Editor's Statement

Ravi Shankar

Welcome to Drunken Boat#16, a special issue dedicated entirely to folios curated by our esteemed group of Contributing Editors. Beginning with our next issue, we’ll go back to featuring our extraordinary gamut of selections from Poetry and Prose to Art and Reviews, but for the Autumn of 2012, we are showcasing a diverse range of work that we hope you’ll find as intoxicating as we do. These folios include one on Contemporary Art, edited by our own Rob Ray, an investigation of Hypnopoeia, edited by American poet and essayist Kristin Prevallet, a dossier of Sound Art, choreographed by Italian composer, performer, and musicologist Luciano Chessa, Asian American Urbanism, co-curated by the Asian American Writers Workshop and their Managing Editor Kai Ma, a retrospective on the life of darkly comic Southern novelist Barry Hannah, assembled by the editor of Vox Press, Louis Bourgeois, and a folio on “Exploration,” edited by University of Hartford Historian Michael Robinson, our own Caitlin Hawes and made possible by a grant given by the Hartford Consortium of Higher Learning. We also want to take this opportunity to announce the forthcoming publication of Drunken Boat’s next book, Lisa Russ Spaar’s “The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations on Contemporary Poetry,” due out in March 2013.

Kristin Prevallet has spoken about the history of trance poetics and the kind of poetry she has collected for Drunken Boat in an interview with Cara Benson for the Best American Poetry Blog: “the trance-experiments of the Surrealists and the Beats were about experimenting with a wide variety of altered-waking and near-somnambulistic states of mind in order to generate the artwork or poem….When a poet sits down to write a poem, even if that poem is non-referential and purely sound-based, that is a state of trance. When that poem is published or read out loud, readers enter into a trance that enables them to either connect with the language, sound, imagery, etc., or to drift off into their own mental space and think other thoughts…. Hypnopoeia is the acknowledgement that readers are involved in the creation of the meaning of a poem -- and, perhaps, some are more successful than others depending on who the readers are….Hypnopoeia is as central as music, logos, and phanos (from Pound) to the making of the work because it is the “hypno” that brings the writer in conversation with the reader and from there, to the wider social realm.”  These poems, then, are in perpetual orbit from the deep recesses of the poet’s inner awareness to our own and outwards into the world.

Similarly, sound artist Luciano Chessa’s own work has been described has paying “meticulous attention to primary sources, galvanised by daring leaps of imagination, and revealing an array of unorthodox ideas, creative tensions, and contradictions.” A performer of futurist sound poetry and a collaborator par excellence, Chessa has offered us a keyhole into the richly textured sonic universes that exist parallel to our own harmonic worlds, calling into question our innate methodologies of listening and articulating sound into sense.

Published in tandem with the Asian American Writers Workshop (AAWW) and their magazine Open City, our folio on Asian American artists and writers derived from an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the AAWW in conjunction with The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Five commissioned writers, or Fellows, worked with “community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes.” These projects told a complicated story about immigration and urbanization, and how the city’s ethnic spaces were undergoing radical transformation under the auspices of gentrification. We are featuring some of the work from those original Fellows alongside work from other Asian immigrants in a diverse range of urban spaces, each one documented through their respective medium how the hidden life of neighborhoods is manifest and how the forces of displacement and accretion intersect to create identity in particular environments.

In his obituary in The New York Times, Barry Hannah was described as “a writer who found wide acclaim with wild, darkly comic short stories and novels set in a phantasmagoric South moving at warp speed,” a legitimate heir to William Faulkner and Flannery O’Conner, but also to Hunter S. Thompson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and some drunkenly crazed Baptist preacher. Louis Bourgeois, editor of VOX Press and a personal friend of Hannah, has put together a tribute to the late Southern writer, including a video recording of his last public performance and reflections of various writers on what Hannah meant to them. VOX Press is bringing out a collection of work in response to him and this folio is a little foretaste of one of the greatest American writers. To take three quotations from interviews done with him, Hannah imparted such necessary wisdom as pointing out that, “a lot of writing nowadays is very intellectual. Very wussy. Correct, wussy, and [with] too much rationalization.” (from The Paris Review, No. 184); or he derided genre and categorization in The Believer by remarking that “categories are bad news. Being Southern will just kill you sometimes. It’s not always a graceful adjective….Ready-made Southernism just disgusts me, just makes me nauseated. I mean, you can’t see a movie without hearing that goddamned slide guitar. Shit, I’m just so tired of it.”; or finally in an earlier interview in BOMB where he confesses that, “I am doomed to be a more lengthy fragmentist. In my thoughts, I don’t ever come on to plot in a straightforward way….you have material by just living and going outside. And I do believe that what we’re supposed to be are messengers from the frontier. But the frontier can also be something that has been living with us for a long time. Just knowledge that has not been shared.” Thank God, then, for this lengthy fragmentist whose writing is the farthest thing from wussy or canned; and glory be that he shared with us some of the news from the frontier.

Speaking of frontiers, our final folio is one is on “Exploration,” which brings together a fascinating collection of scientists, activists, writers and explorers who are searching along the fringes of the wilderness, be that in space or in the Arctic, in the human mind or in the Himalayas. What does it mean to be an “explorer” in the 21st century? What new frontiers remain to be discovered? One answer lies, perhaps, in the synthesis of the arts and sciences captured in an exhibition like “Speculative,” curated by Christopher O’Leary and Zach Blas, which comprises a portion of this folio and was on display at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions from June 16 – August 28, 2011. With an emphasis on the “experiential, subversive, and tactical potentials for art in the 21st century,” the exhibit included art in the form of social practice, software, interactive video, wearable architecture, and much more. University of Hartford historian Michael Robinson who edits the blog “Time to Eat the Dogs” helped curate this folio and some of the contributors featured here were part of a WNPR radio show on “Beyond the Extremes: Contemporary Narratives of Exploration”, recorded earlier this year at the University of Hartford.

Hopefully these folios give you a small taste of the diverse interests of Drunken Boat, during this American election year of 2012 and will send you out seeking new borders to explore on your own, whether that’s (re)reading Barry Hannah or seeking out the latest sound art concert. And please keep your eyes open for Spaar’s book, “The Hide-and-Seek Muse,” about which renowned novelist Ann Beattie writes, “for people who are a bit wary of poetry, this is the perfect antidote: the poems are amazing, and so are Lisa Russ Spaar’s short essays.” Culled from her work as the poetry editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Arts and Academe blog, these micro-essays demonstrate how contemporary poetry still speaks persuasively to the life of the mind.

Thanks, as ever, for your support. Here’s to trance, Chinatowns, futurisms, Southerners, muses, space travelers and all the other knowledge out on the frontiers, just waiting to be shared. 

Ravi Shankar & the Editors, October 2012

Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar is Poet-in-Residence and Associate Professor of English at Central Connecticut State University, Chairman of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust and the founding editor of Drunken Boat. He has published or edited seven books of poems, including Deepening Groove, Radha Says, Seamless Matter, Voluptuous Bristle, Wanton Textiles, and Instrumentality. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond (W.W Norton & Co.), called “a beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has won a Pushcart Prize, been featured in The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, appeared on the BBC and NPR, and has performed his work around the world. He is currently on the faculty of the first international MFA Program at City University of Hong Kong.