Drunken Boat’s tenth issue also coincides with our ten-year anniversary by virtue of some fuzzy math—our first issue came out in the summer of 2000, though the birth of the idea for the journal happened in 1999. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade, that since Drunken Boat’s been in existence we have weathered Y2K, seen Slobodan Milosevic ousted, lived through 9-11 and its ramifications, cheered or jeered Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record, watched Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrate over Texas, lived through hurricanes, tsunamis and cyclones, grown to use You Tube and iPhones, Twitter and Facebook, found out that Pluto had been reclassified, leaving us with only eight planets in the solar system, and been witness to the election of an African-American President. Seemingly a decade has the weight of a pilaster, something heavy and substantial, and when we think about how the production of every issue has been something of a miracle, it’s all the harder for us to believe that we’ve reached this milestone.
To celebrate and commemorate, we’re presenting 10 folios that expand upon some favorite themes while ranging into much newer areas. To begin with, the Best of Show folio is a look back at some of our editors’ favorite works from the previous nine issues. Take a trip back in a curatorial time machine. We’ve also included a comprehensive list of all the artists and writers who’ve appeared in our previous issues and by perusing this folio, you’ll get some sense of our eclectic and far-flung aesthetic sensibilities.
The Poetics and MisTranslation folios are holdovers from our last issue. We get so many brilliant and varied poetry submissions each year, we thought the best way to present them all would be to include one hundred and ten of our favorites. Managing Editor Leslie McGrath has helped cull and introduce these poets, from the established to the emerging, and by reading the works, we get a great sense of this particularly fertile moment in contemporary poetry. MisTranslation also builds on the idea of intentionally skewed or straight translation that we began exploring in our last issue; we’ve added homophonic translations to the mix as well as the Cartagena Project. In 2006, many digital artists were contacted by the Archives of the city of Cartagena (Spain) to celebrate the Centennial of the birth of the poet Carmen Conde by translating her work into digital art. But when new elections took place, the project was de-prioritized and never saw the light of day—we’re publishing what was completed to that point.
Part of Drunken Boat’s investment, since its inception, has been in works of art that utilize the medium of the web as part of their compositional or receptorial strategy. To pay homage to that, we are including a folio on the Electronic Arts, intended to look back at the decade which constitutes an integral period in the incipient genre as well look forward to see what new possibilities (locative media, fuller interactivity) might exist. Digital scholars Jessica Pressman and Scott Rettberg have both contributed critical pieces that help situate the practices of digital literature as central to literature at large. And Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Seoul-based Web art group, created a 100 second piece on the occasion of our 10th anniversary.
Related to the field of electronic literature are the simultaneously archaic and postmodern genres of Visual Poetry, or VisPo, and cine-poems. The former has a history that reaches back centuries to Alexandrian Greece where poems by Simias and Theocritus helped adorn religious art works to early seventeenth century metaphysical poet George Herbert whose famous poems “Easter Wings” and “The Altar” were exemplars of the form where the typography and arrangement of the words conveyed a visual image. Futurist F.T. Marinetti, Guillaume Apollinaire and E.E. Cummings continued developing the form in the 20th century and we have some of the most recent additions to this practice. The cine-poem, or video poetry, is the natural marriage of the literary and filmic arts, and if the elevator at the AWP Writers’ Conference is any indication, the genre has hit the big time. We’re included some selections from both curated by Contibuting Editor Sina Queryas with derek beaulieu and Francesco Levato respectively. The folio includes work from Rattapallax Films as well as others who’ve married the genre of the poem with that of the short film.
Next, dedicated to the pedagogy of the Black Mountain School—about which composer Fritz Cohen said describing the tenor of life there in the early 1940’s, “Every morning the world seems to start all over again. Every bit of experience, of tradition, of accepted rule and law is questioned continuously—we offer a welter of materials, from photographs, to video of Charles Olson reading a poem, to the exams and class notes (all thanks to the archives of NC State University and our intrepid graduate student correspondent Doug Duhaime). Lisa Jarnot, courtesy of Robert Duncan’s Estate, has provided us access to some of Duncan’s notebooks while he was at BMC, while Richard Deming has provided some of Jonathan Williams 1’ iconic photographs of the faculty and students there. In this moment of economic uncertainty and the lowering standards of higher education, it’s imperative to look again at influential experiment, what Olson called “a creative accident,” that held and still holds some viable possibilities for productively transforming our society. As Tom Patterson has written, “During its 23 years as a functioning school, Black Mountain was known as a radically democratic, loosely structured community where forward-thinking artists and scholars could work in a supportive atmosphere, free from the bureaucratic procedures, academic traditions, and social regulations that generally dominate American university education… the extraordinary characteristic that set Black Mountain apart from other schools of its era was, quite simply, the open-ended, flexible, process-oriented approach to education and the arts that it consistently embodied. 2” Returning to such a process-oriented, rather than the results-oriented, and by most quantitative standards, failed approach of “No Child Left Behind,” might be just the solution to help transform education in the new millennium.
Arts in Asia is an extension of a project Founding Editor Ravi Shankar had been working on in co-editing the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008). During the course of putting together the project, a number of poets had to be left out due to space and geographical considerations or simply because they were yet unknown to the editors, so this folio attempts to remedy those omissions. Essential poets like Edwin Thumboo of Singapore, Dinah Roma of the Philippines, Adil Jussawalla of India and Kaiser Haq of Bangladesh are included and since Drunken Boat is resolutely committed to the multimedia arts, we also wanted to leave a small taste of some of the video, web art and music happening in countries like India, Japan, Singapore and Korea.
Our Conceptual Fiction folio, curated in part by Aaron Hawn, Sina Queyras, derek beaulieu, Vanessa Place and our crack team of Fiction readers, exemplifies our renewed interest in the possibilities inherent in fiction. We’ve come a long way from Aristotelian theories of narrative, and this selection captures some of what’s called, for lack of a better term, “conceptual fiction.” Daniel Grandbois’ pieces tread the line between flash fiction and prose poetry, Theresa Carmody reinvents both the confessional and epistolary forms while discussing the Catholic Church and Amarnath Raava exchanges video footage with textual associations to construct an experimental narrative conjoined only by white space and time stamps. These, along with the other works of fiction, push the bounds of representation and hybridity.
The Tribal Peoples folio is a collaboration with Survival International, extant since the 1960s, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the rights of indigenous tribal people to help them preserve their ancestral lands, culture, livelihoods and way of living. Drunken Boat’s investment in endangered languages traces back to our publication of Eritrean poet Reesom Haile’s poems in Tigrinya in our Ethnopoetics issue (#3) and we share Survival International’s notion that people deserve the right to their own self-determination and that the eradication of tribal cultures is an atrocity that gets too little notice. We hope by bringing our readers’ attention to the rich and complex worlds of six tribes on six continents as well as linking to the news feed and blog of Survival International, we might raise the awareness of what the darker side of globalization threatens to wipe out.
We are also publishing small Nonfiction folio, edited by Leslie McGrath, and as a precursor to a larger call for submissions we have for our next issue, “Life in A Time of Contraction”. We’ll be accepting essays ranging from the journalistic to the lyric in response to the question of “how life has changed in a time of economic crisis.” The current selection offers a sample of the kinds of writing we hope to see.
A coda to this 10th anniversary issue is the news that after being exclusively online for a decade, Drunken Boat will finally be making its foray into print. We are going to publish a couple of titles a year, beginning in November 2009 with the posthumous collection of poems by Indian-American poet Reetika Vazirani, Radha Says. Drunken Boat will also inaugurate a competition for the best new works of prose and poetry, and in time will begin publishing CDs and DVDs. Check back on the site to find out more news about these happenings.
When Drunken Boat began as a two-person enterprise ten years ago, we had little sense that the journal would last as long as, nor reach the number of folks it has, a fact that continues to amaze us. Now Drunken Boat is a true collective, created by the communal energies of a vast network of editors and readers. We’re thrilled that we could participate in helping transform the literary landscape just a little by bringing together visual, digital, sound and web artists to share space with poets and writers. Something unexpected and electrifying happens when these worlds collide and we look forward to what the next decade brings. Thanks for your continued support.
-The Editors, Drunken Boat
1The self-effacing and ebullient poet, essayist, publisher and photographer Jonathan Williams passed away in 2008 and in many ways this folio is dedicated to his memory. An iconoclast and founder of the Jargon Society, Williams lived out his life in North Carolina and had a witty, self-deprecating view of his environs and his own place in literary history, as noted in his comment in an interview in the North Carolina Literary Review (Volume II, Number 2, 1995) that, “more people in North Carolina make portrait busts of Ronald Reagan out of petrified bat guano than are interested in my poetry or the activities of the Jargon Society.”
2Patterson, Tom. “The Success of its Own Accident: An Opiniated, Encapsulated History of Black Mountain College.” North Carolina Literary Review (Volume II, Number 2, 1995)