In the mail: Epiphany and The Journal
Okay, so Mike Meginnes at HTMLGIANT has made me all self-conscious about the praise I sometimes bestow in this little blog. Am I being sincere? What are my motives? Am I doing this just to call attention to myself in the end? Do I have this fantasy that I will say nice things about some writer, and they will stumble across it someday while searching for their own name, and say, "Hey, that Amorak said nice things about me. I will ..." well, and that's where the fantasy kind of drifts into nothingness. They'll follow me on Twitter? Link to my blog? E-mail me? What am I hoping to gain, anyway? (I guess the same kind of nebulous approval-seeking validation I hope to gain when I write anything. It's not like there's any money in this.)
So, after reading Meginnes' piece, I'm thinking: Do I need to be meaner? Should I say negative things about shit I don't like so that people will believe me when I say something nice? Because, sure, I read shit I don't like all the time. Sometimes I actively, aggressively dislike stuff. Other times -- far more often -- I have that shrugging-meh-whatever-I'd-rather-be-watching-Hoarders reaction. Meginnes suggests that maybe I'd be doing the lit world a favor by calling out pieces that aren't working, so their writers could learn and grow from the criticism. And then the killer, really-close-to-home zinger comes in the comments, where someone named Dave K. calls out people who "get so wrapped up in marketing themselves as a Supportive Community Member Who Also Writes (Hint Hint) that they almost forget how to be honest about what really motivates them, and what doesn't." Jesus. Is that what I'm doing here?
Man, paralysis and self-doubt come easy, don't they?
But also they are (mostly) pointless.
So this is where I am. I am probably not going to be all that mean in this blog. (Except to movies. Which are asking for it.) There's bad writing in the world, and there's mediocre writing in the world, and I'm not going to waste too much of my time writing about it. What I will do is be honest. I won't tell you I love something when I don't. I'll try not to partake in the "vague hyperbole" Meginnes decries. I won't say I've read something I haven't, or promise to buy a book and then not do it. (Behaviors that seem to enrage Meginnes.)
All of which is a long, meta, navel-gazing way of getting to what I came here to say, which is that I recently received in the mail the latest issues of Epiphany and The Journal. And there's a great deal to admire in each of them.
Epiphany -- well, Ep;phany, according to the cover and title page and table of contents -- has a cool, odd index on the back that highlights some connections between the pieces inside, citing such topics as "hillbilly lunatic" and "clown who punishes with love songs" and "Lady Gaga," who has three appearances. Nate Pritts has two solid poems here, and Lucy Ives' "Poem" is a fun piece: "I was a terrible person but I didn't care." Michael Martin Shea's "Rough Draft of a Poem About Heartbeats" is a creepy, violent poems that ends with a chill: "Think of her neck as a part of a body that can never taste itself." But my favorite poem in the issue is Ben Purkert's "Promotion," which splashes its words across the page in a way that I usually don't care for much, but that works here because the words are so just-right. This poem, I'm pretty sure, is about having a bit of a crush on one of those giant inflated people used to call attention to a business, in this case a car wash. It's odd and visceral and surprisingly, surprisingly tender.
The Journal doesn't have a handy-dandy index, but it does have some fine writing inside. Jesse Goolsby's "No Curves No Junk" is a terrific essay about baseball, family, and LSD. Dock Ellis features prominently, natch, but it's really a personal piece about the author's Uncle Joe. Quite moving. And there's so much good poetry I know I'm going to leave some of the stuff I really liked. The ever-excellent Traci Brimhall has two poems here. Brittany Scott's "Mystique" is a keeper. Hala Alyan, with whom I am not familiar, has three poems I admire: "Libra," "Osiris," and "Aquarius." Sally Wen Mao's sectioned poem "After Yoshitomo Nara" is also a stunner. Its first section opens: "Our heads rise from the waters, faking / heartbreak. No one with a body can stand // to submerge like we do." And the poem ends, in a section called "I Don't Mind, If You Forget Me": "I love my tininess, / but it is the only thing I love."
So, there, Mike Meginnes. Lots of praise. And, yeah, Dave K, I'm being the Supportive Community Member Who Also Writes (Hint, Hint). And I'm pretty much okay with that.