Drunken Boat 20! Just to write down the enumeration of this new issue provides the thrill of perseverance, because it represents our 15th anniversary. Back in 2000, when our first issue launched, we had just survived the nonexistence of the Y2K virus, the State of Vermont had legalized Civil Unions for same-sex couples. and the human genome had been fully deciphered. Born of the intrepid energy of two friends, the magazine back then was simply an art project, something to do to pass the time after graduate school, and little did we ever imagine that the Boat would still be afloat a decade and a half later. Much of that is due to you, dear reader, and your support of the arts online. As more and more magazines migrate to the web, we are proud to have been digitally born and conceived online, with an investment in works of art that could only exist online.
This latest issue is a great testament to that founding principle, beginning with the special folio on Digital Poetry, put together by David Jhave Johnston, himself a digital poet who focuses on combinatorial and multimedia poetry. From Brian Kim Stefans algorithmic poem/painting of shivering, exploding alphabets to Zuzana Husárova’s spoken-word performance of Slovakian poems, appropriated from graffiti, Jhave’s folio reflects the cutting-edge of what happens when poetics encounters technology, disrupting and augmenting our reading practices. These are the poems that truly could not exist on the page, the lineation and vocalization that needs a screen to unfurl into potentiality.
Another such folio is the one on Poetry Comix & Animation, which is a genre-confounding confabulation of image and text curated by Michael Chaney and Marco Maisto. Trafficking in visual metonymy, humor and pathos, these renderings are done in a variety of mediums, from Laurel Lynn’s water-coloresque magical realisms to Chinese designer and screenwriter Panpan Yang’s charming animations. As poet and critic Bianca Stone has written, “The visual has always been an important means of communication, from caveman paintings, to graphic novels, to IKEA instruction manuals. We know it fits in somewhere with poetry, beginning with how poets and artists have always looked lovingly upon one another, and ending somewhere more uncharted….Poetry and poets who interact with the visual has limitless implications, from traditional use of the comic-strip and comic book, to a much more experimental use of text and image.” This folio encompasses that range with memorable dexterity.
Our final special folio for our 15th anniversary issue is on the Affrilachian Arts movement, taken from the richness of African American culture from the Appalachian region, stretching from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. proving yet again that true innovation for people of color was not just found in the Harlem Renaissance or in the Memphis Blues, but in those rural areas where our stereotypes breakdown when we actually confront the aesthetic complexity and authenticity emanating from the diverse populations who call that part of the country home. Here we need to give a shout out to Kentucky poet laureate Frank X. Walker, whose poems “The Invention of the Slow Dance,” “Ultra Sheen” and “Astral Projection” are included for he founded and still edits Pluck!, the Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. Pluck as the twang that a banjo might make echoing against a jar of moonshine raised to the moon reflecting into the window of a smokehouse, or pluck as in the courage it takes, against all odds, not just to survive but to thrive, to proliferate the world with a plurality of poetry and painting. Many thanks to Contributing Editor Kalela Williams for opening a door into this world for us.
Finally we have our regular assortment of features, including Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Reviews and Translation, all of which are laden with treasure that we hope you’ll explore and return to with pleasure. We’d like to pay special notice to the Translation section because it pays homage to the poem that got our journal going in many ways, Le Bateau Ivre by French visionary poet Arthur Rimbaud. We’ve asked a number of contemporary poets and translators, including Bob Perelman, Rachel Galvin, Marcella Durand and Ian Monk among them, to make what they might of three stanzas of Rimbaud’s famous poem, which provides our journal a name. The results? Well translation editor Anna Rosenwong puts it best in her introduction, for “this flotilla means to be generative, aggressively plurivocal, to make drunken mischief and to go beyond interrogating translation as appropriation to embracing translation as mutation.”
We are also excited about the projects that are upcoming for Drunken Boat, including the publication of two books in 2015, our inaugural poetry prize winner and a collection of “Union” that collects that best of what we’ve done over the last 15 years with 50 years of Singaporean literature. We’ll be hosting an event at AWP in Minneapolis in April and other live performances around the globe. We’ll be going forward into the next season proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past but even more excited about what lies ahead in the future, starting with this fabulously redesigned new website, the continuation of our blog series, and more issues that explore the frontiers of the human imagination, the space where arts and letters intersects with our digital culture. Many thanks to our exceptional staff and we hope that you enjoy this 15th anniversary issue as much as we do.
Ravi Shankar, Erica Mena & Emily Vizzo