This issue I've asked the contributors, if they want, to send in some background on their works. Therefore, this page might contain some spoilers, but hopefully not many. Note that this section contains thoughts only by the contributors who chose to send them to me.
Feature: Kevin Opstedal has an amazing collection of surfing/coast poems and photos. Kevin and I first met a couple years ago when he contributed an essay about the Bolinas poets to Jack Magazine. Around that time, learning of my love for the beach and my desire to surf, not to mention the fact that I liked old surf/reverb music, he taped some music for me--which I still listen to these days. So when I decided to do an issue that featured surf poetry and art, I thought of Kevin first. You can find write-ups on his poetry at http://www.cyberpoems.com/9-2/cenedella/ko.htm and http://www.sfbg.com/AandE/35/26/ae_opener.html.
About his feature Rare Surf, Vol 2., he says: Many of the poems have previously appeared in the following books: Like Rain, California Redemption Value, Crush, Nine Palms, Variable High Cloudiness, Beach Blanket Massacre, and 9th & Ocean. The poems, the books & the work continues, stubbornly clinging to the California coastline & its rare end-of-the-road aura. More a kind of delirium than an aesthetic.
Eco-Watch: This section of the magazine has traditionally focused on ecological essays and poetry. Jnana Hodson's Where Space Upends opens a book-length manuscript addressing a move to the desert country of the Pacific Northwest (the reality is that most of that region is arid and requires irrigation, unlike the narrow population bands along Puget Sound and Oregons Willamette Valley).
Essays: Anthony Wright has several contributions to this issue of Jack, including "Bad America," "Beat Underworlds," "Dada Rides Zen" (one of essays in this issues), and "New York Funeral Song." They explore models of beatitude in the prism of disappearance, which is to say, literal desertion, departure and vanishing from the accepted, expected and known.
D. Harlan Wilson: This story comments on the constructedness of identity and the way in which our reality is increasingly determined through the medium of the Image. It used to be that film, t.v., etc. existed as representations of the real world. Today, however, the real world exists more as a representation of film, t.v., etc. Everybody is an actor, everything is a prop, everywhere is a camera lens fixing its eye on us. This theme recurs again and again in my fiction and is especially prominent in my upcoming book Stranger on the Loose, in which "Avalanche of My Self" will appear.
Path: This section has always been an anomaly in the past, because most people don't know what it's about, really. Well, in the early days of imagining Jack, I thought it'd be cool to have a section that reflected the path, way, or dao of an idea, mainly a spiritual or religious one. The first few issues of the magazine pretty much followed that original thought, but I've gone away from that because I never get essays of that nature anymore. So I started branching out to include, pretty much, any kind of road to something, spiritual or not. This issue presents my friend Tucker's thoughts as he journeys through film school.
Colin Dodds' poetry is part of a larger work, called The Blue Blueprint, which is due to appear in an collection of the same name later this year.
Candy Gourlay: Confessional writing is common. Perhaps because of its cathartic nature. Perhaps not. Who really knows? "Days of Cloth" was the culmination of a long, tedious year of death in my family, which began with the suicide death of my brother, six months prior to the death of my aunt, which was closely followed by the death of my grandmother. With a different slant, "Glass Garbage" is about familial complexity, the effect of grief on the mind, and reckless actions born as consequence. It is about death of choice: the loss of a relative to life, rather than to death. The piece resigns itself in order to cope. "Cement Stars and Pin Oaks" is about a perceived loss of self. The cold fact: the past can never be erased.
Jayne Fenton Keane's poems are excerpts from The Transparent Lung, which is a deconstructed verse novel written in parallel narratives. It is a story about a family dealing with the father's cancer. The book is due for publication in June 2003 with Post Pressed. Please visit JFK's award winning multi-media website series The Stalking Tongue Book II; Slamming The Sonnet and sign the guestbook so she know you dropped by.
Wave takes its starting-point from Harry's House / Centerpiece on Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns album. It was written (and forgotten) some time during my 15-year hiatus from poetry. I found it in a drawer.
By The River is the closest I've got to the soil and wind of the part of Suffolk where I live. The diver in the poem is the bird known in North America as a loon - a rare enough sight anywhere in Britain. The tower belongs to the little medieval church at Iken, which is visible across the marshes and mudflats from Benjamin Britten's Snape Maltings concert hall, home of the Aldeburgh Festival. Curlew River is both an appropriate description of the Alde and a nod towards Britten's opera of that title. This poem is a companion piece to On The Pleasure Beach (found at http://www.stridemag.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/2002/june/semmens.htm), which was largely a cut-up from the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival brochure and was the first poem I wrote for years.
A Rolling Motion and A Letter To America are re-edits of unpublished poems from about 20 years ago. The latter (though he doesn't know it) is addressed to Michael McClure, whom I met and reviewed in 1975.
Jayne Lyn Stahl:
On Waite Street is an epiphany driven by the hypocrisy of my country's love-it-or-leave-it mentality to be found on the back roads and deserted streets of an American dream.
White Light for Sally is living proof that timeless, sentient souls still grace this hard core anemic planet and filter the madness, despite forever emergent mortality.
Politics: It's hard to get pieces about politics, so remember that if you are interested in publishing in Jack. That's why this time around I regurgitate newsletter news related to Surfrider Foundation. I mean, it's very important, though. I added some photos I took around Laguna Beach to make it pretty, because really there's a lot of ugly stuff going on. The Surfrider Foundation is a great organization to support, and it has all kinds of volunteer positions available. You can also become a member for a very small fee as well as make a donation.
Renaissance: This is another one of those sections that I thought'd be interesting to have in a magazine--writing that would look at a historical change or movement. Renaissance is a loose term here, but I couldn't think of any other title, so it stuck. My idea was to have a great look at the history of surfing, but I had trouble finding someone to write such a huge story. I did, however, find a great piece by Ben Marcus called From Polynesia, with Love: The History of Surfing from Captain Cook to Present. I was going to try to get permissions to reprint it, but was running out of time, and Ben's piece was really owned by the documentary people. But at least it got me in touch with Ben, and so he showed me some great stuff he'd already written--one of which, The Price of Gas--is great historical writing anyway. It's all about the evolution of surf films, which I found interesting and entertaining. So that's what ended up in this issue, in the Renaissance section.
Allan Graubard says "Paalaen is someone people should know about."
The Cramps was the best concert I've seen in a long time, so I wanted to write something up about it. I joined the staysick mailing list and, through that, got a hold of John Gein, who had some photos he'd taken of the same concert tour I'd gone to. So thanks to John for allowing me to add these pictures to the review.
Road: As opposed to the Path section (which is more figurative), the Road section deals with actual physical journeys to/from geographical places. I've written often about a road trip that I took back in 1997, which really determined a huge change in my life. It remains hard to write about these days, because the reasoning behind the trip involved a relationship that would last approximately seven years, but never truly work out. This time around I tried to follow what Michael Rothenberg calls "the journal as poem and hothouse for poetry," a style that he uses often. I don't have an official explanation for this, but it involves writing in the here and now and allowing for the type of space and breath that reflects an actual event. I'm sure that my poem California Trip, 1997 is still in rough draft form, even though I've worked on it for ages. Oh well, that's the thing. I don't consider myself a poet, much less a serious one, so it's fun to play. Nevertheless, writing this was emotionally tough because I had to go back to the state of mind I was in when I made the trip, and that state of mind was hopeful and in love like never before. Fortunately, I have gotten over things, so everything was easier to retrace and write about. As a note, the addition Years later: Hey, Josh, baby right before the Missouri section:
Ozarks are sweet enough to be buried in,
hills like big bosoms of moss
and frantic pink wildflowers.
is a fast-forward to the year 2003, after I have begun to move on. Josh is a great friend who lives in Missouri, and he liked that part a lot, so I added his name there. You sometimes have to do stuff like that so that you don't cry when writing about the past; it's like a premonition of the future--and then knowing that all will not be lost, which makes you feel better about the past in which you've submerged while writing.
Tea Party: This section is meant to be funny and spoof-like. Márton Koppány, who did Investigations & Valuable Coupons, says about his writing: I felt almost completely isolated in Budapest in the atmosphere of the late seventies and early eighties. So perhaps it had all started with my claustrophobia -- and with doing mail art.
Or: I started writing "seriously" at 12 or 13 -- as early as in the sixties. A few years later I lost that feeling of seriousness because the whole process of writing (and thinking) became problematic.
Or: my spiritual temperament has always directed me toward the (actual, ever-changing) limits of verbal communication. In 1991 I arrived in Milwaukee (where I was to spend the next three years) with a set of serial poems rewritten in English. In the university library I realized that my poems written in Budapest in the seventies and eighties were not completely unrelated to certain minimalist, conceptual, concrete,visual, Fluxus etc. traditions. At any rate, I started publishing works in English -- or rather works in-between.
(Excerpts from an unfinished interview by Jesse Glass)