Dear Readers of Issue 4

This letter begins with a rant!

At Slouching Beast Journal we (I, Hunter the Editor) are addicted to estrangement. I've tweeted this, but what I really mean is I'm desperate for awe. I'm desperate for the transfiguration of reality produced by disruption of structure / expectation. Would also include a genuine encounter with an unfamiliar consciousness, an individuated piece of writing that intensely expresses the particular strangeness of an actual other person, as a type of awe that I crave. 

To me, this is beauty, an escape from sternly-described "grounded in reality" "realistic characters" - which is just whatever the dominant cultural psychology claims is "believable" to preserve its homogenous environment. That homogenous environment of "believable characters" is depressing and boring to me. It also neglects (and often smothers) new, unfamiliar voices, the type of voices that (for me) produce awe. 

For the journal, I don't only pick for strangeness, but I love stuff that doesn't feel familiar. It gives me hope that awe is real, which in-itself is a pleasure. I started this website just to highlight and give "published" credits to that kind of work. 

Anyway that's my opinion on that stuff. I'm least articulate when I'm angry, and I just looked at the goodreads page of my friend's novel, and (this is my personal problem) just completely focused on certain reviewers who use that kind of chastising vaguely-waspy "this character who doesn't share my motivations and moral universe (which usually represents a cultural hegemony) is unrealistic and unlikable" type language. 

It's great to read familiar stuff. What makes me ANGRY is when the familiar is just unreflectively voiced as a universal law of good writing (grounded in reality, believable, what makes sense compared to MY life, etc). 

Anyway, let me talk about how great the contributors of Issue 4 are. 

I'll rant briefly again. I know I'm acting like a reactionary by becoming furious at vanishing tweets / goodreads reviews like they represent some huge cultural force, but I've been seeing, again, very self-assured definitions of poetry, it's rules, particularly that it has to be "personal" (it is fortunately allowed to be strange). As in, confined to the personal. I would question that. It can be other things too. For example, I'm really interested in polyphony and poems where the voice is an abstract force, or history itself (or rather a uniquely, fascinatingly flawed self-propelling concept of history that in its display reflects back into the consciousness trying to describe it). I think, maybe in pedantic terms, the definition of what is personal can be too narrow. It suggests a type of voice and tone, a confessional type thing, a reeling-in of scope.  

In Issue 4 of Slouching Beast Journal, I'd point to the two poems by Glenn Bach as examples of expansion of scope. These are from a longer work called "Atlas" and I think they are really cool displays related to that idea of abstract-force-as-voice. They encompass change and landscape and terraforming and the witnessing of it. They make me think about the telling of the world and how mass events (and articulated catastrophe, in the case of Western U.S. fires) are built from telling. It's also interesting how a long, linked poem collection of multiple voices can create the effect of world-as-voice. 

Elizabeth Upshur writes another kind of personal poetry that may seem more familiar, but her two pieces both intensely engage with the concept of history as well, or with history as a flawed concept, as a story brutally gapped by murderous and oppressive lineages. The injustice / scattering of history is built into the rhythm of the poems really beautifully, as a spreading of voice or defiant exhortation. The poems also rotate around one of the most powerful of all vortices, the death of an individual, and the spinning of voice to account for it. 

In Upshur's second poem, "Lucy Terry Prince," she writes, "Everything is a poem and a family tree and a story." I think the idea that a person's attempt to organize the vastness of reality can be a poem is awesome (or awe-producing). Or that "everything" is a poem. This unlocks such interesting possibilities. 

But even when anchored to "the personal," a specific individual perspective, poetry can expand beyond the polite constraints of culturally-imposed rules of selfhood. The two poems of Ismail Junaid Oluwadamilare immediately impressed me with their self-mythologizing scope, and the title of one, "CLATTER OF BLISS," that's just so great. "I wrapped fire in my gut / Passed through the cells of light" "Civilization denied me / Parties divided me" and other such sequences lift selfhood into a macrocosmic realm pitted against legendary and universal forces. This is an unfettered, direct route to awe.

Similarly, Kushal Poddar's poem "Be Radha, She Wrote On The Back," combines cosmic imagery and concepts with specific and visceral details. For me this intensifies the vividness of a piece, when the specific particulars (the holy grail of "realistic writing") are continuously charged with universe / force / philosophy / myth images, which in turn makes it emotional, like the constant frustrated desire to fully describe the feeling of something with language, since language is something that points at sense-experience and has to continually battle against its own drift into abstraction (this is why, I imagine, I've encountered in writing workshops edicts such as "all abstract language is bad, stick to the details" - a blanket avoidance of ineffability by denying it - this is not a problem in-itself and can be interesting and almost like an epic alchemist's quest, to "have" reality with language - I would just resist the edict part). 

Language as details working alongside forceful abstractions, alongside feeling and memory made visceral - Chella Courington's poems both embody to me what I love about this. The images have both physical and abstract connections that generate a new, consistent, jewel-like reality for me. Example: in "Clouds" there is the antagonist, the eye getting shot, the eye and sky images - geese, clouds, comets - alongside narrative of the (former) antagonist, his death, and the structural narrative of memory. I love it when poetry that's interested in the personal engages fully not just with experience itself, but the apparatus of experience, the consciousness - the imperfection and tragedy and joy with which a person builds images and stories for themself. Also how it will rotate around a moment of trauma, then plummet into it with suddenness - "Close to the Edge" does this, it's got a great phase-shift-type devastating conclusion. 

With Steven Hendrix, I'm brought back to estrangement. This is a specific quality I look for when reading fiction. As the initial rant indicates, I feel fiction is in some contexts dominated by a particular idea of realism. Hendrix's fragments (as he calls them), or flash, or just short fiction, use straightforward language but reveal a total dislocation of reality through repetition and bizarre narrative. There is an hour that doesn't exist and an inexplicably reappearing man. This is horror-like fiction where an established reality breaks down in a cascade of confusion and dread. Hendrix does this really well by maintaining a direct, logical narrator. It's impressive what can happen in a long paragraph. Although I think "flash fiction" is sometimes articulated as a restrictive category, I absolutely love all the enthusiasm there is now for short pieces, fragments, experimentation with fictive bursts. 

Anyway, this was my attempt at an editorial letter, as encouraged by my Dad - I hope it was entertaining! Any rant-like opinions, or where I appear to be attacking other opinions, these are probably not to be taken seriously. Was just trying to put some thoughts down about what motivates me (even if that motivation is combative, or reliant on delusions of aesthetic conspiracies) to want to be a (microscopic) editor / publisher. 

Issue 5 is coming soon - I'm about to start selecting work for that. I'll try to write another one of these. Until then, thank you so much for honoring me with your attention, and please give praise to the contributors. Their work deserves fame and constant spread. 

Warm regards,
-Hunter

If you’re interested in getting more message like this as issues come out, Subscribe to the newsletter