Drunken Boat#22 marks the beginning and the end of an era, for with this issue I will be stepping down as Executive Director of the magazine I helped found over fifteen years ago to pass the mantle onto Erica Mena who will step in as our next Executive Director, helping pilot us towards the horizon of the next decade and half. In reorganizing, we will be going on a brief editorial hiatus for one issue and we thank you for your support and readership over the years. Look for our next issue in Spring 2016. But in the meantime, we have a rich and diverse new issue for you to feast upon as the summer of 2015 draws to a close
In this issue, you will find a couple of special folios, including one on the Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, a group of radical writers of color, brought together to make a “statement of utter denouncement of utter refusal of white supremacist redeployment of the treatment of blackness, black murder as raw material for depraved pleasure.” This is a folio we have had on the docket for a while, so it’s ironic that it appears mere months after Drunken Boat was drawn into the controversy that surrounded Vanessa Place and her conceptual project of appropriating the racist parts of Gone with the Wind. We were one of the first journals to publish parts of that project and we were made complicit in what many found to be a racially insensitive project. The Mongrel Coalition folio is a response, not predetermined in any way, but a pointed critique of the ways in which homogeneity and whiteness have created an insular aesthetic that permeates the academy and actively suppresses voices that stray from its often unspoken aesthetic imperatives.
We also have included a folio on the Romani, known pejoratively throughout history by the exonym of “gypsies,” a term that is tantamount to a racial slur. The richness of the art and culture of these people often reduced to a haze of mystery, a primitive nomadism. In Contributing Editor T.M. De Vos' own words: "The use of the “gypsy” metaphor to describe a gadjo, or non-Rom person, inflects him or her with intrigue, as if the Roma identity were as easily assumed as a peasant blouse. In common parlance, the nickname “gypsy” is applied to such various characters as the world traveler, the peripatetic, the visionary, the Tarot reader, or the laid-back anti-corporate type; used less affectionately, it characterizes those who can’t hold a job, fail to pay bills, couch-surf with friends of friends of friends, or are sexually promiscuous. Roma women in particular have been viewed through a sexy haze, as distorting as it is reductive." What we propose is an alternate vision of what constitutes Roma culture which hopefully opens up space for a dialogue that has yet to take place in any authentic way.
DB22 also includes our regular sections, each with its own bounty of groundbreaking voices. Hong Kong poet Nicholas Wong has curated an eclectic selection of poets, from Hank Lazer’s VisPo works sounded through an intertwined audio recording to Maureen Thorson’s litany poem about Aristotle that brings to mind the leaping ideation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Sybil Baker, our Fiction Editor, brings us four stories that show us how porous the boundaries between countries, genres and indeed consciousness are. Lily Hoang, our Nonfiction Editor, elicits the conveyer belt and the Möbius strip, in her selection of a group of hybrid essays and reportage.
Translation editor Anna Rosenwong highlights a group of “irreverent, generative, pilfering experiments,” demonstrating that the act of translation is much more various than we might ever have imagined. Shira Dentz has deployed an incisive group of reviews of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and even graphic opera, as well as including an interview with Cornelius Eady, whose latest work Singing While Black is a chapbook-CD that combines poetry and sound. And finally Art Editor Darren DeFrain has assembled an opulent selection of art, from legendary improviser and composer Pauline Oliveros to Isabella Martini’s ethereal photographs that make the ordinary appear strange and strangely beautiful.
This is an issue we are all proud of and that we hope you enjoy as much as we do. And to commemorate 15 years of Drunken Boat, we are also glad to announce a forthcoming book, co-published with Ethos Books that collects together some of the best work we have published over this decade and half, along with 50 years of Singaporean literature. This book, entitled Union, is meant to commemorate fifty years of Singaporean independence, will be launched in New York City in September and at the Singapore Writers Festival in October, demonstrating yet again how global literature is and how we overlap with each other, no matter what corner of the world we might call home.
It has been a gift to have presided over so much good work for so long, and to have had the opportunity to work with so many immensely talented individuals. We hope that Drunken Boat has provided a space for those works that might never intersect, for those artists and writers who are using the medium of the web as part of their compositional strategy, for archiving those works we don’t want to forget as well as publishing those voices in the margins that are doing the work of pushing forward our conception of what art might look like in the 21st century.
Drunken Boat will continue on in a fabulous new incarnation, but for now, I say thank you and bid you adieu. Thanks for accompanying me and our staff on this voyage and here’s to the shores ahead.