A few days ago I received my contributor’s copy of And/Or, Volume 2 of the perfect-bound indie journal dedicated to experimental writing and graphic art. I have to admire a magazine that embraces the word “experimental” in its description—I’ve never had a problem with that word, not least because it shares a Latin root with “peril.” And what’s not to love about perilous poetry?
I hope there will be many more issues of And/Or—it’s beautifully produced and edited and it has a focused mission. Its 144 pages feature poetry, prose, and visual art, plus work in the aptly-named category “and/or”: hybrids that don’t neatly fit the usual slots. Contributors come from places as diverse as Sugar Tit, South Carolina (yes, the author may be punking us, but such a hamlet actually exists), and a more believable “old house in Kolkata, India.”
I read magazines for some of the same reasons I read anthologies—I’m likely to encounter the work of people I know and admire, but there’s also the excitement of discovering voices previously unknown to me. My copy of And/Or is already marked up with checks next to the names of writers whose books I’d like to follow up with in the future. And—not incidentally—creating a palimpsest of the page with your own pencil is one of the joys of print journals.
A poetic salute (however you want to envision that) to Editor-in-Chief Damian Ward Hey, Managing Editor Mike Russo, and the other editors. The admirably indecisive And/Or can be ordered here.
Below are a couple of samples that snagged my attention. I deliberately chose younger writers whose work I’d never read. First, an excerpt from Kelley Irmen’s short prose sequence, “This Is Not Voyeurism.” The whole sequence is worth the price of admission.
Second, a work by Joshua Ware classified in that undefinable “and/or” rubric. A short poem is followed by absurdly pedantic exegesis and nested footnotes. It’s tongue-in-cheek tone and process reminds me a little of Gass’s Willie Master’s Lonesome Wife, or Nabokov’s Pale Fire, in miniature.
Lastly, a painting by the inimitable Bunny Mazhari, who was kind enough to send me a jpeg of the work to share on Rogue Embryo.
Oodles more great stuff have found a home in this issue, including poetry by Dawn Pendergast, Christophe Casamassima, and Donna Kuhn; and art by Danielle Tunstall. And much more.
Kelley Irmen, from “This Is Not Voyeurism”
His boots are unlaced and he says, “You have to write this in fragments. Fuck a beginning. There’s no beginning. Fuck their middle—because there’s no middle, we’re in the middle; you can’t catch it while it’s happening. And fuck, fuck the ending because there won’t be an ending either. These are scenes. We come here to eat, to bullshit with you and a few other people. These are scenes. And you writing about Eddie and how he shot the moon out of the sky at five in the morning—that’s a scene that won’t mean shit to anyone but the person who saw it fall out of the sky, you know what I mean?”
Joshua Ware, “cities, / thought becomes”
empty into assembly
words fade in
The above poem attempts to undermine rational thought through a series of clever interactions between form and content. Such tactics are problematic, in that “cleverness is becoming stupidity,” and moreover, “clever people have always made it easy for barbarians, because they are so stupid*.”
Given this fact of cleverness, it may be of more interest to discuss an aesthetic concern unrelated to the above poem**. The EXPLANATORY NOTE for “Moonrise Paints a Lady’s Portrait” states that “poetry is the act of metamorphosing disparate images.” While certainly correct, this is but one aspect of poetry***. Poetry can also be thought of as sensation, or that which has “one fact turned toward the subject, and one fact turned toward the object. Or rather, it has no face at all, it is both things indissolubly . . . at one and the same time I becomes sensation and something happens through sensation, one through the other, one in the other (Deleuze, Francis Bacon 25).” Sensation, in other words, is the process of becoming faceless****; to this extent, sensation is not the subject nor the object, but the movement that takes place between the subject and the object: a transitive state: a verb that creates ephemeral and conditional nouns as effects of its action in highly specific contexts. Poetry, stated differently, is the movement of the subject (i.e. the poets as writers or readers) through and within the object (i.e. the text, whether materially, linguistically, or conceptually) that perpetually alters them both. As such, one may claim that “sensation is realized in the material,” while the material, concomitantly, “passes into sensation (Deleuze and Gauttari, What is Philosophy? 193).” If and when the movement ceases, both the subject and the object territorialize into rigid loci of the State; there is no longer poetry, but something else (e.g. stagnated nouns, information, communication, order words, commodities, exchangeable goods, etc.).
“While the poets agree that there is a certain amount of cleverness in the above poem, they do not necessarily agree with the EXPLANATORY NOTE’s assessment of cleverness, nor do they believe that it is the poem’s overriding concern.
**The poets do not believe that the aforementioned “aesthetic concern” is unrelated to the above poem. In fact, they are of the impression that it is very much related.
***Poetry, indeed, should be considered a multiplicity if one has any chance of understanding it, or better stated, moving comfortably through and within it.
****Foucault once wrote: “I am . . . not the only one who writes to have no face (Archaeology of Knowledge,19).”
Bunny Mazhari, Francis Bacon