Sharing: Suburban Ecology I by TheCartographe

I found this amazing bit of writing the other day on TheCartographe and just needed to share it with you!  As a lover of place and environment and the way that spaces effect us, I adore what’s happening on this blog: “TheCartographe is about the curation of the environment: the selection of images, texts, and ideas that is the formation of a landscape. Topography is physical, but landscape is always psychic.”

This blog is not to be missed. Enjoy!

 

Suburban Ecology I

July 9, 2014.

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Some millennia before the present, when the sea was in places it currently is not, it might have been that Anne Barton’s yard was a natural beach of smooth-hewn stones — perfect and round, themselves looking for all the world like fat droplets of water thrown up and clinging on the grassy shore.  The blue velvet easy chair stood primly on the rocks, taking the sea air like one who — feinting — is afraid of the ocean.  But Anne’s yard was not really a beach, of course, and the chair moreover took no solace from the pretend game of seaside release and introspection.  It did not appreciate the scene before it: the crisp break of sidewalk and swell of asphalt.  It was aware only of the thing it could not see — the blockish, secluded bungalow beyond the beachhead, where in the downstairs sitting room there was a precisely chair-shaped depression in a blanched shag carpet the colour of a watermelon where the meat comes to the rind.

I was in this house once, seven or eight years ago, when for one or another reason I  was collecting a size-adjustable mannequin from the Vietnam-era parlor upstairs, located at one end of a hallway encased exclusively by mirrors which, when shoved with some force, would open to reveal narrow closets stuffed with outerwear, shoes, and unlabelled boxes.  The front door, up a half-flight of steps from the lawn and partly concealed by an globular rhododendron, opened onto this hallway, and pointed inside toward the kitchen at the house’s rear.  There, I remember, Ms. Barton, an elderly woman who — to me — has never visibly aged, remained sitting at a card table while she asked me, standing against the entrance to the hall, if I would consider volunteering for her Sunday School.  I can’t recall answering the question.  Instead, I remember leafing through the records — none of which I recognized — contained in a cardboard box which sat on a brass-framed, stackable chair in the parlor, across the way from the kitchen.  I waited until Anne’s granddaughter, my associate, reappeared with a small plastic container filled with a multitude of compartments for pins, all heads different colours, and we departed with the rattling mannequin in parts under our free arms.

At that time, Anne’s garden was not half-covered in rocks.  In fact, it was a serene, if somewhat weedy glade, set apart from the street by the low boughs of a blue-needled pine tree which I did not recognize and now assume was originally decorative.  I lived — still live — in the house beside Anne’s; somewhat newer, somewhat more modish, my father would exasperatedly but quietly rake pinecones and long, browned needles off our lawn from September to Christmas.  At that time, Anne’s glade had real seating: a chipped, white wooden loveseat over-thrown by a modified trellis, and an elaborate swing — also wood — which reminded me always of my brother’s books on medieval implements of war.

It was one summer when I returned from university that the pine tree had been felled — its little ecosystem of sputtering grass and shed needles replaced by a neatly edged bed of lava rock.  Two ceramic pots had been placed off-centre on the wide stump, and in them the plastic-coated cardboard tags that identify greenhouse plants sprouted up like tombstones behind small, flowering stalks.  It was just last summer when the first five metres of Anne’s lawn had been dug up and replaced with the round stones.  At the same time, things began appearing on her driveway.  First the loveseat and swing, which soon disappeared, and then boxes of clothes, which would likewise appear in the morning and have vanished upon my return home in the afternoon.  Then, a tarpaulin tent appeared over a metal pole frame in the middle of the driveway, and a 1995 red Ford mustang would regularly pull in and out of it, as if on the tide.  This largely concealed the garage door, which remained closed during all this time.  I did not see Anne, though my father told me she continued to live there, and the cars that came and went (I noticed only the red convertible) were the vehicles of family and friends — or of the tenants downstairs who had moved in to the bungalow’s expansive basement.

The chair knew very little of this, being limited to the influence of the downstairs tenants and its sidelong views of sporadic children’s play in the tenants’ backyard daycare, a business Anne surely appreciated because of her attachment to children and their ideal upbringing.  When it was removed, I think, its first logical concern must have been the expected weather, and secondly the simple sign hung across its back — “FREE” — which would surely give anyone’s self-esteem a miserable pummeling.  It was, I doubt, hardly troubled by the premise that in millennia to come, it could be considered a distracting embellishment on the ecology of the house — a throwaway decoration not unlike the faking of a shoreline in a time of changing seas.

-tC

Call for Submissions: Banago Street

Banago Street is accepting submissions!  Check them out!

Banango Street is a thrice-yearly literary journal; It is edited by Rachel Hyman and Justin Carter of Banango Lit. We like words that invoke, works that break us (and themselves) in curious ways, & we want to move you. We have faith that this is still possible, but we need your help.
Join us?

Submissions are open for our special women’s issue, guest edited by Emily Kendal Frey and Julia Cohen. Female-identified, queer, and non-binary poets are invited to submit by August 3rd.

Regular submissions for Issue 10 will reopen in early August.

We take submissions in 4 categories: poetry, translations, collaborations, and art.
Please submit through our submissions manager.

You may submit up to 3 poems. If you wish to withdraw part of a submission, e-mail us at banangostreet@gmail.com.

Please do not submit previously published work. This includes personal blogs.

Simultaneous submissions are allowed. Please inform us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. An email will suffice.

Banango Street has first publication rights; upon publication, rights revert to the author. If your poems end up in a chapbook or book, we would love if you acknowledged us.

Call for Submissions: Saw Palm Magazine

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES


Saw Palm is a Florida-themed journal, however we welcome writers and artists from across the country and the globe as long as the work is connected to Florida (via images, people, themes, et cetera). We also welcome creative works from Floridians that are not obviously about someplace else. Please check out past issues, available for download as free PDFs. We publish one issue per year in the spring.

We do not accept work that has been previously published either online or in print. We welcome simultaneous submissions as long as you immediately notify us of acceptance elsewhere. Our general reading period is between July 1st and October 1st, however submissions for Places to Stand in Florida are accepted year-round.

Send only one submission per genre at a time. If you have a pending submission, please wait for a response before submitting again. We make every effort to respond as quickly as possible while giving each submission the time it deserves. Our average response time for is 3-5 months. After 6 months, you’re welcome to follow up with the appropriate editor.

All submissions must be made electronically through our online submissions manager. Please upload prose and poetry files in .doc or .docx formats only. Art, photography, and comics should be uploaded in .jpeg / .jpg format only. Paper submissions sent via snail mail will be recycled unread.

Click here to submit.


POETRY

We accept up to five poems per submission period at a maximum of 10 pages. Combine all poems into one document and include in a single submission.

FICTION

We ask that fiction submissions be no longer than 6000 words. Please send only one story per reading period.

CREATIVE NONFICTION

We ask that submissions of memoir and essays be no longer than 6000 words. Please send only one piece per reading period.

FLASH FICTION & FLASH NONFICTION

We accept up to three works of flash fiction or flash nonfiction (750 words or less) per submission period. Please send all stories or essays in one document.

ART & PHOTOGRAPHY

We accept up to five submissions of art or photography per reading period. Please send files in .jpeg / .jpg format only. You may also include a URL if a portfolio of your work is online.

COMICS

We welcome submissions of graphic fiction and nonfiction of up to seven pages, whether in black & white, greyscale, or full color. Submit in .jpeg / .jpg format only. Keep in mind that the journal’s dimensions are smaller (5″x7″) than the average literary journal and so comics with small panels filled with intricate art are not well-suited.

INTERVIEWS

We are especially interested in interviews of Florida writers and artists, although we’re open to almost any Florida-related subject. Please query us about the interview subject first, via email.

REVIEWS

We are interested in reviews of any Florida-related subject: author, book, film, tourist attraction, CD, website, beach, park, toll roads, snack stands, local landmarks—anything! These reviews will appear on http://www.sawpalm.org. Unlike submissions of creative work, current or recent USF students and faculty are welcome to submit reviews. Size limit: 6000 words. Reviews appear on sawpalm.org.

PLACES TO STAND

Please tell us what it’s like to stand at a specific place in Florida at a specific time of day in 500 words or less. While we enjoy the unusual, locations should be public and accessible (so not your bathroom!) Please include GPS coordinates.

Unlike other categories, current or recent USF students and faculty are welcome to submit pieces for the Places to Stand series.

Poems submitted as part of the Places to Stand series are welcome but should be justified left and otherwise not have complex formatting and spacing. This is due to technical limitations in Google Earth.

Places to Stand appears on sawpalm.org.

Reading for Writers: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot takes us on the incredibly interesting and moving journey of her attempt to understand the issues surrounding the life of Henrietta Lacks, her family, and the science and politics of HeLa cells.  She weaves these things together to give a more captivating, more complete picture of each of them.  The structure of the book is one that makes the stories that Skloot tells much more intriguing. It may seem that a book about history, science, and social issues could be dry and unexciting, informative but a chore to trudge through.  Instead, Skloot gives the reader a page-turner, a book that is difficult to put down.  She does this by doing two very effective things.  One has to do with the way she structures the book.  She weaves the history, science, and politics together so that you are never reading any one of those things for long enough to get bored.  The other thing that she does incredibly effectively is personalize the history and science.  Not only does she make the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family personal, but she also tells the personal stories of  the doctors, scientists, and others involved in the history that she describes.

The structure that Rebecca Skloot uses in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is very interesting.  One might think that she would tell a story like this chronologically or by subject.  It is, after all, about science and history and a family past.  She could have chosen to divide it into parts dealing with each of those subjects.  She also could have chosen to structure the book chronologically.  But she doesn’t do that either. Instead, she intertwines the chronology and the subjects.  She begins and ends the book in the present time that she is writing.  The prologue starts with a photograph that is on her wall and then moves back to Skloot’s college years.  It then jumps to the voice of Deborah, Henrietta’s daughter, during the time that Skloot was researching and writing the book. From this prologue, we move quickly to  1951, when Henrietta became ill.  From the very beginning of the book, we know that we are not going to read a straight-forward chronology or a book about just the science or history involved in culture cells.  Skloot explores times as far back as the antebellum South.  The book ends with a “Where They Are Now” chapter and closes with an Afterword that discusses the current state of ethical issues surrounding culture cell research, even extending a bit into the future possibilities of how to deal with these difficult questions.  The way that Skloot weaves these things together not only keeps the reader interested, but also shows the ways in which the personal lives, medical science, and history are all intertwined.  Though this skipping around and intertwining could be confusing, Skloot does a good job of keeping things clear. At the start of each chapter, she has a timeline to show the dates that she is writing about.  In the back of the book, she gives a timeline and a cast of characters to make sure that her reader can always be on the same page as the story.

Skloot does something else that is unexpected in a nonfiction book about medical science.  She make each facet that she talks about highly personal.  As we can see from the way she starts the book, with her own personal experience, Deborah’s personal words, and a retelling of Henrietta’s personal experience, this is not going to be a book about impersonal facts.  Skloot doesn’t just tell her own personal story or the story of the Lacks family, however.  She extends this mode of storytelling into the personal stories surrounding the doctors, scientists, and many of the people involved in the ethical debates.  This helps to draw the reader in to the story and the issues surrounding the story.  Instead of a cold, clinical account of scientific discoveries and ethical debates, Skloot gives us the stories of the people behind the debates.  Not only that, she also extends this to telling her readers about her research.  Instead of only giving her findings and what she dug up regarding her research, she allows her readers to see how she did her research and the personal interactions that she has with people as she delves further and further into the story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells.  She gives backgrounds and descriptions of people that she meets and conversations that she has.  All of this adds life and dimension to the science and history that Skloot is exploring, making it more interesting and pulling the reader deeper into the story.  Because of this, the doctors and scientists, Lacks family members and people that Skloot meets while doing research become not just historical figures, but characters in a rich story that Skloot writes.

Reading for Writers: “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Birth Write:

The birth of the author, the reader, and the text in Hélène Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Part manifesto, part poetry, part call to action, part theoretical treatise, part psychoanalysis, Hélène Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa” is a philosophical essay that defies genre and convention – and rightly so, because this is exactly what Cixous is writing about.  Around the same time that Roland Barthes is theorizing about the death of the author, Cixous is trumpeting the birth of the author.  Is this backwards and old-fashioned of her?  Were these two theories so at odds as to be opposites?  No. While Barthes is approaching the subject as an either/or binary distinction in which the interpretation and agency of the reader necessitates the fall and death of the author, Cixous sees the same rise of the reader, though it is not at the expense of the author because for her their differances are not in opposition.  For Cixous, it is possible for the reader and the writer to be born within a text.

Cixous’s work is difficult to summarize.  It is a call to arms, or if you will, a call to pens for women, who she defines as in an “inevitable struggle against conventional man” (1943).  This definition of woman includes not only those with female bodies, but all those who are engaged in this struggle against the traditional hegemony. Throughout the work, she uses images of the female body and motherhood to explicate a new kind of writing, one which is not bound by the hierarchical structures that are imposed on language.  Instead, she advocates for writing with and through the body.  In writing in this way, those whose voices and bodies have been repressed by the dominant establishment may come into their own and begin to realize their selfhood.  “Write your self. Your body must be heard” (1946), Cixous urges her readers.  She uses the biological functions of the female body to pinpoint that which is dictated by the laws of nature and that which is governed by culture.  Biologically, woman can think, write and speak.  It is the phallocentric culture which will not allow her to do these things.

But The Laugh of the Medusa” is more than a feminist manifesto.  It also goes into great depth about the theory of language and writing.  She calls for the birth of the author through the text: “Write! and your self-seeking text will know itself better than flesh and blood” (1956).  Cixous seeks to encourage those whose voices have been repressed to take back their words and their bodies through writing, allowing them to come fully into being. Unlike the rigid, structured language of Saussure and Lacan, the language of woman is not beholden to the rules of the signifier and the signified.  The language of woman is more fluid and immediate.  The distinctions of the symbolic order, the imaginary order, and the Real do not hold in this ecriture: “We are ourselves sea, sand, coral, seaweed, beaches, tides, swimmers, children waves… More or less wavily sea, earth, sky… We know how to speak them all” (1956) Cixous’s vision of ecriture feminine is a writing that surpasses the traditional binary opposition of I and Not-I, but instead leaves room for connection with the multitudes of Other.  Feminine writing is “a process of different subjects knowing one another and beginning one another anew… a multiple and inexhaustible course with millions of encounters and transformations of the same into the other and the in-between” (1948).  It is not a language based on the separation of parts and the creation of boundaries but instead tries to encompass the whole. Woman “has never ceased to hear the fore-language. She lets the other language speak… Her language does not contain, it carries; it does not hold back, it makes possible.” (1955)

Cixous seems to divert from many of her contemporaries by upholding the role of the author in a text. However, this is because ecriture feminine is not founded on the same assumptions as traditional writing.  Roland Barthes writes “Death of the Author” in critique of the writer as one who seeks to control and own his text.  Unlike Barthes, Cixous does not assume that the author is one who has had access to the modes of writing, speaking, and dissemination.  Cixous’s writer has a newfound voice and is creating her self through her writing. She does not fit the mold of the privileged “conventional man” and therefore must give wings to her own ways of meaning-making.  She has been silenced by the traditional conventions of writing and language as a form of self-expression.  Indeed, she has not had the opportunity for self at all. This is why Cixous sees writing as an empowering act for the writer.  The writers Cixous is writing to and of have agency precisely because they haven’t had it before.  These woman writers are engaging in revolutionary acts through writing.  Cixous writes, “We are at the beginning of a new history, or rather of a process of becoming in which several histories intersect with one another” (1955).  This writer must give birth to her writing because it is the only way that this multiplicity of voices and histories can come into being.  Cixous maintains that writing is an act of empowerment for the author.  She calls on woman to “Write! and your self-seeking text will know itself better than flesh and blood” (1955).  Here the author and the text come into being together.  This is not as far from Barthes’ argument as it would at first seem.  He writes, “the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text” (1324).  Cixous’s writer takes the same relationship with her text, coming into being as she is writing it.

For Barthes, the writer is in opposition to the reader and therefore must die so that the reader and text may be free.  He maintains that the author tries to dominate and restrict readings of his work and therefore must be separated from it.  However, the distinction between Barthes’ author and Cixous’s woman as writer is that woman is giving. The woman as writer is not trying to restrain or constrict the writing the way that Barthes imagines the traditional writing to do. Instead of being the traditional “father” of the work, who knows and restricts all its interpretations and intentions, Cixous’s writers are different: “They observe, they approach, they try to see the other woman, the child, the lover – not to strengthen their own narcissism or verify the solidity or weakness of the master, but to make love better, to invent” (1958).  Cixous envisions a writer who is not stingy with the text or its meaning in relation to the reader, but instead is moved to give.  Of course, the writer is present in the text, but because Cixous and woman writers are not working within a system of binary oppositions in which they see writer and not-writer, they are free to allow the writer to exist alongside the reader and the text.  When the world is not divided into I and Other, all these things can come to fruition together.  The act of writing not only gives voice to the writer, but also to the readers whose voices have also been stifled.  In this way, the author gives birth not only to herself but also to the text and the reader.

There are possible problems with Cixous’s text.  For one, its portrayal of woman in some ways is very one-dimensional, nearly mythological.  She speaks of the experience of women as if all feminine experiences are the same.  However, upon closer examination, Cixous mitigates these concerns at the outset of the essay.  She writes that there is “no general woman, no one typical woman” (1943).  She writes of the individual and multiple variations of woman’s experience.

When she speaks of woman in terms of body, she seems to be upholding traditional gender stereotypes of a binary, biological gender system.  However, in looking more closely, we can see that Cixous is aware of this when she defines woman as in conflict with “conventional man” and states that there is an “infinite richness of individual constitutions” which make up woman’s experience.  She asserts that “each body distributes in its own special way, without model or norm, the nonfinite and changing totality of its desires” (1957).  These passages are inclusive, calling all of the individuals who do not conform to society’s idea of “conventional man” to speak out.

One may see this style of writing and this essay as nonlogical, proof that women cannot write and theorize.  However, Cixous must write in this way in order to break free of the constraints of traditional writing.  There are inconsistencies and places where the essay are unclear, but these only serve to give Cixous’s writer an example, a possible way to break out of the conventions of language so that she might give herself voice.

The implications of this essay for literary theory are manifold.  For one, it is an encouragement for female writers.  It opens the door for a variety of voices, ways of making meaning, and interpretations.  It calls on us, as readers, writers, and citizens, to abandon the old system of binary oppositions, to understand that there are more useful interpretations of the world than A and not-A.  It allows for more room to play with language, embracing nontraditional grammatical forms.  It also calls on us as readers and writers to give.  Instead of holding on to our interpretations and view points as the only right way, we can become Cixous’s woman writer and act with “a love that rejoices in the exchange and that multiplies” (1959).

This essay is also calling on the literary establishment to understand the cultural and societal implications of writing.  Cixous writes that we “confuse the biological with the cultural” (1942), that we are upholding as natural a hierarchy which is completely constructed by society.  Cixous’s use of the body here represents, in part, a call to understand what is “natural” and what is imposed by tradition.  Her use of the body in this essay is on one hand to be taken literally, but functions even better as a metaphor.  Throughout the essay, Cixous uses metaphor and figurative language to make her points and add weight to her arguments.  She is direct about doing this: “The mother, too, is a metaphor” (1948). The body represents the self and the text of the person: “Text: my body” (1948).  She is not only talking about the biological flesh of the writer, but the writer’s very self.  It is only in this context, separate from the control of the imaginary and symbolic orders, that those whose voices have been marginalized can begin to write themselves.  Writing is a historical act.  It creates history and we, as writers and readers, must be cognizant of the history we are creating.  Cixous is asking us if we want to live in a world controlled by the master-slave dialectic, where the author must die so that the reader and the text may live.  Perhaps instead we can live in a world where the author, the reader, and the text may all be born through the act of writing.

Works Cited[1]

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” The Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and

Criticism, Second Edition. Ed. Leitch, Vincent B. New York: W.W. Norton and

 Company, 2010. 1938-1959. Print.

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” The Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and

Criticism, Second Edition. Ed. Leitch, Vincent B. New York: W.W. Norton and

 Company, 2010. 1322-1326. Print.


[1] I understand that it is traditional MLA Format to alphabetize the works cited page by author’s last name, however, I feel that “Laugh of the Medusa” is so much more important to this critique that I have chosen to put it first.  Also, it’s my tiny nod to breaking out of the constraints of the literary establishment.

Inspiration: Writing that Escapes the Page

The Materiality of Meaning: the Format of Words on the Page

            It has long been the realm of poets to think about line breaks and format on the page.  There is a myth that for prose, the words should speak for themselves.  We have the idea that prose writers who manipulate how they put their words on the page somehow undermine the meaning of the words, as if calling attention to the fact that they are on a page takes away their power.  When poets think about the way they format their work on the page, they are being artful, purposeful, but when prose writers do it, it is a gimmick, a trick.  It’s as if readers of prose are meant to mind meld directly with the words.  We imagine that the way the prose is experienced does not matter.  This is not the case.  Whether we are reading words in straight lines on a page, in text boxes, with line breaks, wrapped around images, on an ebook reader or online, our physical experience of the words matter.  It is not true that we feel the words as completely separate from the physical medium through which they are presented to us.  Because of this, we, as writers, must be more cognizant of the ways in which we are offering our narratives.

            We are living in a time when the possible modes for storytelling are more numerous than ever before.  It used to be that recitation, handwritten manuscripts, and books off a printing press were the only media available to writers to disseminate their works.  The forms that these works took followed the physical limitations of these media.  Works meant to be recited were written with meter and rhyme, so as to be as easy as possible to remember.  Books from a printing press used uniform fonts and lines to conform to the constraints of the machine.  Straying from this form was expensive and difficult.  Even adding images or color consumed near impossible time and money.

            With the advent of the digital age, however, the possibilities for publishing and storytelling have exploded.  This explosion means there is also a myriad of ways that a reader can experience a text.  Audio books, Prezis, digital storytelling, hypertexts, and ebooks all offer new possibilities for narratives to be presented.  Because of these new technologies, we can see the fallacy of the direct experience of the word.  A book put in each of these formats takes on new meaning and affords the reader altered ways to encounter the text, even as the words stay the same.   It becomes apparent, then, that reading is an experience that is dictated, at least in part, by the physical choices that authors make concerning format and medium.  In this way, we can see the importance of the material medium that a writer chooses.  The writer can now be a painter, a sculptor, and a poet all in the same work.

            Even if our work remains in traditional ink and paper form, the options in terms of choices a writer can enact are plentiful.  We are no longer beholden to the constraints of traditional printing presses, but can now digitally format our words to be printed in a diverse array of forms.  Writers can choose varying fonts and font sizes.  We can include images or sculpt the ways our words look on the page.   We can choose the way that different ideas get juxtaposed or separated.  We can change color, font or style midsentence, or even midword.  Rather than being automatically a gimmick, these devices can be used to add a more dimension and new layers of meaning to texts.

            Take, for example, Kamau Brathwaite’s essay “Trench Town Rock.”  In his introduction, to the essay, John D’Agata writes:

 I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a ‘performative essay,’ but I know that there are texts that are more profound because of the arguments they try to demonstrate rather than merely state … that simultaneously enact the concepts they represent… Brathwaite therefore emphasizes the experience of reading his texts, encouraging us to find alternative paths into their meanings: visually, aurally, authentically participatory (D’Agata, 599).

 Brathwaite uses an array of devices in his essay to make the reading more experiential.  He uses images, changes the sizes and fonts of his texts, uses varying margins, italics, and bold type.  It is clear that he was purposeful in his choices.  The some sections of the essay are scattered and disjointed, while others read like traditional poems, news reports, or transcripts. The format of each of these sections visibly shows the differences. The effects of these choices on the reader are palpable.   Instead of reading an account of the deaths, the reader can feel the chaotic, disjointed feeling that being in Jamaica at the time must have been.  The reader’s sense of the order of things is disrupted, leaving her with the feeling of lawlessness and turmoil that mirrored Brathwaite’s Jamaica. In this way, the reader experiences the feelings more directly than words following a traditional format would have allowed.

            The ways that a reader encounters words on a page will change the experience of those words.  Different fonts can be used to show different voices.  The words telling the story of a journey can show the journey in addition to telling it, following the route along the page.  Two versions of similar stories can be juxtaposed to show the differences in perspectives.  Different colors or fonts could be used to give the reader different feelings.  Text that is askew on the page can be used to literally show a skewed point of view.   Rather than being interesting effects and ways to play with words or experiment, current technologies make it possible for these new layers of meaning to be the norm.

            It is indeed true that form follows function.  Thus far, writing has taken a very specific form, following the function of the technologies available to us.  But is it true that linear, left-to-right, uniform font on sequential pages should be the default form in which narratives are experienced?  In a postmodern world, where texts are becoming ever more disjointed, we must ask the question if it serves the purposes of the individual text to be written in a linear manner.  It may be true that this form is useful and logical for narratives that follow a traditional linear structure.  However, for works that do not follow this narrative structure, the form of linear font on sequential pages does not follow the function.  As the technology to shape the experience of the reader becomes more and more accessible, writers have more of an obligation to take these possibilities into account when making decisions about their work.  It should not be assumed that all, or even most works are best suited for traditional formats.  Not all narratives or experiences or essays follow traditional, linear structures, and their formats should adapt to the experience.  Now that we are released from the technological constraints of traditional printing, writers need to let go of the constraints in format that came along with that.

              It is not the case, of course, that all writing from here on out should be in non-traditional formats.  Rather, writers should make conscious decisions about how their work looks on the page and take into consideration the effects of those decisions on the reader. We should let go of the myth of the spiritual, non physical power of our words and understand that they are experienced through the choices we make about format and medium.  More and more, the decisions about such things fall into the hands of writers.  Rather than buying into the idea that the power and meaning of our words lies only in putting one letter after another, we should allow ourselves to utilize the full potential available to us by making thoughtful, conscious decisions not only about the words we chose, but also how we chose to send those words out into the world.

Work Cited

Brathwaite, Kamau. “Trench Town Rock.” The Lost Origins of the Essay. Ed. John D’Agata. St.Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2009. Print.

Call for Submissions: The Minetta Review

The Minetta Review is now accepting submissions!  Check them out.

Submit to the Minetta Review

We are now accepting submissions for the Spring 2014 issue, for which the deadline is March 15th, 2014.

While the Minetta Review is a student-run publication at New York University, we consider writing and artwork from all over the country, and we have even published international submissions in the past. If you are a poet, proser, prose-poet, playwright, painter, sculptor, photographer, digital illustrator—otherwise an experimenter of combining word and visual art—we encourage you to submit your creations for consideration into the Review.

You are welcome to send up to three poems, up to two prose pieces that unfold in fewer than 1500 words each, and up to ten artwork pieces per reading period. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but kindly notify us if accepted elsewhere. Submissions received after the deadline will be considered for the Fall 2014 issue.

When you’re ready, send your work as attachments to minettasubmit@gmail.com. Please send each type of submission—poetry, prose, artwork, etc.—as a separate email, and help us out with a subject line: Poetry, Prose, Artwork, etc.. Thank you!

The Selection Process

Our managing editors monitor our inboxes and put together weekly submission packets that we read, discuss, at times passionately argue over—all author-blind—before casting anonymous votes that ultimately determine the semester’s selection of writing. Artwork is currently decided in a manner responsive to the issue’s finalized writing, as well as to the content and contributions solicited by the Artwork Editor and Editor-in-Chief outside of the general submissions process.

Responses are typically released 8 – 10 weeks after the submissions deadline. Accepted pieces will be featured in print and electronically. At this time, no monetary compensation is provided to contributors. Upon publication all rights revert to the contributor, whose authorization is required for reprints, and we kindly ask that reprints made elsewhere credit the Minetta Review as the original printer.

Print editions are made available free-of-charge to the NYU student body, to bookshops in Greenwich Village, and to certain locations throughout Manhattan. Recent selections are viewable on the newly renovated Minetta WordPress, and the Spring 2013 edition is now accessible free-of-charge through the Issuu service.

Contributors receive no monetary compensation for publication; we mail copies at no charge to the contributor. All rights revert to the submitting writers and artists upon publication.

ISSN 1065-9196