Decades after Women’s Lib and Stonewall, in the time of queer theory, gurlesque and “girls gone wild,” there are still aspects of women and transgender people’s sexuality that are taboo or discounted (the sexuality of older women and women with disabilities, for example, or a joyful transgender sexual self). We are looking for poems, prose, and multimedia/interactive art that address these topics.
This is a call for bold, honest investigations of the sexual female/trans self that polite society has yet to fully embrace.
We particularly encourage submissions from women of color, older women, queer women, women with disabilities, and transgender/two-spirit/intersex/gender nonconforming folks.
Please submit through our online submissions manager. Submission accepted May 15 – September 15, 2010
*By “women” we include both cisgender and transgender women, and by “transgender people” we include both transmen and transwomen as well as genderqueer and gendernonconforming people. We reject the gender binary, acknowledge that people have multiple ways of identifying their gender, and seek to be fully inclusive of all women-identified and trans-identified people in this call.
by Jerry Williams
Hello, Drunken Boaters. I would like to introduce Sommer Browning.
See? Sommer Browning.
She was born on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in Venice Beach and has lived in Virginia, Arizona, and Brooklyn. She’s the author of three poetry chapbooks: Vale Tudo, The House, and (with Brandon Shimoda) The Bowling. Her comics have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Foghorn Magazine, The Stranger, past simple, H_NGM_N and Octopus. She has an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona and a Master’s in Library Science. She makes books for Flying Guillotine Press with Tony Mancus and works in a fort as a librarian at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. She personally knows Jack Shit.
Click each comic for a larger size. If you dare.
I know you have worked in several different media, but when did you first start doing comics and why?
Oh, maybe in 1999. I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and the first comic I drew was one about parents who videotaped their child’s conception rather than her birth. A much more fun video, I’d imagine. By the way, I never once got grossed out about seeing my parents doing the jive. I was getting into underground comics, classics like The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and R. Crumb and also Veitch’s Rare Bit Fiends and Spiegelman’s and Mouly’s RAW—I always flipped over MAD Magazine, too. I love raunchy wit and I thought of one-liners from time to time. I can’t draw worth a fuck, so gag strips made sense. There was also a great humor magazine in Richmond at that time called Punchline and they encouraged my deviancy by publishing my first comics.
Could you describe your comic-making process?
Do you mean, “May you describe your comic-making process?”
I usually wear a hat, the same hat I wear to write poems. I always wear a hat during these processes. If I didn’t have a hat around I may very well tape a book to the top of my head. This is how integral hats are to my life as an artist. A very drunk Keifer Sutherland complimented my hat the other night at Fanelli’s. Then he told me to “Give ‘em hell.” I’m very rebellious and don’t take advice often, but I’m making an exception in this case.
Your series of “Like Story” comics, one of which appeared in DB, all involved relationships—specifically the problem of communication. Why does this theme interest you?
My inability to communicate well has destroyed my life over three thousand times. It’s made my mother cry, landed me in jail in urine soaked jeans, allowed me to fall in love with a street preacher, and given me walking pneumonia, among other diseases. However, recently, I communicated very well and got hitched (that’s married, for you Canadians out there) to an amazing and burly poet. So it’s very confusing. I’m thinking about Waldo Jeffers right now. How he mailed himself in a box, a box sealed shut and virtually open proof, to surprise his girlfriend in the next state over. She, frustrated with wrangling with it, plunges a sheet metal cutter through the dang thing and beheaded Waldo. Lou Reed wrote that for an English class and I hope he got a C-.
How do you make it seem like you can draw really well?
I only let the blind read my comics.
Why did you decide to put a pylon and a penis together in a comic, and in another, a pair of breasts and a telephone? Is this surrealistic or symbolic or both?
I told my mother about this question and she answered it as tangentially as anyone could. Toni Browning on penises and traffic cones: “On occasion they’re both orange, aren’t they? I can’t think because I haven’t seen a penis in a coon’s age.”
I actually have seen a penis recently and she’s right; on occasion, they’re orange. I don’t think my putting these objects together is in any way symbolic, unless by symbolic you mean easy to draw.
What is your least favorite sound?
I hate fighting. I hate angry yelling. My most favorite sound is the band Yes—also the sound of crying men.
I really love your comics but when I look at them I never laugh out loud. Is there something wrong with me?
There is more than one thing wrong with you. Perhaps your mouth doesn’t open?
Douché. Also, a portmanteau combining “douche” and “touché.”
When you did the birth to beer bong comic, did you realize it works well as a palindrome or do you think that idea came about later via someone else’s interpretation? Is this a disjunctively ambiguous reading of the piece?
I did know that I was telling a normal type story backwards, but I didn’t say “palindrome” in my head. I know the way babies are usually made is by getting shit-faced and sleeping with a dude, but in my case, since I haven’t given birth to anything alive yet, it was more autobiographical to draw it this way. I thought it was poignant to bring out the most important parts of a woman’s life: getting born and doing a beer bong.
What is your favorite non-sexual fantasy?
As I have been thinking about sex nonstop for thirty-four years, this is impossible to answer. But I’ll try.
I sometimes fantasize about inventing the very first video game involving muscular unicorns. It would be a kind of Mr. Universe contest for unicorns. The doing steroids part would be like Root Beer Tapper and the greasing up part would be more like Joust, like flying around on a chicken and greasing up unicorns. I think lots of young people would fall in love with me because I invented this game. But you said minus the sex, so remove that last sentence.
“Famous People Series: Scientists” is wonderful, but it gives me a headache. Why do you think that is?
Well, because it’s a puzzle and puzzles are the worst. I hate Scrabble, Boggle, reading, pretty much all puzzles. I’m sorry for your headache.
Sorry, folks, I tried to ask her what it means, but no enchilada.
If we lived in a repressive, humorless police state and you got arrested and imprisoned for your work and an execution was scheduled, what would your last words be?
There you go. Mental fortification from none other than Sommer Browning.
Drunken Boat premiered this film in the Panliterary Video award back in 2007 — we’re so excited to announce that the video project of which it’s a part, Carrizo Diaries, is featured on the cover and in the general feature article of LEONARDO, April 2010 from MIT Press.
The at-depth sound recordings of the first 4 minutes 22 seconds of a recent California earthquake at Parkfield (2004). Quake sounds replace speech. “Silky” denotes a second skin as if one’s body becomes the quake. Animations from VRML clips of geomorphologic changes during the quake. VRML courtesy of Dr. Ramon Arrowsmith, Arizona State University. Audio files are mixed from the vertical component of velocity as observed at a depth of 3465 feet, using a 15 kHz geophone. They interpret the first 4. 22 of the September 28, 2004 M 6.0 Parkfield Earthquake observed inside Earthscope’s SAFOD (San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth), at Parkfield, California.
Applause to Sarah Clark, Drunken Boat‘s intrepid Assistant Managing Editor, for resurrecting my adolescence. Her recent blog entry might have single-handedly bulldozed all previous and future Drunken Boat blog entries as the best there ever was. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and with my hand curled into a hungry fist, I willingly offer my veins.
When I become defensive about traditional art and media, my first instinct is to say that, “back then”, we weren’t having these kinds of conversations. The landscape wasn’t being altered. I had a happy-go-lucky upbringing filled with books, magazines, newspapers, and art was still a thing that you had to go to a museum to see. But if nostalgia is truly a powerful drug, then its hallucinatory effects do a superb job of distorting reality, because the truth is that some form of art and media has always been endangered. In the 1950s, widely regarded as television’s “golden age”, the previous generation of the day lamented the death of radio and even film. But as director James Cameron demonstrated back in December, movies are alive and well. As for radio, though it exists in drastically limited capacity, its followers are devout, and so far there are no signs that the FCC will cease acknowledging its merit.
Fast forward from TV’s golden age. In the early 1990s, America Online is on the rise at the same time as old internet protocols like IRC and BBS are enjoying what would soon become the last days of their dominance. In 1995, by way of aggressive marketing (3.5-inch diskettes, anyone?) America Online has all but put the country online in such a way that they don’t even need to state the obvious anymore, so instead, they become known simply as AOL. Toward the end of the 20th century’s last decade, Napster would change the face of music and leave everyone wondering about the fate of compact discs and album cover art.
Now, here we are again, our world rocked by new technologies that rolled out starting with the iPod and culminating into the Kindle. These achievements have made it easier for us to keep in touch, conduct business, listen to music, and read a book. Yet the conversation is still the same: what about the old ways?
When I was growing up in the 90s, I embraced AOL and Napster. Along with others of my generation, I fancied myself an agent of change. CDs and listening to music using a Walkman were things of the past; now, it was all about MP3s, file sharing, and Nomads. I was young, impatient, and imprudent: eh, we don’t need the old ways! But now, as we move from the hope and glory of the arrival of the 21st century, and march forward to do the hard work that makes up the real meat of this journey into the future, I have to ask myself: have I become the Old Guy?
Although technology does not bring a twinkle to my eye like it did in the 90s — I refuse to buy an iPad, on the grounds that, well, I just don’t have the money and am now too old to beg my parents to buy it for me (and, of course, I now finally understand the terrible positions I put them in when I was a kid) — I am not a total luddite. In fact, I do have an iPhone, and most of my personal writing projects rely on the iPhone’s convenient global communication features. The plane upon which I rest is a compromise between reality and nostalgia: whether we like it or not, the future is here. At the same time, I have the right to become the Old Guy: he who sticks up the walking cane of his fist and cries, “Save the books, you young whipper snappers!”
And so, one Sunday morning, I found myself at Borders near AT&T Park. For me, the ballpark is church. I do my writing at Borders, where I can see the ballpark and regard it as the altar that I pray to for inspiration. Devotion to baseball: Old Guy quality number one. Next on that list is the fact that I was reading the thick Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. We live in a world where you can scroll through pages of books and entire newspapers with just one finger. Who puts up with sojourning through a hefty Sunday edition anymore? Well, I do, because a Sunday paper is not cold, distant, and soulless. My own soul connects with every crispy page, every vibrant photograph lovingly printed on a carefully designed column scheme. An iPad will never afford me the simple joy of reading an interesting article about the financial crisis, only to have it interrupted with a visually loud ad about a local used car dealer.
It was on that same Sunday morning when I perused this opinion piece about the fate of book covers in today’s digital world. And it was when I finished reading the article that I came to this final conclusion: yes, we are having the same kind of discussion all over again, but no, the Kindle, awesome and promising as it may be, will never replace books and book covers. Not really, and not if I have any say about it. I’m stubborn, you see. And some would accuse me of being in denial. But here’s some good news: I’m no lone wolf, have yet to become the crazy old panhandler stowing away on the city bus. When it comes to my defense of the old ways, I am not alone.
The May 10, 2010 issue of The New Yorker features a hopeful ad. Entitled “Magazines: The Power of Print”, the ad copy proclaims: “Barely noticed among the thunderous Internet clamor is the simple fact that magazine readership has risen over the past five years.” That’s right, folks. Print media isn’t dying, and if my thunderous devotion to the old ways matches the aforementioned clamor, then print media won’t be on life support for very long, either.
But the best anecdotal support about the preservation — or rather, the survival and longevity — of the old ways involves a recent trip I made to the bookstore. The bookstore. Not Amazon, not iBooks. Not Borders, even, or some big chain, but a local shop. There, I got my hands on a unique and used copy of a book that I’d previously checked out at the library. (The library!) This particular edition of Malamud’s The Natural is graced by a cover credited to one, Karl W. Stucklen. When I went to pay, the bookseller, herself a girl probably no older than I, admitted that she had never read the book. “But I love the cover,” she said sincerely as she rang me up.
You will never be able to say that when you read a book on the Kindle. And the fact of the matter is that I was about to show you both Mister Stucklen’s cover and the New Yorker advertisement — but I can’t, because my scanner is broken, and Google’s vast image search apparently does not extend to Mister Stucklen’s cover. See? Technology only takes you so far. This Kindle, that iPad… they make just one breath in the passing wind.
Drunken Boat is pleased to announce the publication of The Clever Decoys, a poetry chapbook from assistant poetry editor Michelle Chan Brown by Love Among the Ruins. This chapbook appears in an edition of 175, features a letterpress cover and hand sewn bindings, and is available for $12 directly from the publisher.
You can also check out the first issue of LATR’s online journal, featuring poems by Mark Bowen and a photo-essay about the South of the Border theme park.