Best of Drunken Boat
Issue Nine: The Poetics Issue
by Shawn M. McKinney

I was first hauled on board Drunken Boat as a web designer beginning with the Oulipo feature in Issue 8. I spent several months familiarizing myself with the latest standards-based web design practices while weaving together the elusive strands of Oulipo, in collaboration with Jean-Jacques Poucel, the section’s editor.

Issue 9 was up next, my first time lending visual form to the contents of an entire issue. After a few dead-ends I hit on the idea of visually “mistranslating” the mis/Translation section. I re-imagined the word as an image of a beauty contestant who does translation work for a living and “Miss Translation” was born. I then turned to the word Poetics and discovered Poe, hidden in plain sight. As in Edgar Allen. As for the Panliterary Awards, Part 2, why not an image of a nondescript pan, on a stove, on fire?

Ravi Shankar provides the perfect introduction to DB’s first Poetics folio in his “Editor’s Statement.” He refers to the “simultaneous diminishment and expansion” of poetry and his decision to split Poetics into two parts: several new poems, along with ten essays about the current state of poetry, written by a diverse group of “astute, indeed literary” individuals.

I love the grace and precision of “Phototaxis” by Geoffrey Brock, and the brutal minimalism of Ron Padgett’s “The War in My Head.” I also appreciate the strategic application of repetitive elements in “Fugue” by Sandra Beasley. Alternatively I admire structurally experimental works such as “Tis of thee, sweet land” by Camille T. Dungy and works that make use of precise spacing on the page, such as “Strange God” by Tina Chang and “The Orange Grove” by Hermine Meinhard. Among the essays, “My Poetic Experience” by Aaron Hamburger, which begins: “Don’t know much about / poetry. But in second / Grade, we wrote haikus,” effortlessly grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. All of these poems can be read here.

For me, highlights from the Panliterary Awards, Part 2 section begin with the highly charged black and white photographs of Floris Andréa.

“The River of Life,” is a dreamlike, introspective piece by Edward Folger that examines personal process and the nature of fait and demonstrates the ability of the Internet to fuse text, image, sound and motion, as well as history, theory, poetry and spirituality, into a coherent whole. Here, meaning remains elusive yet significance is undeniable.

One cannot make a bad choice exploring any of the mis/Translations, stuffed into Issue 9. Particularly, “Taking ‘Taking Chances’” by Craig Dworkin (and composer Christian Wolff). This exquisite piece for solo piano recalls the work of the Oulipo artists (Dworkin also contributed work to Issue 8), in its numerous variations on Duchamp’s concept of “random chance and willful choice.”

Also, the disruptful works offered by Michelle Noteboom, among them “Sore Peeing.” Each is thoughtfully divided by gender into a corresponding pair of works. All are mistranslations of horoscopes found in the back of an Italian fashion magazine.

Nor can I overlook the work of Danny Snelson, another inspiration of sorts for my “Miss Translation” concept. Snelson’s costume-change-per-word performance of his “my Dear coUntess” is not to be missed.

The Editor’s Statement from Poetics concludes with a succinct definition of a translator’s goals: “to capture the dynamicity of the original, while reestablishing a mirror in another language; or to curve the line of something to fit their own quiver.” My own aspirations, as a designer of visual communication, are much the same.