George Saunders’ books include the story collection Tenth of December—a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Folio Prize (best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short story collection). His first novel Lincoln in the Bardo was awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize. A recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, he teaches at Syracuse University.
Saunders writes: "I wrote “The Wavemaker Falters” at work, at an environmental engineering company in Rochester. I was drawing, very loosely, on something I’d seen years before at a waterpark in Texas: a little girl apparently drowning in the fake waves, while her mother hopped up and down nearby, claiming that the little girl couldn’t swim (which was kind of obvious at that point) and that neither could she (i.e., the mother.) Which, of course, raised the issue of what the hell they were doing in the wave pool. This, obviously, isn't that story—but I tried to use some of that weird setting to tell what felt to me like a pretty traditional story: guy hits bottom. And then the additional element, stylistically, was a desire to be as minimal and, if I can say it this way, anti-normal as possible—I had got to a point in my development where I was so tired of trying to say things and do things (make plot, describe nature) in the expected ways. I felt a little like a rat in a maze at that time, artistically, and was trying to find a way out. So my answer was: bluntness. Or: don't worry about how it 'should' be said, or 'would normally' be said in a literary story—but rather, ask, what's the quickest way to say it?"
Leslie Scalapino received a Bachelor’s degree from Reed College and an M.A. in English from UC Berkeley. Her numerous collections of poetry include It’s go in horizontal: Selected Poems 1974-2006 (University of California Press, 2008); Zither & Autobiography (2003); The Tango (2001); New Time (1999); Sight (1999), a collaboration with Lyn Hejinian; way (1988), which was the recipient of the American Book Award; that they were at the beach (1985); Considering how exaggerated music is (1982); and O and Other Poems (1976). www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/leslie-scalapino
“I do see my writing as a critique,” she told Anne Brewster, “certainly, but also to go back to that point of finding a place and the action of being free in the writing. It is to be removed, from simply being articulated by custom and culture.… way is sound movements. I write poem series rather than individual poems. Sound movements of poem series (as also the sentences within the paragraphs in prose) are a way of looking at the large and the small, comparing them to each other. What's “private” or “interior” would be what's happening on the minute level, such as running — as opposed to making an analysis of history and one's connection to it. Yet they go together. Written movements are connection between the individual unit and a huge past and huge future. One's trying to find a way to analyze action; that is, what action is.” [ from “'We’re always at war': the Worlding of Writing/Reading, An Interview with Leslie Scalapino," How 2 Journal ]
Davis Schneiderman is a writer, multimedia artist, critic, and professor. His first short-story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji, was released in Fall 2019, and was preceded by his DEAD/BOOKS trilogy: the novel BLANK, the plagiarized novel [SIC], and the ink-smeared novel INK.; as well as the novel Drain, a cli-fi dystopia story from Northwestern University Press. He is currently working with University of Minnesota Press on a project about William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, and with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on Lake Forest College’s Humanities 2020 grant. He was a long-time contributor for The Huffington Post, and has interviewed (for that and other venues) Sherry Turkle, John Waters, Rebecca Makkai, Regina Taylor, and David Shields, and Aleksandar Hemon, among many others. He is currently the Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty and Professor of English at Lake Forest College, and he serves on the board of &NOW and on the Curatorial Committee for the Ragdale Foundation’s annual gala, A Novel Affair.
“Drone-Space Modulator” is a nine-minute film made in partnership with the drone firm AeroVista Innovations; the film documents Schneiderman, his wife, Kelly Haramis, and their family playing under the thermal shadow of two drones. The film examines the anxieties of the present moment where “drones” are the remote harbingers of distant bombing and devastation and also the stuff of $20 children’s toys. Made up of technologies ranging from simple batteries to more elaborate high-tech software, the drone is a complicated amalgamation machine that has captured our collective imagination in the 21st century. Both enemy and friend, it conjures up the lethal accuracy of military grade Predators and those quick-silver, toy-like cameras that captures breathtaking aerial shots.
The film was shot at Highland Park, Illinois’ Olsen Park, and is connected to the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibit Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, about groundbreaking Hungarian artist Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. The piece debuted at the 2016 Chicago Humanities Festival, where Schneiderman proposed a session on drones titled Drones R Us at Art Institute of Chicago. The session was held on November 6, 2016, with panelists Schneiderman, historian Maggie Taft, and artist Mahwish Chishty.
Schneiderman conceptualized the blocking of the two craft in relation to each other, along with the thermal elements and the title cards containing Moholy-Nagy quotations; this interplay becomes part of the through line tracing the kinetic sense of play and freedom embedded in the possibility of the craft—the joy of close flight—and the surveillance regime implanted into the technology. Schneiderman, Haramis, and their children are never in danger, despite the quickening thermal images that close the piece. Yet, they are in danger. We are in danger. And someone is watching. That last sentiment is a platitude. Obviously, our passwords are compromised. Of course, our civil liberties have been challenged. We know it. We accept it. We invite it into our yard, and after charging in our micro USB port, we watch it take flight above just our heads.
Lee Siegel, Professor of Indian Religions at the University of Hawaii, is a novelist and translator of Sanskrit poetry. He has written non-fiction books including studies of magic in India and comedy in Sanskrit literature. His novels include Love in a Dead Language, Love and Other Games of Chance, Love and the Incredibly Old Man, Who Wrote the Book of Love? and most recently, Trance-Migrations: Stories of India, Tales of Hypnosis.
Steven Ross Smith is a fictioneer, arts writer, print, and sound/performance poet. He has been writing since the 1970s and was a member of the legendary sound poetry group, Owen Sound. He has published over thirteen books, including a six-book continuum called Fluttertongue, the most recent being Emanations: Fluttertongue 6 (BookThug). fluttertongue 3: disarray won the 2005 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. Pliny’s Knickers, a collaboration between Smith, poet Hilary Clark, and artist Betsy Rosenwald, (JackPine Press) won the 2006 bpNichol Chapbook Award. Smith’s first fiction began to appear in periodicals in the 1980s, and the collection Ritual Murders, was published in 1983 (Turnstone Press.) “The Reader” is included in Lures (Mercury Press). Smith is also published in journals, and audio and video formats in Canada, USA, and abroad. He has served as Director of Sage Hill Writing Experience and Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre. He currently lives and writes in Banff and on Galiano Island, Canada. Find him at: fluttertongue.ca; stevenrosssmith.com; on Twitter @SonnyBoySmith.
I am always looking for new entries into poems or fictions—doors I’ve not gone through before—seeking new ways into poetic and narrative lines that are tangled, snagged. “The Reader” (from the fiction collection Lures) is part of a concept that began with my first published fiction in Ritual Murders (Turnstone Press), a collection of ten mysteries—‘who-done-what’ narratives. These were born of an intention not to go through the front door and straight into the house, but rather to find a hidden entrance, then trouble the architecture, a reaction to linearity and narrative comfort. They were cryptic, disjunctive, tight, and often visceral. Lures continues this concern, but broadens the concept in a search for other passageways. I seek, in my writing, to keep myself off-balance, to not repeat a method, a process, to not get bored. Invention, intervention, unintention interest me. I like to bend, confuse and disintegrate that which is most popularly straightened, clarified and constructed in general poetic and fictive practice—language, narrativity and meaning. “The Reader,” I think, exemplifies this.
Anna Joy Springer is a queer femme visual artist, performer, and cross-genre writer working with the sacred, perverse, hilarious and threatening. She is the author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love (Jaded Ibis), an illustrated fabulist memoir with soundscape, and The Birdwisher, A Murder Mystery for Very Old Young Adults (Birds of Lace). Her other work appears in far-flung print and online publications (ex: The Writer’s Chronicle; Encyclopedia; Nerve Lantern: Axon of Performance Literature; Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy; Pank, and The Volta), as well as on several records (Lookout!; Alternative Tentacles). An Associate Professor of Literature at UC San Diego, she teaches experimental writing, feminist literature & graphic texts. She’s played in punk and dyke punk bands Blatz, The Gr’ups, and Cypher in the Snow, touring the U.S. and Europe in these bands and with Sister Spit, a raucous feminist literary performance group. She is the winner of an Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (2010) and a recipient of UCSD Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award (2013).
The Metaforest chapters from my memoir The Vicious Red Relic, Love undermine trackable, unchanging rhetorical closure while still allowing the reader to experience a sense of beautiful boundedness within each figurative text. Each Metaforest presents a proliferating set of overlapping concepts,tangled and teeming. These chapters allow me to create a symphonic pause between narrative and visual chapters in the book. These symphonic pauses seem to happen “outside history,” in liminal or literary space-time. Other more "memoir-like" chapters unfold over the course of the book to present an argument about connections between selfhood, narrative convention, and cultural context. In those chapters, frequently date-marked, I foreground chronology and provide historical “evidence,” as I work through my story and theory. The Metaforests provide “breaks” from the progressive dialectal logic of both the idea that subjective choice and historical event precede consequence and lead to coherence of selfhood and the notion that projected consequence predetermines choice and event, thus positing a notion of purely contingent selfhood. Each of these notions has real-world consequences maintained by unequal cultural values assigned to things deemed subjects and things deemed objects. The Metaforests are overtly lovely, and therefore manipulative. They provide moments of pseudo-resolution-feeling while making conceptual resolution impossible. They dramatize the tense coexistence of verifiability/containment and simultaneous interpretability/discontinuity in late 20th century expansionist configurations of self as both consumer and capital.
Stephanie Strickland was born in Detroit. She earned a BA at Harvard University, an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, and an MS at Pratt Institute. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, published both in print, hybrid, electronic, interactive and digital form. Her works include Ringing the Changes (Counterpath Press, 2020), How the Universe is Made, Poems New & Selected (1985-2019) (Ahsahta Press, 2019), V: Wave Tercets / Losing L'una (SpringGun Press), Dragon Logic (Ahsahta Press), Zone : Zero (Ahsahta Press), V: WaveSon.nets / Losing L'una (Penguin Books), and True North (Univeristy of Notre Dame Press). Among her many electronic works are: Liberty Ring! (with Ian Hatcher, 2020), Hours of the Night (with M.D. Coverley, 2016), Vniverse, iPad Edition (with Ian Hatcher, 2015), and slippingglimpse (with Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo and Paul Ryan, 2007). Her poetry has been included in Best American Poetry 2013, while her collaborative work across print and multiple media is being collected by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book And Manuscript Library at Duke University. stephaniestrickland.com.
Writing for the electronic book review, Sarah Whitcomb Laiola says of Ringing the Changes: drawing on the practice of ringing church bells in complex, mathematical patterns, Ringing the Changes juxtaposes the names of Black men and women that evoke "the history of white supremacist, state-sanctioned violence against Black people in the United States. Each name listed here recalls a Black life that was violently ended by the system of racist logic that undergirds and conditions US culture." The poem was written at a time when images of state sanctioned killings of Black people like George Floyd and police attacking men and women protesting those killings circulated with those of "white protestors on the steps of government buildings around the country brandishing all manner of firearms and weaponry to demand the country reopen, despite the pandemic, while police stand idly by, restraining themselves from any kind of violent (re)action.... Ringing the Changes finds its power and poetics from systemically-designed, yet seemingly “random” juxtapositions of content. ...
"While Ringing the Changes is not explicitly a work of computational poetry that aims to dismantle racist logics and architectures, it is a work that uses computational architectures—another invisible and covert system of logic that structures our world—to evoke resonant, cultural patterns through seemingly random juxtaposition of texts. The textual data feeding this algorithm and surfacing, as poetry, according to mathematical patterns address a range of topics: reflections on art and media, histories of information and its categorization, lessons in computational logic and quantum physics, discussions of technologies and textiles, and narratives of storytelling and/as human movement. The poetry that emerges, then, is a deftly woven text/ile that brings together such disparate elements so that each might resonate beyond its own (con)textual limits."
Cole Swensen is the author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently On Walking On (Nightboat, 2017), Gave (Omnidawn, 2017), and Landscapes on a Train (Nightboat 2015), and a volume of critical essays. Her poetic collections turn around specific research projects, including ones on public parks, visual art, illuminated manuscripts, and ghosts. Her work has won the National Poetry Series, the Iowa Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, she is the co-editor of the 2009 Norton anthology American Hybrid and the founding editor of La Presse Poetry (www.lapressepoetry.com). She teaches at Brown University.
In an interview with Free Verse, Cole Swensen has cited Rosmarie Waldrop's first book, Against Language?, as an early influence, for its development of “ideas on the unsaid or more precisely, the unsayable. … I was also influenced by Wittgenstein and his relationship to the unsayable. While I don't think about it consciously, I'm always aware of the pressure of ‘what cannot be said’ and of the inevitable collision of sayable and the unsayable as a fruitful one. They come together and undo each other, somewhat like a shore—a lot of the water goes into the land, and a lot of the land dissolves and goes into the sea, so it's a constant exchange. In a sense the poet is a membrane between the sayable and the unsayable, through which some real aspect of each does and can pass. Perhaps we tend to think of the sayable and the unsayable as clear territories, as if there could be a boundary, no matter how squiggly between the two, but though I think of it spatially, I also think of the said as permeated constantly with the unsaid. https://english.chass.ncsu.edu/freeverse/Archives/Winter_2003/interviews/C_Swensen.html
llya Szilak is a writer, artist, and interactive storyteller. Shaped by her experiences as a physician, her richly collaborative artistic practice explores mortality, embodiment, identity and belief in a media inundated and increasingly virtual world. In addition to creating stories in new media, she currently practices medicine part-time at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in NYC. She is in the process of writing a book of vignettes based on her experience there which will feature drawings created in response to the stories created by a formerly incarcerated person.
Her longtime creative partner is Cyril Tsiboulski. Their first work Reconstructing Mayakovsky was selected for the second Electronic Literature Collection and was a jury pick for the Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo in 2010, and at Filmwinter in Stuttgart in 2011. The animation for the novel has been shown in eight film festivals around the world. Their second Queerskins was recognized by the Webby Awards in the category of NetArt in 2013 and was exhibited at the 5th Digital Storytelling Conference in Ankara, Turkey and at the Bibliotheque National in Paris. It is included in the third Electronic Literature Collection. Both works are frequently taught at the university level as important examples of experimental literature and narrative game. Szilak is the recipient of a BANFF digital narratives residency and is an Oculus Launchpad alumna. In 2018, she was chosen to participate in Ars Electronica’s Future Innovators Summit.
Cyril and Illya have received grants The Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation and The Tribeca Film Institute /MacArthur Foundation and The Peter S. Reed Foundation to make a VR experience based on Queerskins. The first episode, of four planned, premiered with a commissioned interactive installation at The Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018. It was awarded a Peabody Futures of Media Award in transmedia and The Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab’s Special Jury Prize for VR. It went on to commissioned site specific installations around the world, including The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The second episode Queerskins: ark was chosen for the Venice Biennale College VR lab and was co-produced by Intel Studios. It premiered at The Venice International Film Festival in 2020. A short 360 version of the dance was shown at XRCannes/Tribeca Immersive in June 2020. https://illyaszilak.com/.
Queerskins explores the nature of love and justice through the story of a young gay physician from a rural Midwestern Catholic family who dies of AIDS at the start of the epidemic. Queerskins’ interface consists of layers of sound, text, and image that users can navigate at random or experience as a series of multimedia collages. Images of the mythic and the everyday, the sacred and the profane, from banal vacation footage to vintage burlesque, interact rhizomatically with text and audio monologues to subvert preconceived notions of gender, sexuality, and morality.
Nick Thurston is a poet and non-fiction writer who makes artworks. His work is held in public and private collections internationally and he has published extensively. He teaches at the University of Leeds, was a 2014 Artist in Residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin) and a 2016 Visiting Research Fellow in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Since 2006 he has been co-editor of the publishing collective Information As Material, with whom he was 2011-12 Writer in Residence at the Whitechapel Gallery (London). In summer 2016 a second edition of his most recent book of poetry, Of the Subconctract, was released by Coach House Books (Toronto) and published in a Dutch-language edition using uncorrected Google Translations by Onomatopee (Eindhoven). His other books include Post-Digital Cultures of the Far Right: Online Activism and Offline Consequences (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2018), Somebody’s Got To Do It: Selected Writings by Pavel Büchler Since 1987 (London: Ridinghouse Books 2017), and Romantic Tragedy (Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2014). www.nickthurston.info.
Thurston writes: Of the Subcontract is both a present text and a document of an absent process. It works like an engineer’s black box, the transfer characteristics of which are opaque or even concealed, as opposed to the white box processing more characteristic of conceptual poetry before it, whereby a book’s conversion of inputs into outputs is transparent because the book explains its choreographer’s methodology. I can’t explain Of the Subcontract, and if I could I wouldn’t. Encountering it is like reversing a car against the supposed flow of life around you, back from the digital world of transactional relations into the actual world of ink and poetry books. The whole time you’re looking forwards into the rearview mirror, which is unavoidably surrounded by the blurred image of the out-of-focus windshield caught in your peripheral vision. The poems are the entirely real, but tightly-cropped and incredibly partial, image of what’s behind-in-front of you as that image is reflected and framed in the rearview mirror.
The encounter described above metaphorically is made even more complicated by the false real-time of the book, of all ink and paper books. Each of the 100 poems is some kind of performance. I paid workers on Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk labor-pooling service between 0.01c and $1 for the poems and in the book they are ordered according to cost of production rather than any kind of thematic affinity or expressive style. The writing of every poem was delegated through an act of choreography on my part and sold as a product of "artificial artificial intelligence" on the Turker’s part, as the platform's strapline bills its workforce. These seventy-four ghostwriters or voice synthesisers sold me what they thought I wanted (them) to say. Each poem is like an on-demand product customized with my name in perfect type, formed from a database of options whose compatibility is subject to variables of input. As a whole, the book is like a 3D-printed mass object transposed through lithography into the mirror image of a conventional collection of poems—poems that are gathered like advertisements in my browser window, which know my web-mediated self before I do.
Cyril Tsiboulski is a design technologist, partner and director of Cloudred. He loves VR, dogs, trains, planes, and automobiles. He also teaches in the Digital Communications and Media program at New York University. He collaborated with Illya Szilak to create Queerskins, which is included in this anthology
Daria Tsoupikova is an Associate Professor in the School of Design and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research and artwork include development of virtual reality (VR) art projects and networked multi-user exhibitions for VR projection systems, such as the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment theatre (CAVE), as well as the design of interactive educational multimedia for children. Her VR research, publications and artwork explore the relationship between the aesthetics of virtual environments, traditional arts, and the effect of VR aesthetics on the user’s perceptions and emotions. Her work lies at the crossroads of artistic and technological innovation, and explores the potential of new media and interactivity in relation to traditional arts. Her current works are applications of computer graphics art to various research domains such as educational multimedia, cultural heritage and virtual rehabilitation for stroke survivors. Her work was exhibited and published at ACM SIGGRAPH, IEEE VR, ISEA and many other venues. (See Scott Rettberg for statement on Hearts and Minds.)
Lynne Tillman’s novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; No Lease on Life (Finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award); American Genius, A Comedy (cited by The Millions as "one of the best books of the millennium so far”). She has recently finished her sixth novel, Men and Apparitions. Her story collections are: Absence Makes the Heart; The Madame Realism Complex; This is Not It; Someday This Will Be Funny; and The Complete Madame Realism and Other Stories. Tillman’s books of nonfiction are: The Broad Picture (essays); The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965-67 (with Stephen Shore’s Factory photographs); Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.; and What Would Lynne Tillman Do? (essays, Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism). Tillman’s essays and stories appear regularly in artists’ books and museum catalogues, including ones on Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Roni Horn, and Joan Jonas. She has written for The New York Times Book Review; Artforum, Bookforum, Aperture, and other publications. Tillman also writes a bi-monthly column, “In These Intemperate Times,” for Frieze art magazine.
I've read just a few sci fi books, so I had no writing models to follow. A stranger in a strange whatever. I had to figure out what I could do with that idea, sci fi, but in any case I write believing that so-called reality is part fantasy or fantastic. In writing "Future Prosthetic@?" my interest and fun was to "invent" or come up with a future language that would carry future attitudes.
Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the story collection Minor Robberies (McSweeney’s), the novel Vacation (McSweeney’s), and the memoir Revolution (Holt). Her work has appeared in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, The Believer, NOON, and the Boston Review. She has received two Pushcart Prizes, the Cabell First Novelist Award, and a Creative Capital grant for Innovative Literature. She teaches at the University of Texas as Austin. https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/english/faculty/du879
The longer I lived, the shorter the stories I was writing became. I began to feel as if there might even be a mysterious but direct correlation between the amount of time I had left on the Earth and the length of the pieces I was churning out, which were becoming increasingly alarmingly small. The stories were growing so small, in fact, that it seemed as if I could sum up entire genres in just a few words and then not bother with them anymore. All protagonists could be boiled down to a single gesture, all subplots hung onto the narrative like a flappy rhyme-y napkin of words, whole books could be written in a sentence, settings were better suggested than described. I slung them together, all these crystallized pieces, the left-over bones, thinking, “This is it, I can get no smaller,” thinking, “Ah, well, my life has been brief but at least I have these books to show for it,” and see this? I lived on.
Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan and grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. He lives in Vancouver. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has received numerous literary awards. He was Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate 2011-2013 and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. His books include Sentenced to Light, his collaborations with visual artists, is a door, a series of poems about hybridity, and a selected, The False Laws of Narrative, edited by Louis Cabri. A collaboration, High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem, is available online (http://highmuckamuck.ca/). His current writing project involves the Columbia River. Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991 was published by Talonbooks in the fall of 2015. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/fred-wah
My poems in this anthology reflect my interest in using poetry as a measure of “the local.” As someone who came to poetry in the 1960’s, trained in music, and having grown up in the mountainous geography of the Kootenays in southeastern British Columbia, these poems are an attempt to register what I later came to call “music at the heart of thinking.” The literal experience with “where” becomes, through language, juxtaposed with physical, musical, and imaginative possibilities. Using poetry as a way to engage “place” raises questions of naming (“akokli (goat) creek”), ecology (“Hamill’s Last Stand,” written as a protest against clear-cut logging), the relationship of the body and labor to the geography (“Chain,” a term used in timber surveying), and the interface between language, place, and person (“The Poem Called Syntax” and “(sentenced)” ). Around the time these poems were written I wrote the following “rationale” that, perhaps, usefully locates this poetic sensibility.
Writing would have a lot to do with "place," the spiritual and spatial localities of the writer. I see things from where I am, my view point, and I measure and imagine a world from there. Who I am [has a lot to do with where I am. Oaxaca, Vancouver, the Kootenay River a thousand years ago or today, my father's father's birthplace, become "local" to me and compound to make up a picture of a world I am native of. Writing sometimes remembers this image, and sometimes it has to make it up. Malcolm Lowry thinks of himself as "a great explorer who has discovered some extraordinary land ... but the name of the land is hell ... It is not Mexico of course but in the heart" (42). Writers are wonderers. And wanderers. The American poet Ed Dorn reminds us that the stranger in town is interesting because he at least knows where he has come from and where he is going. Writing is sometimes useful that way, not so much with news of the world out there but as some measure of an “insidedness” we carry with us and renovate during our lives.
Out there, of course, is only meaningful in its correspondence to (an arduously and palpably constructed) in here. I've lived in the "interior" of British Columbia and such a qualification affects my particular sense of what the world (out there) looks like. We go "down" to the coast, which is the exterior, the outside, the city. The spaces between here and there are part of a vast similarity. The towns become predictable (thus memorably comfortable) in their activities and appearances. Castlegar and Prince George, though specifically themselves, share certain aspects of distance, colour and taste. One feels at home nearly anywhere there are rivers, pulp mills, trucks, the mysterious gravel roads further inward, and similar "local" inhabitants. Down and out there the exterior becomes more. The city leads to other cities and countries. But all of it, out there, is measured from in here. In the particularity of a place the writer finds revealed the correspondences of a whole world. And then, of course, the surprising and unexpected holes in that world.
David Foster Wallace is best known for his second novel, Infinite Jest. He is also the author of the novels The Broom of the System, and the posthumously published The Pale King. His short fiction has been collected in Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Oblivion: Stories. A prolific essayist as well, his collections of nonfiction include This Is Water, Both Flesh and Not, and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never So Again. Widely recognized as one of the most influential authors of the nineties, the dense textures of his prose, rigor of thought, and humor drew comparisons to writers like Thomas Pynchon and Robert Coover.
Speaking with Larry McCaffery, he said, “I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. …. But now realize that TV and popular film and most kinds of ‘low’ art—which just means art whose primary aim is to make money—is lucrative precisely because it recognizes that audiences prefer 100 percent pleasure to the reality that tends to be 49 percent pleasure and 51 percent pain. Whereas ‘serious’ art, which is not primarily about getting money out of you, is more apt to make you uncomfortable, or to force you to work hard to access its pleasures, the same way that in real life true pleasure is usually a by-product of hard work and discomfort. So it’s hard for an art audience, especially a young one that’s been raised to expect art to be 100 percent pleasurable and to make that pleasure effortless, to read and appreciate serious fiction. That’s not good. The problem isn’t that today’s readership is ‘dumb,’ I don’t think. Just that TV and the commercial-art culture’s trained it to be sort of lazy and childish in its expectations. But it makes trying to engage today’s readers both imaginatively and intellectually unprecedentedly hard. [ from "A Conversation with David Foster Wallace" by Larry McCaffery in The Review of Contemporary Fiction ]
Joshua Marie Wilkinson was born and raised in Seattle and currently lives in Tucson, where he teaches at the University of Arizona. He is the author of several books of poetry, including Meadow Slasher (Black Ocean 2017) and The Courier’s Archive & Hymnal (Sidebrow Books 2014). He has edited five anthologies of poetry, conversation, and essays, and, with Solan Jensen, he directed Made a Machine by Describing the Landscape (IndiePix). With Lisa Wells, he directs Letter Machine Editions, a small publisher of prose and poetry. He is also the founding editor of the poetry and poetics site The Volta. A novel, Trouble Finds You, is forthcoming in 2022. www.joshuamariewilkinson.com
Meadow Slasher is a book-length work of poetry, and—as a whole—is the fourth book in a five-book sequence I’ve been working since 2006 called the No Volta pentalogy. What’s excerpted here comprises the opening pages of the book. The sequence as a whole began with a tight, lyrical book (Selenography), which utilized oblique narrative and characters in a minimal style set against Polaroids by Tim Rutili. Books 2 and 3 expanded the tropes, landscapes, and voices of Selenography–albeit in a messier, talkier mode (in Swamp Isthmus) and then in a skeining, more gothic and hypotactic prose (in The Courier’s Archive & Hymnal). All this is to say that when I began writing book 4, I was in the midst of a break down. I was living in Chicago at the time and split from the person I had been with for three years. I began to write through what I would have otherwise arrived at later, from a more comfortable or safer distance. But this was not a normal time. In fact, I was coming apart; what I needed was another compositional practice to steady me, even to locate me. Not that I knew it then. I don’t write from a place of answers; I write into new questions. Only with Meadow Slasher, much more so. Andrew Marvell’s extraordinary Mower Poems helped guide me, and I obsessed over the violence in Leadbelly’s own life versus the beauty and gravity of his songs. I wrote the bulk of the manuscript—a single, long poem featuring 11 lines per page—between Chicago and Seattle that summer and fall, and charted a spectrum of feelings that were previously unavailable to me in my writing, namely shame, dread, rage, perplexity, humiliation, and loss—but also vindictiveness and taunting invective juxtaposing playfulness and exuberance, right alongside curiosity and unknowing—and so on. (Catullus helped.) To my mind, the result is an eerie dialogic, and it presented me with an absolute split from anything I’d written before. How to follow Meadow Slasher remains yet a compelling question.
YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES is yhchang.com. Based in Seoul, YHCHI has done their signature animated texts set to their own music in 26 languages and shown many of them at some of the major art institutions in the world, including Tate, London, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Whitney Museum and New Museum, New York. Young-hae Chang (KR) and Marc Voge (US), the two principals of YHCHI, were Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Creative Arts Fellows.
See ARTIST'S STATEMENT N0. 45,730,944: THE PERFECT ARTISTIC WEB SITE < http://www.yhchang.com/PERFECT_ARTISTIC_WEB_SITE.html>
Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children, winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award's Ken Kesey Award for Fiction as well as the Reader's Choice Award, the novel Dora: A Headcase, and a critical book on war and narrative, Allegories Of Violence (Routledge). Her widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water was a finalist for a PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and winner of a PNBA Award and the Oregon Book Award Reader's Choice. A book based on her recent TED Talk, The Misfit's Manifesto, was recently published. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared widely, in magazines such as The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, and anthologies such as Forms at War. https://lidiayuknavitch.net.
The Chronology of Water tracks corporeal experience as it relates to memory, loss, and psychosexual identity. As I went to tell the story of the death of my daughter, I noticed that linear narrative and the conventions of fiction were in my way. Abusive of the story, even. The experience had to be rendered as it happened to my body--in fragments, retinal flashes, quantum images that came and went, formed and deformed, repeated and receded. Luckily language has no allegiance to the forms we bind her with, and the story emerged in bodily pieces, true to my experience. I am looking for ways to let the reader "inhabit" the intimate space between language and the body. I am looking to reinvent reading in terms of a woman's body.