Among the many vaguely articulated PANK policies I will likely break today, three in particular. First and foremost, PANK staff are supposed to eschew self-promotion of their own individual creative works within PANK air-space, insofar as it can be avoided. Second, I, in particular, am not to write reviews because, well, because I suck at it (I’ve always been way too cheap a date, too easy a lay). Third, we are never to get sloppy. But every once in a while, regardless of these petty proprieties and protocols, Â things 1 and 2 come along to demand our immediate and throw caution to the wind attention.
ATTENTION! Â Thing 1 and thing 2, ARTIFICE 1 and LUMBERYARD 5, a valentine.
It has taken me some reflection to process my lust and love for these two magazines, beyond the obvious. Roxane Gay, my fellow PANK editor, is in ARTIFICE 1. I am in LUMBERYARD 5. Or that so many of the writers contained in both are either those whose work I’ve previously determined to like, those whom I’ve published myself, and/or those with whom I’ve consumed drugs and alcohol and attempted to beat up frat boys. It’s hard to see past. It’s hard, I tell you. Â But insofar as I am able to peer through the fog of my bias, cronyism and self-interest, let me attempt a taxonomy, sure to rankle, but one that gets me a little closer to why I think these two pubs have crawled so far up under my skin (which I mean as a very positive thing) that I absolutely must shoot them my little gooey love arrows this fine, fine Valentine’s Day.
In my humble opinion, lit mags fall flat when they are merely one or more of the following:
- Great of content, but poor of presentation;
- Excellent of presentation, but poor of content;
- Great to read to grandma for the treatment of insomnia;
- Willfully inscrutable;
- Myopic and parochial;
- Unfortunately academic;
- and/or The product of the rabble and mob.
Luckily for readers and writers alike, magazines like ARTIFICE (editors James Tadd Adcox and Rebekah Silverman) Â and LUMBERYARD (brother/sister editor duo Jen and Eric Woods) exist to muss up these cynical expectations of mine and prove again and again why, despite frequent and shrill proclamations to the contrary (mostly from some tired or near-retired purveyor of one of the above), contemporary literature is not merely alive and kicking, but smart AND Â freaky AND funky AND hungry AND oh, so willing. And that combination, people, as we all know, is neither dead nor dying, but something closer to, say, I don’t know, maybe RED FUCKING HOT.
Thing 1, ARTIFICE.
ARTIFICE made a lot of claims prior to issuing its product and this must always be approached with some trepidation however much we want those claims to prove true. Not only is our little literary cosmos filled with its share of self-delusion if not outright insanity, but usually it takes little magazines a couple issues to work out their kinks. Small staffs, small budgets, lots of minutia to handle — you do the math, smarty pants. Let’s just say I adopted the wait and see approach. And then the first issue appears on my doorstep all Â sleek and black and mysterious, like Billy Dee Williams minus the creepy mustache and malt liquor, so chocablock with alarmingly clever work very much aware of its own its own artifice (as promised, and a fete of self-reflexivity Billy Dee never quite seemed to manage), that even as I breathed a sigh of relief, I swooned and fell. All editors Â should be so obsessed by the pure love and joy of what they’re sending out into the world, they manage to produce a first product so painfully perfect in every way as ARTIFACE 1. Take note, would-be editors (and a few too many existing ones), the bar is set.
Featuring Carol Berg, Jessica Bozek, Blake Butler, Neil de la Flor, Andrew Farkas, Ori Fienberg, Elisa Gabbert, Kelly Haramis, Kyle Hemmings, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Gregory Lawless, Jefferson Navicky, Lance Olsen, Joel Patton, Christopher Phelps, Derek Philips, Cynthia Reeser, Kathleen Rooney, Davis Schneiderman, Maureen Seaton, David Silverstein, Susan Slaverio, Kristine Snodgrass, William Walsh, koalas, terror, that one time you watched your father boil lobsters, infidelity, faithful robots, faithless robot dogs, compromising situations, and a missing body or two, ARTIFICE delivers deliverance and transport. When I’m finally done obsessing over Silverstein’s dendrites and constellations, I’m going to keep the whole little magazine in my man purse as talisman for confidence and good luck wherever I roam, or to hand back to people on the street who try to give me little Bibles.
That’s right, ARTIFICE 1 is so good, it will do double duty as both rabbit foot and zealot repellant.
Thing 2, LUMBERYARD.
LUMBERYARD 5 is a little harder for me to write about because, as I stated previously, I’m actually in it. Furthermore, editor Jen Woods, in a recent radio interview called me her magic moment. So admittedly, my rose tinted glasses may be something more akin to full on stained glass beer goggles. However, I’m also finding LUMBERYARD difficult to write about because the magazine’s Â combined editorial stance, design aesthetic, and letterpress sensibility (not to mention the included CD) make the thing so damned visceral and present that I am compelled to lock myself in a closet with a flashlight, cradle the thing in my arms, smell it, and lick its pages as much as I am compelled to read it, let alone write about reading it. Last fall, in the NYTime’s Artsbeat, Dwight Garner called LUMBERYARD one of the best he’d seen, raw, jumpy, and cerebral. Darn tootin’, Dwight. What he said.
If ARTIFICE is evincing the virtuosity of Miles Davis out the gate (come on, it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m entitled to as much hyperbole as I want), LUMBERYARD is Sun Ra, LUMBERYARD is the P-Funk, the mother ship has landed, and we’ve all just been shot with a great big bop gun. Â Featuring Â poetry, fiction, music and design by Yikilo Hiskiss, Â Stem Holder, Â Kathleen McGookey, Â Derek Mong, Â Dan Pinkerton, Â Brett Eugene Ralph, Â Seclusion, Tiffany Turner, and the magic of Firecracker Press, LUMBERYARD rocks the verbi-voco-visual in ways I’m simply too stupid to further articulate.
If LUMBERYARD isn’t the face of what’s to come, I don’t know what is.
Alright, kids, enough is enough. I’m spent. I need to go get some napkins and clean myself up now. You, go buy these magazines and read them and love them as I love them, strapped to your chest with the detonator set to high noon. They may make you say and do things you will be embarrassed by in the morning, true, but I think you’re going to find yourself growing old with them, happy and contented in your choice.
Happy Valentine’s Day.