Why Write?

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WHY WRITE?

At a recent event I hosted, I asked the assembled writers this question. Besides the “practical ordering of my reality” type of answer, there were also some surprises: one woman had been a classical singer, but failed, and needed to embark on something else having to do with language. One man said, I write to talk about what I read—equally unassuming. I began to think that it would be much more stimulating to know why certain writers wrote than to engage with anything they had written, especially fiction or poetry—two ultimate forms needing years of practice. It’s debatable who said, “Everyone has a book in them…” but the second clause of that sentence, as uttered by Christopher Hitchens, is as concretely dismissive of the first: “…but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.” Who would have thought there were so many writers, that oodles would have the calling—many thanks to the internet? Now there is no barrier to that fusty adage, but it might be better to say, Everyone has some opinions in them. Continue reading

On Robert Lopez’s All Back Full

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Robert Lopez’s darkly comical collections and novels are full of bizarre, dissolute isolatos moving in and out of desultory relationships, talkative heads navigating through absurd situations, bleak states of mind and being, the mud and murk of day-to-day doldrums. All Back Full (Dzanc Books), Lopez’s fifth book, offers three such characters: a husband and wife and the man’s friend, who aren’t having it, who’ve had it with each other, each one talking to each other, talking at each other, around each other, as if the addressee weren’t there, as if they, the addresser, weren’t there, the “there” sometimes not there either, the “there” that’s sometimes there for the most part a nondescript kitchen in a “toxic” house.

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Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2017!

We must not allow anyone to rob of us of our joy and wonder. With this in mind, I offer books from small presses being published in 2017 that I’m very much looking forward to.

Following my own list are lists by many great writers, including Kate Angus, Nathaniel Baldwin, Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Annie DeWitt, Claire Donato, Brian Evenson, Jared Daniel Fagen, Christopher Higgs, Tim Horvath, Janice Lee, Michael Leong, William Lessard, Joe Milazzo, Natanya Ann Pulley, Dawn Raffel, Sejal Shah, Amber Sparks, Terese Svoboda, Robert Vaughan, Angela Woodward, and James Yeh.

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Remarks on the Beasts: On Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals

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Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals (Subito Press) is a startling book, an unleashing of all-too-human humans and other monsters within wildly conceived spaces. While echoing Ben Marcus’s absurdist eviscerations of the nuclear family, George Saunders’s satirical takedowns of post-industrial society, and Brian Evenson’s bleak mind- and landscapes, Potter’s prose is its own animal.

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Some Hopes Against Expectation

My greatest hope is that the new year will bring us, against all signs to the contrary, a less violent United States of America government, which is still very much, as Dr. MLK, Jr. said, the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

May we see a continuing awakening, a fermenting of authentic revolutionary thinking, which opposes the two-party oligarchy, the plutocratic machinery controlling politics, the government’s mass surveillance of everyone, the corporatization of seemingly everything, and all other obstacles to democracy and freedom.

May we see, that is, bring about, by whatever peaceable means available, a ceasing of the violent physical, economic, and psychological assault on, in no particular order, people of color; on immigrants, whether documented or otherwise; on women, generally; on LGBTQ communities; on indigenous people; on people with disabilities; on poor people; on sick people; on older adults; on Muslims, etc.

May we see a ceasing of this country’s assault on the environment; a ceasing of this government’s never-ending wars, which have resulted in countless civilian deaths, displacement, and other catastrophes, and have made this country far less safe.

May we see more artists engagingly confront all oppressive paradigms, not only trespass genre borders but dissolve them, discover new ways of thinking about old things, transform everything one word, sound, movement, image, color, etc. at a time.

Connecting Dots in Between the Lines: On Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E.

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A masterfully collaged prose object, Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E. (Outpost19) defies categorization, privileging fusion and hybridity while also openly displaying its parts: essayings on the mind, on identity, on falling, on death, on marriage; obsessively scrutinous, seemingly frame-by-frame analyses of a classic psychological thriller; self-reflexive reveries on writing and, especially, not writing; deconstructions of patriarchy in the form of control of and/or violence against women, whether physical, emotional, psychological, etc. Like Alfred Hitchcock, one of this book’s many subject-characters/character-subjects, Blackwell “leaves holes” in his art, that is, in Madeleine E., a text with hundreds of ellipses, a constellation of dots pocking pages, signaling absences, voids, pauses, where multiple possible readings, connections of dots, as it were, can take place.

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Barzakh: Call for Submissions

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Collage by Alice Notley. From Barzakh Issue 1 (Spring 2009)

I’m the faculty adviser for the online magazine Barzakh, which recently announced a new call for submissions for their upcoming issue.

Barzakh Magazine is open for submissions from Nov. 15, 2016 through 11:59 p.m. EST on Feb. 15, 2017.

We define ourselves as an “isthmus,” a space of crossings and connectivity, between histories, articulations, and media—making of these frontiers a site of inquiry and revitalization. We want your fiction, poetry, criticism, personal essay, translation*, drawings, photographs—you name it—that pushes against complacent taxonomies and finds itself forging new paths.

Guidelines: All submissions must be submitted to barzakhmagazine@gmail.com. Each genre must be submitted individually. Submit no more than 5 poems, up to 5,000 words of prose, or 5 images. Each submission must be one attached file. We accept submissions in .doc, .docx, .rtf, .pdf, .jpeg, and .mp3 formats. For video submissions, please send a link to an uploaded file, rather than an attachment. The subject line of your email should read “SUBMISSION: [GENRE]: [AUTHOR LAST NAME]” (For example, “SUBMISSION: POETRY: DICKINSON”)

As an interdisciplinary journal with an internationalist stance, Barzakh is looking for critical and creative works that pry wide the liminal spaces between aesthetic modes and fields, between tongues, and between histories. We seek especially works that actively engage with global and local crises and the acts of resistance/pushback that have galvanized in response to them, including, but not limited to:

* Fallout from the 2016 U.S. presidential election

* Violence and conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, and across the world

* The water protection movement at Standing Rock

* Race, police brutality, and protest in the era of Black Lives Matter

* Social media as protest and propaganda

* Pledges of Allegiance

* Border walls

* Speaking out against sexual harassment and assault

* Safe spaces

* Politics of identity

Our past issues have featured the works of Nathaniel Mackey, Bernadette Mayer, Vernon Frazer, Edwin Torres, Jena Osman, and Lydia Davis.

The issue will launch in late March of 2017, in correspondence with the 15th Annual UAlbany EGSO Conference: The Badass, featuring acclaimed poet, essayist, and critic Rigoberto González.

*Translations should be accompanied by source text in original language, and written confirmation that you have English translation rights to the piece.

Contributors’ Rights: By submitting work, contributors permit Barzakh Magazine to publish it on our website, and Barzakh retains first serial rights in our digital issue. Copyright reverts to original author immediately upon publication. Barzakh Magazine retains the right to remove your work from our publication without prior notice.