Of A Monstrous Anthology

At AWP I spent 99% of my time at the Artistically Declined Press table at the bookfair. Two tables down from me was the Lost Horse Press table. Lost Horse is one of my favorite presses. Their books are beautiful and they have published some of my favorite people and poets. Anyway, I became friendly, as one does at the bookfair, with my neighbors, including the guy manning LHP’s table. Turns out he co-edited an anthology just released from LHP and as friendly neighbors do, I picked up a copy. To be honest I didn’t know too much about it, it looked nice and was thick (and as heavy) as a brick. Turns out, it’s one of the most intriguing anthologies I’ve picked up in some time.

It’s called Of A Monstrous Child and is an “anthology of creative writing relationships.” The idea behind it is that a mentor and a student-turned-peer are paired up. They introduce one another and a story or some poems. It’s a fresh take on the anthology, one that goes beyond the work into the making of the work through the influence, study, and companionship that runs at the depths of this trade. A few of the writers who show up here are Zachary Schomburg, Robert Wrigley, Ryan Boudinot, Rick Moody, Amy Hempel, and Brian Evenson.

To be honest, traditional anthologies start to bore me at a certain point. I’ve had some ideas for non-traditional anthologies myself, and maybe one day will be fortunate enough to see one realized. When it comes to Monstrous Child, brain-baby of Nate Liederbach (the fellow I met at AWP) and his former student, James Harris it’s too soon for me to tell exactly what the effect of the anthology’s format will be as a whole, after all, I’m only a fourth of the way into it. But I like the ambition, I like the portrait of mentor relationships, a bond dear to writers. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything about this anthology in the way of a review or a blog post. Anything. I’m sure somewhere there has been, but it seems right up the alley of so many writers I know and interact with. I hope this post will help people find the book. You can learn more about it HERE.

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10 thoughts on “Of A Monstrous Anthology

  1. Thanks for this post, Ryan. I really admire the openness and honesty with which you wrote it.

    I have a question:

    The idea behind it is that a mentor and a student-turned-peer are paired up. They introduce one another and a story or some poems.

    Does this mean basically that the mentor and student essentially wrote the introductions for one another? Did this concept extend beyond that? For instance, did they help choose the other’s work?

    Thanks!
    Adam

    • Yes, every pair seems to have a different style of introducing one another as well. The pairing I’m in the midst of now used a sort of epistolary format for theirs.

      I’m not 100% sure how the work was chosen, because not all the introductions address that, but at least one set openly discussed that they asked one another for specific pieces, so my assumption is they at least had some input into what was chosen for inclusion.

      • Thanks! I like the idea of them choosing one another’s works, rather than an outside editor doing that. That seems to me a different way, and a very nice way, to build an anthology—had never thought of that before.

        • Yeah, it’s definitely a different take on the anthology. I wish more of these would pop up. I like the idea of different takes on “anthology” there’s so much room to play with that form of book.

  2. Thanks Ryan. I guess it’s hard for me to get a handle on what is going on in the anthology. The stories weren’t written for it? The stories are about creative writing relationships or are they about anything at all? Did the mentors edit the students stories, as in ‘workshop’ them?

    • The stuff in the anthology has been published previously. Stories, poems, essays. They are all introduced by the either the mentor (introducing the student-turned-peer) or vice versa. From those who discuss it they seem to have suggested a particular story they enjoyed or that exemplifies something they discuss in the introduction.

  3. I don’t own the anthology, but here’s what Zachary Schomburg says of his own essay in it if that will help clarify for anyone maybe what’s going on in the book:

    “I wrote an essay on the poetry of Grace Bauer, my Ph.D. advisor and committee chair at the University of Nebraska, which was just published in Of a Monstrous Child (Lost Horse Press 2011) edited by Nate Liederbach and James Harris. It focuses, in part, on the relationship we developed as mentor and mentee despite the differences in vision for our own poems.”

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