearing. The work collected in this first issue, I think, is as worthy as we’ve been proclaiming. I am amazed by the consistent intensity and earnestness of the contributions: the boring ironical tendencies and affectation that seem to define a lot of younger writers haven’t proper places in our various approaches to the word. If a reader is looking to be exposed to unfamiliar poets producing complex and exciting work, I shamelessly implore her to reference this issue. I believe my favorite line is from a piece by Matthew Daniel, “The book goes in the fire like an internet of seaweed round his cock,” and Sweeney provides poems that are intricately crafted and astoundingly effectual. Richard Loranger, our patron saint, comes at you somehow in all dimensions, filling you with inexplicable light, as he asks, “What poetry isn’t there?” Meanwhile Robert Snyderman’s “Soft Hell” is a violent tempest of language that wrestles vigorously with narrative and coheres into startling realizations, “I carried her body like a hell into disease.” The poetry is balanced by fiction, an aerial ballet from the archives of Joshua Furst, sinisterly illustrated contributions from Tallon, and two articulate critical essays. I think the inclusion of the essays is particularly important as it provides for a range of work representative of the corresponding community of writers behind this project (and both are engaging inclusions⎯Greg Afinogenov posits, “Apocalypse today has many of the same functions, even the same rhetoric, as revolution once did.”). The cover design by Matt Fox is stark and shiny, I should mention. As we learn to put things together in unfamiliar ways our process is perceptible on the pages we offer to a possible audience; this first issue is also an assemblage of material from a community of writers deeply engaged in their pursuits and in creative discourse.

⎯Lonely Christopher (Wed Editor)