editorial control over a literary mag is a something about which many
editors have fantasized. I know I certainly have. It's surely crossed
the minds of any one of us who spend hours upon hours reading submissions,
reading the more horrible and the most horrible, only to have that one
favorite child mercilessly spanked down off the big table by the other
editors. Tyranny of the majority indeed.
Having sole editorial control over a literary mag is a something about which many editors have fantasized. I know I certainly have. It's surely crossed the minds of any one of us who spend hours upon hours reading submissions, reading the more horrible and the most horrible, only to have that one favorite child mercilessly spanked down off the big table by the other editors. Tyranny of the majority indeed.
At Painted Bride Quarterly, where I first cut my editorial teeth, and continue to do so, I used to be called "Crazy Dan." It was, looking back, a richly deserved epithet. In those days, the heady, narrative-heavy early 90s, I would "yes" virtually any poem that had a reference to a Chevy Nova, a sexual position, or the mention of a movie.
The way I looked at it was this: if this poet was actually engaging in today's world, and was, in effect, attempting to set our world to music, then this person deserved a second look. And I still hold on to that aesthetic, to a point. Any poet who is actually trying to place the poem amidst the current, rather than some artificial poetic ur-universe, is, to me, writing in a new idiom. Most poetry, I think, streamlines the world, not unlike a Hollywood set where the sidewalk is clean and gleaming, the actors pantomiming their performances. Any attempt at verisimilitude is a virtue deserving of reward.
Many of those "yes"ed poems, I'm afraid, suffered their fate at my hands, not my fellow editors. Threatening violence after a few Rolling Rocks, I would stake my entire reputation on a single poem, waving my hummus-laden pita bread as if brandishing a sword, threatening self-laceration.
But like any animal, I adapted. I developed a poker face, and started consensus-building, politicking with other editors. It was a process I came to love, and still do. Those Nova/sex poems are now given coy "maybe"'s, and I love shaking over the reading of some great poems, waiting for the others to turn around on their own, rather than subject them to some annoying aesthetic tutorial.
Even as all of those perhaps unsavory memories linger, as I write this introduction to this, the new issue of La Petite Zine, I must say to you that this victory of putting together a litmag by myself became an ephemeral one. The process of picking works all by my lonesome, at times, bordered on onanism. Where were the arguments, the Socratic duels? When did the voting occur, and where was the editorial poker game being held?
a party for Fence, one
of those curiously well-funded New York literary magazines that host
big Plimptonian fêtes, I struck up an ex-editor of Painted
Bride Quarterly who had gone on to bigger and more avant
garde vistas. He insisted that the solo literary editor process
was the way to go, and looked at the editorial board as if it was like
some debunked religion, or an uncool record people play at parties.
"You should just give an editor 20 pages, let him do what they wanna do with it," he said archly, glancing over my shoulder, looking for someone more important to talk to. "The voting just waters things down."
Maybe so. But in putting together this La Petite Zine, I found myself more and more asking others what they thought of a piece of writing, in a sense emulating the collective process that I thought I had gotten weary of or outgrew. I had E-mail chats with writers. I yakked on the phone with Mike Neff, the publisher, over such minuscule detail that he must have finger callouses from writing back to me. And sometimes, I even tried to start arguments with myself over submissions. The voting, I'm happy to report, usually went my way.
I have been an admirer of the work of many of the writers in this issue, some for several years. These are writers who are at times as "crazy" as my old namesake. They are also bombastic, topical, and tear-jerking. And they are all never, ever, boring or dull.
When I look at LPZ's newly completed contents pagewhich, in this newfangled HTML business, is impersonally called the "index"I can now say that reading this issue will not be a solitary activity. All of these writers sit at a single table, waiting for you to join in on the conversation. Enjoy.