Letters from the Editor
Read about the fall issue here.
Read about the spring issue here.
Read about the fall issue here
September 8, 2015
AWP, Kate Gale, and Diversity for Diversity’s Sake:
RSR’s response to the recent dust-up in the small universe of literary charades
Disclaimer: I have never met nor communicated with Kate Gale, nor do I intend to.I do not attend AWP, primarily because it is too politically charged.
To be clear: if Kate Gale, founder and managing editor of Red Hen Press and editor at The Los Angeles Review, submitted “AWP Is Us” to a writing workshop I happened to be facilitating, I’d have returned it without distributing it to the workshop participants.
If Gale bothered to ask why (which I somehow doubt she would), I’d respond: “This piece is an extremely poor attempt at satire. It lacks cohesion and coherence. The writing is so lazy in its delivery that it is offensive. If you want to take the time to radically revise, polish, and edit the piece, I’ll take another look. As it stands, it is, at best, a very rough draft. At worst, it will be read as a white-privilege rant of intolerance.”
In the small yet volatile universe of the literary press, in which the Associated Writing Programs serves, presumably, as common ground—a place to gather and discuss the industry, to make contacts, to network—Gale’s Huffington Post blog was, as I feared, read, by and large, as a white-privilege rant. This bespeaks as much to the bent of the readership as to the writing itself. There were several responses to the piece of the ilk, “I hope this is a really bad attempt at satire,” or “The rhetoric in this piece wouldn’t pass muster in a Composition and Rhetoric 101 course.” The great majority, however, were politically indignant, self-righteously outraged, posturing as if the piece was to be read in a literal sense.
I am reminded of Nietzsche, in particular his piece on “Reading and Writing,” in the classic Thus Spake Zarathustra (1886):
“Every one being allowed to learn to read, ruins in the long run not only writing but also thinking.”
In Gale’s case, the responses to her weak go at satire are evidence that Nietzsche, at least in one sense, was correct. The PC climate that has inculcated the American literary scene for too long now has produced readers, inadvertently or not, who, dare I say, willfully misread texts to satisfy political expediencies. Either that or the majority of those who commented on the blog, outraged at its audacity, honestly did not see that Gale’s writing employed a structure that conveyed the intent of satire.
For example, the flagrant use of cliché in targeting sexuality, gender, and ethnicity, should have been a clue to readers that the piece was not intended to be read literally. The opening sentence of the penultimate paragraph, “The point is that this fabulous conference creates an intersection point of editors, writers, residencies, MFA programs and in the last couple of years agents as well,” should, as well, have indicated to readers that what came before it was designed to tease the reader rather than condemn diversity.
But, alas, the lion’s share of the crowd that commented on the blog missed the obvious. This is more than a bit worrisome. Shame on Gale for publishing such a poorly devised piece of writing and shame on those readers who didn’t see the essay for what it was: a dreadful attempt at satire.
Gale is no Jonathan Swift, to be sure, but her proposal in “AWP Is Us,” ironically, may have been more modest than the over-the-top words conveyed to its zealous audience. Might not have Gale’s mini-essay been an attempt to criticize the postmodern propensity for self-centeredness, where it is NOT a piece of writing that garners praise or criticism but rather the author of the writing, a willful ad hominem move, often through a grossly oversimplified view of history, equality, and democracy on the part of editors and the writers themselves?
Since its inception, Red Savina Review has maintained that a selection of writing must stand on its own merit, regardless of the age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity of the author. Does this mean we are at odds with diversity? If I am being truthful, in one sense, yes. Diversity for diversity’s sake is like planting and nurturing invasive weeds in a vegetable garden intended to feed a village. Left to their own devices, let alone being actively cultivated, the weeds will choke-out their competition and the citizenry will become, at best, malnourished. At worst, they will starve to death.
On the other hand, a certain amount of diversity is essential, if we have learned anything from the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. If the Irish would have had more variety in the species of potatoes they planted, the famine probably could have been avoided altogether. A balanced diet requires variation in crop and, therefore, diversity is key to good health.
At RSR we read with the Greek concept of arete (“excellence”) as the guiding principle. Nothing more. Nothing less. What is excellence? There is no formula for it. Is all writing, then, inherently excellent because the author invests so much of themselves into the words? Sadly, no. Some writing is superior, most is not. We do, then, pull weeds where we find them so as not to compromise the harvest and jeopardize the health of our readers.
To put it another way, if I were to attend AWP next year, I would not be interested in attending panels such as LGBT Writers, Irish Writers, Native American Writers, White Writers, Transgender Writers, Disabled Writers, etc. These designations serve to segregate writers into groups who naturally become insular and defensive: they are focused on the author and NOT the writing. To borrow from Jacques Barzun, who received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2010, ““Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.”
RSR is not interested in hatred. We are, however, drawn, like dowsers to water, to excellent writing, no matter whom the author might be or what perspective they might come from. A panel on how editors from various journals go about choosing excellent writing, I’d wager, would attract a curious audience and a great debate. An AWP panel entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Excellence might engender a healthy conversation that opens up a way for writers and editors to communicate in a liminal space, rather than corralling them into political definitions.
I attended a panel at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in 2013. Held in Silver City, New Mexico, the title of the talk was Out of the Margins: Multicultural Writing in the 21st Century. On the panel, among others, was a Native American poet. What she had to say was quite interesting:
During her travels, the poet stopped at a large, independent bookstore in, if I remember correctly, Nebraska. She was looking for a book of poetry by a writer she had recently encountered. When she couldn’t find the book in the poetry section of the store, she found it odd because the poet was well-known on the contemporary scene. So, she located a store clerk and asked him to take a look in his magic computer.
The clerk did as he was asked and traced the title. Looking up for the computer, he said, “That book would be in the Native American section.”
The poet was incensed. If she was looking for a book of contemporary poetry by a well-known poet, she expected to find it in the poetry section of the store, not segregated into a Native American niche.
I think the anecdote speaks for itself. Excellence in creative writing, whether poetry or prose, is its own category and pays no heed to sexual orientation, ethnicity, or, frankly, anything but the writing itself. If a poet is producing superior work and has been recognized by their fellow poets as doing just that, she deserves to be in the poetry section of the bookstore, wouldn’t you agree?
But, you may ask, who is to determine if a piece is to find its place under the standard of arete? In the end, many will argue, creative writing, like all art, is ultimately subjective. No way around it. One reader may view a work as excellent while another may see it as repulsive.
My response: if you choose to board a ship that is to set sail across the tumultuous seas of our literary times, would you choose an experienced captain who knows, through intuition informed by experience, how to mark twain, or a myopic greenhorn who knows only the shallow waters of his home shores? Intuition informed by experience, then, is crucial in evaluating a selection of literature.
At RSR we subscribe to concept of the Great Books of Western Civilization (with the caveat the list of titles included must be fluid and not static) as a means to promoting dialogue between past literature and present-day writing (a la Gadamer). The Great Books are “great” for good reason: they have withstood the test of time and, by all indicators, will continue to do so long after postmodernism and political correctness have run their course. Literature is a human tradition that maps the human place in the world. It cannot be assessed outside of that continuum, for, if it is, it turns its back on itself and claims to be something it is not: privileged in a historical perspective that conceives itself as external to the flow of history.
In sum, I expect Kate Gale will survive her self-induced squall. With a bit of luck, after digesting a large slice of humble pie, she might learn something valuable about writing and editing. AWP will keep meeting, complete with its political hubbub. In the meantime, we’ll keep reading at RSR. For the sake of American Letters, I sincerely hope that All of Us turn our attention away from the writer and back to the text where it belongs. To do otherwise is to advocate a rather insidious form of censorship.
Good luck to us all!
John M. Gist
Red Savina Review
Red Savina Review (RSR) is three years old and growing stronger. The journal is almost able to hold its own now, thanks to those who have donated their time and money in order to get the little guy to stand up straight. Though still a bit wobbly, we have even taken a few baby steps. And that’s where I want to start: THANKS TO ALL OF YOU who have contributed time and money to this endeavor. It wouldn’t be possible without your help.
As with each issue, writing this letter allows me to reflect for a time on why, exactly, we continue to publish RSR. Producing a literary journal is very time consuming (just ask Wendy Gist, who has spent countless hours working on the journal for little more than a nod and a “Thanks!”). Add to that the fact that there are no real perks (especially the monetary kind), and it cuts into my own precious writing time, etc. It doesn’t take long to see that the cost benefit analysis doesn’t balance out. We are taking a loss.
And then there is the world at large. Some days, when I can’t keep a lid on my cynical self, it is ever so clear that we are now living in a post-literate culture where attention spans have shrunk to short bursts and an annoying optimism punctuates Yeats’ vision in The Second Coming:
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Why not join the happy nihilists? Throw in the towel and dive into the passionate muck of Twitter-birthed social crises? Where social media rules opinion polls and corporate media spins what news they can find into pre-packed ideologies, relativism reigns triumphant. So be it. Why fight the inevitable? Nietzsche’s Last Men stand on the horizon of Manifest Destiny, the goal of Western Civilization, the Hegelian juggernaut of World Spirit that will not be denied:
Lo! I show you the Last Man.
“What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”—so asks the Last Man, and blinks.
The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.
“We have discovered happiness”—say the Last Men, and they blink.
They blink like George Bergeron in Vonnegut’s classic Harrison Bergeron: George, because he is above average in intelligence, has had a mental handicap radio placed in his right ear by government agents. The radio is tuned into a government transmitter that sends out a sharp noise every twenty or so seconds to scramble the man’s thoughts. In the Bergeron world everybody is equal: the beautiful sport masks so they cannot tempt and the athletic are required to wear weights to hold them down. They are Nietzsche’s Last Men. On bad days, when my inner-cynic springs forth like some Jack-in-the-Box in a cheap horror flick, I am a Last Man. We all are. There’s no turning the tide now, so why bother?
In short, more often than not, I feel akin to Kafka’s character K. in the novel The Castle. K. wanders through impenetrable alien bureaucracies that seem, on good days, to be a series of Catch-22s leading to that ultimate paradox where faith and despair become one. It is here, suddenly, I am able to breathe once more, the weight, at least for a moment, lifted: from the irony springs a paradoxical hope:
I am reminded that the protagonist of Vonnegut’s story is none other than Harrison Bergeron, a youth who rebels against conformity and, though sacrificing his life for a fleeting taste of existential freedom, inspires, for a brief flash, the promise of human potential. Nietzsche’s overarching protagonist is not Zarathustra but the free spirit, a nebulous being no longer fully human, something more than human, an enlightened being not unlike a Zen Master or a Taoist Immortal gone far beyond the constraints of human morality. We need not settle. Not yet. Just the opposite: let the potential unfold!
Kafka never finished The Castle. And Yeats ended his poem with, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” I don’t know for certain what the beast will be. Like Kafka’s, our story hasn’t yet come to an end. Not yet. We’re still telling it. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. But, as the rough beast continues its approach, it is time to choose sides.
I’m throwing in with Harrison Bergeron and Zarathustra in the hopes of paving the way for the free spirit. And that’s why I continue to publish the journal. As Zarathustra implores, “Mankind is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” My answer, in good faith: the Red Savina Review. One of the major emerging goals of the journal is to critique the human condition, point out both its highs and lows. Most importantly, RSR continues striving to engender the passion that defies the urge to mindless conformity and the technologization of the human spirit.
There. That felt good. Now that you have weathered the rant, time to celebrate! Issue 3.1, marking the third year of this little experiment, may be the best yet. The First Annual Albert Camus Short Fiction Contest has been a big success. Thanks to all of you who entered. Without you there would be no contest. A BIG thanks to Khanh Ha for volunteering to judge the contest. It takes a lot of work and a lot of care to do a proper job and Mr. Ha has, as usual, gone above and beyond in his efforts. There’s really nothing I can write to do Khanh Ha justice here. My heartfelt thanks will have to suffice.
At RSR we maintain that the judge of a writing contest should have full autonomy. It paid off this time around. The stories Khanh Ha chose, as you will see, serve to balance out the stories I selected from the non-contest submissions. I would venture to say that we have struck a balance between yin and yang. What more can the reader ask for? There’s something for everybody! The editorial staff is calling 3.1 The Fiction Contest Issue.
I also want to extend my sincere gratitude to the writers, all of them who submitted. It is you who fuel this venture. Whether submitting your work to RSR, agreeing to do interviews, spreading the word or reading the journal, you are the heart blood. Thank you.
Finally, the staff knows full-well that this whole business would end without their efforts. There is no way I could do this alone. I find it a little difficult to admit, as I have always fancied myself a kind of lone wolf, but I have found a sense of community in RSR. Community is good. There. I said it. And I thank you for that.
Enjoy Issue 3.1. Spread the word! Donate if you can!
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” -Albert Camus
Issue 2.2 of Red Savina Review (RSR) marks the end of our second year in the whacky world of the literary journal game. Many journals, for many reasons, do not last more than a couple of issues. We here at RSR plan on being around for years to come. Though there are no monetary rewards involved, money can’t buy you love, right? As cliché as it sounds, we love what we do. This is cause for celebration.
When starting this endeavor two years ago, I was well aware of the facts: a small pond with too many fish and not enough food, little chance of return on investments of time and money, blah, blah, blah. Yet, fueled by an intuition that the literary tides are turning, that readers are growing tired (some even sick) with the current state of literary affairs, I dove into the pond head first. Luckily, instead of cracking my skull on an underwater boulder, I found the waters refreshing and deep. Though the pond may be small in circumference, it is, as far as I can tell, bottomless in terms of potential.
The intention at RSR is to provide writers a space to publish work online that is widely accessible and to champion those writers whose work pushes the boundaries of what literature can be. Political Correctness and postmodernism, in my mind (and I am not alone), though necessary at one time, are approaching the end of their usefulness. At the university where I teach, I sense a growing urgency among students, graduate and undergraduate alike. No longer are they solely concerned with money and the superficiality it can purchase. Sure, they want to make a comfortable living, but they need something more: they crave meaning. As readers, they hanker for the meaning which has, deliberately or not, been diluted or covered up by the constraints of Political Correctness and the aimlessness of postmodernity.
All hail to these readers! They are opening up a space that has been closed off for most of my adult life. RSR hopes to help occupy this space by continuing to publish poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction that pushes boundaries and confronts the old ways of doing things that obviously cannot satisfy this craving for meaning.
That this is all a little slow in coming about, I admit. Too many writers, conditioned by society and the ubiquitousness of corporate influence, are either afraid or still learning how to ask the questions that lead to meaning. Though the questions are virtually as old as language itself, and therefore universal (absolute from the human perspective), the answers, if they are to achieve the status of meaning, must come from somewhere deep within (relative).
This is not to be confused with the outmoded subject/object dichotomy that dominated the scene for centuries. Neither is it a surrender to abject subjectivity where one person’s meaning cancels out the next person’s because each individual’s, ad nauseam, is valid for the brief life (and attention span) of that particular subject. Instead, and in following Heidegger, the world worlds me, just as it worlds you. We share this experience in common and express it differently. The subject/object dichotomy, then, breaks down and so does the solipsism which too often taints postmodern literary works.
RSR’s role in all of this? To give writers the opportunity to develop the questions that lead to meaning and, through publication, ask readers to hear the questions and posit answers. The relationship is neither purely objective (the author is the god of their written world), nor purely subjective (the reader takes away any old meaning they choose). In the end it is a human dialogue about the human place in the world which we share with the earth, the sky, sea and stars.
With all this in mind, the theme for Issue 2.2 is NO THEME. We purposely didn’t post Calls for Submissions at New Pages, The Review Review, and the like. We were experimenting (and operating on a shoestring budget!): Would there be enough interest in our foundling journal to risk word-of-mouth advertising? Was the word getting out? The answer: Yes! In this issue we are publishing a Walt Whitman Award winning poet and a former Walter Stegner Fellow, along with previously unpublished authors and everything in between. The result is an eclectic batch of poetry, stories and essays that share a commonality in that they all, in one way or another, ask questions that can lead to an evolution of meaning. This, I honestly believe, is what readers now seek.
So, if you are reading this and even partially agree with my take on things, please help spread the word. Though our unique visitors at RSR are at an all-time high, we won’t survive unless you help us bring in more readers. When we hit a specified number of unique visitors in an issue, we have little surprise for everyone involved…. Stay tuned.
Finally, I am proud to announce The Albert Camus Award in Short Fiction. I am getting used to the water in our little pond, learning to hold my breath for longer and longer periods when diving below the surface. There is talent down there to be sure. Too often, however, real talent is pushed to the fringes by a marketplace which dictates value by popularity rather than insight. Camus encapsulates what RSR strives to publish: literature that looks deep into the heart of humanity. The award will be given annually to those writers whose fiction strips away the conceits of being human in an attempt to clear the way for human being. We hope to see the prize monies increase each year. Read more about the contest here.
Please join me in congratulating the staff for all of the hours of work at their own expense. I deeply appreciate ALL the writers who submitted and contributed to this issue.
Enjoy! Thank you for reading RSR!
“I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.”
“Only as an individual can man become a philosopher.”
Greetings, Fellow Readers!
The time has come to launch the spring issue of Red Savina Review (RSR), and it is with great pleasure (and a certain sense of dread) that I sit down to finger-punch the keyboard in order to make sense of this latest endeavor. First, this issue, as usual, came together in organic fashion; there was no pre-established theme.
It becomes clearer to me with each passing issue that themes emerge of their own accord because we receive so many high quality submissions. It is natural for the mammalian brain to seek patterns. Humans, as the reading animal, find patterns in words. What better place, then, than a literary journal (in particular RSR, if I may be so bold) to seek the truth that has been lost in the postmodern bog? Yes, a theme emerged in RSR 2.1, a theme suggests that, just maybe, as Heidegger put it, “Only a god can save us now.”
Not the flowery bloom that I was expecting for a spring issue, though there is some rain involved, sweet rain to long for, a real rain that will wash all of the scum off the streets. In short, many of the submissions are buoyed on an undertow of desperation regardless of locale: on a plane, in a school on the Navajo Reservation, at Harvard, on a cold and gray beach in New England, in a Texas bar. Angst, it seems, is part and parcel of human experience, if RSR’s submissions are any indicator (and I’d bet my last nickel they are).
Much of this unease stems from the postmodern dilemma concerning truth as relative to context and perspective. In mainstream society this complex intellection has been boiled down to “truth is relative” and, as such, non-existent in the final analysis. If everybody has their own truth based upon their particular context and perspective, then, at the end of the day, each cancels out the next ad nauseum until there is no truth at all. So it comes to pass that each of us stands alone upon the precipice of nihilism with nothing to believe in but a piddling truth that evaporates upon our inevitable demise.
This knowledge that all I know is that I know nothing, and neither does anybody else, at least concerning ultimates, sits on my chest like a rabid gorilla who has, for the time being, fallen into a restless slumber. Many of the submissions for the spring issue indicated that I am far from alone. One piece, which, in my opinion, might have been entitled, “A Portrait of the Nihilist as a Young Woman,” provides a penetrating depiction of the “truth is me” phenomenon so common today: individualism turned into a prison from which there is no escape.
Behind the apprehensiveness, however, hidden in the dark eddies of encroaching despair, are gems of what I believe is the true nature of individualism. Flannery O’Connor, of course, was a devout Catholic and employed the character Haze in Wiseblood to illustrate the postmodern paradox. In the end, no doubt about it, O’Connor believed in absolutes. Karl Jaspers, who wrote that philosophy had to be grounded in the faith of the originary transcendence of human existence in order to unfold its full potential, realized that it is necessarily up to the individual to struggle for and with truth; group efforts must, by their nature, remain fruitless. Both of these stances suggest that—though it is, with rare exceptions, generally beyond human grasp—there is a truth which we, as individuals, can, if we try hard enough, access and so express. We are called upon to burst the bars of the prison asunder.
The works in the spring issue indicate that beyond individual expression there exists a field that outvies the individual; the dark dungeon of what I call inauthentic individualism that leads necessarily to nihilism, once acknowledged, demands the light of day: we call it art. That is why RSR exists, to provide a clearing where, to return to Heidegger, the absolute, through the individual, might manifest, so we might catch a glimpse of it, just a blur, and, in doing so, return to the all-too-often thankless task of writing fully-charged and confident that truth exists beyond the confines of human being.
So, to the writers published in RSR 2.1: Thank you! Muchas Gracias! Eskerrik asko! I mean it. I really do. And to those who submitted: Thank you as well. I hope you keep submitting to future issues. Since our process is organic in nature, one never knows what theme will emerge from the collectivity of the individual pieces, and yours may very well fit next time.
It goes without saying that my hat is off, once again, to our incredible staff, to our steadfast readers, and to those donors who believe in RSR enough to pump in the lifeblood of funding. We barely stay afloat here, but afloat we are, and we aim for the far shore!
“We live in desperate times; the old gods have flown and the new gods have not yet arrived.”
Greetings, Dear Readers!
It is with great pleasure (dare I say, “Pride,” or is that deemed too boastful in the world of the Politically Correct?) to announce the launch of RSR 1.2.
When we began this venture a little over a year ago, we all had fairly low expectations, being one of the newest kids on a block of new kids at the edge of town. As noted in RSR 1.1, “The cynic inside me whispered sweet nothings like, ‘What’s the point? More people write than read these days. The illusion of fame, fleeting indeed, there and gone, wisps of grandeur, infect the Internet like a grand pandemic, a festering virus of human vanity, a killing joke. Best to crave silence. Leave it alone.’” And the voice was tempting. I, like so many, have too much on my plate as it is. Why pile on more when one’s platter overfloweth?
But there was something else too, an intuition that beckoned from the craving silence to be heard. Difficult to articulate, this ‘something’ overpowered the cynic, not by contending but by yielding. In other words, whatever it is that resides in the deepest silence—but is not silence itself—won out. The result: RSR 1.1, an issue that will always be dear to me. Due to the success of RSR 1.1, looking forward to RSR 1.2 was, for me, practically anxiety free.
The theme that emerged as RSR 1.2 took shape is, “Faith or the Lack Thereof.” Let it be clear that we do not designate themes at RSR, at least not yet (we may in the future); instead they tend to present themselves organically. “Faith or the Lack Thereof,” of course, is quite broad a scope and could be interpreted in a variety of ways. This does not mean, however, that all interpretations are equal (I must take a jab at abject relativism whenever the opportunity arises), nor should they be. Here at RSR we are not looking for or trying to establish equality as it relates to the human experience, rather we seek to showcase authenticity, which is a kind of strength, even when it manifests as weakness.
In 1.2 you will experience a diversity of human ways of being: irony, longing, fear, despair, sarcasm, angst, and wisdom. The experience of working with the writers of 1.2 has served to burgeon my own faith in people and the literary arts. The editing process flowed seamlessly and professionally and, I can assure you, there are plenty of talented writers out there who are a testament to the potential in humanity waiting to be unfolded. Though there is no monetary gain associated with this venture, working with these writers has given our staff something that money can never buy: human dignity. I am humbled by the experience.
We received many very strong submissions for RSR 1.2 and for that I would like to extend a warm ESKERRIK ASKO (Basque for MANY THANKS) to everyone who submitted. In fact, virtually all of the submissions were of quality. We have had to pass on some strong writing this go-round, but I trust all those who have submitted will find proper homes for their work.
I closed the Editor’s Letter for RSR 1.1 with:
“How does one judge authenticity in the literary arts? Intuition. And, if Heidegger was correct in his
assumption that language is the house of Being, intuition, not logic, is the impetus of art and authenticity.
Before we can come to either, it seems, we must purge those definitions attached to us like artificial
appendages in public school, through mass media, in the university.
The purpose of Red Savina Review is to record the writer’s struggle to wrest themselves from the bizarre
marketplace of modernity in the quest to claim authenticity and thereby take a stand on Being. The work featured in the inaugural release, in my mind, is the beginning of what I hope to be a lengthy adventure.”
We at RSR stand by those words and would only add, “The adventure continues!”
Thank you, dear reader. Enjoy! Without readers what is the point of a literary journal?! Kindly do your part and please help us spread the word.
P.S. As always, I tip my hat to the staff for all of the hours of slavery involved in this process. Without them and our contributors, there would be no Red Savina Review.
The decision to launch yet another online literary journal did not come easy. The cynic inside me whispered sweet nothings, “What’s the point? More people write than read these days. The illusion of fame, fleeting indeed, there and gone, wisps of grandeur, infect the Internet like a grand pandemic, a festering virus of human vanity, a killing joke. Best to crave silence. Leave it alone.”
And that was that.
Until I came across Cornpoem by Molly Stone. I know the poet. She asked me to read Cornpoem to see what might be wrong with it, as it had been rejected, more often than not in knee-jerk fashion, by dozens of journals. One editor, Molly informed me, rejected the poem in less than a day. Another in six hours. Intrigued, I read the verse. The arrangement of words got under my skin and into my brain. I read it again. And again.
Days passed under the bright blue skies of the Chihuahuan Desert, and I continued to ponder Cornpoem. Why did Molly’s poem get rejected time and again? Was I missing something? Was it too raw? Too original? Too strident? It then occurred to me that the poem, because I connected to it on an intuitive level, was doomed to obscurity. Familiar suspicions: “I’m an outsider and so is Cornpoem. Fitting we found one another but as meaningless as dust in the wind. ” I went about my day-to-day business in an attempt to exorcise the poem from my mind. Familiarity of routine breeds the ease of banality. Learn to forget.
Cornpoem, however, refused to go gentle into that good night, the images and beats creeping into my dreams transmogrifying them into nightmares…
Exhausted, I haunted the world like a somnambulant ghost…
The only hope, it seemed, in re-awakening my catatonic spirit, was making Cornpoem public. Since nobody else was stepping up, the task fell to me.
On a whim, I assembled a small team of editors and externs. Red Savina Review was born. A literary journal, of course, cannot stand upon a single poem, so the first order of business was to put out a call for submissions. We had little idea what might emerge from the process, if there might be a place where hardworking outsiders, writers, and introverts could converge, each willing to carry the weight of the other for a short amount of time.
Our staff received a good number of submissions for a start-up, but many of them, though well-written, did not resonate, would not germinate, I knew, in soil fertilized by the likes of Cornpoem.
In reading the fiction submissions, for example, there were some strong gothic/ grotesque submissions, a few absurdist pieces that were a pleasure to read, and an abundance of postmodern tales that tried too hard to be clever. What ended up being selected, and I don’t think I can fully explain this, were the stories that questioned how humans self-identify. When it all boiled down: the selections—fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry—published in the inaugural issue of Red Savina Review shared one common trait: authenticity.
How does one judge authenticity in the literary arts? Intuition. And, if Heidegger was correct in his assumption that language is the house of Being, intuition, not logic, is the impetus of art and authenticity. Before we can come to either, it seems, we must purge those definitions attached to us like artificial appendages in public school, through mass media, in the university.
The purpose of Red Savina Review is to record the writer’s struggle to wrest themselves from the bizarre marketplace of modernity in the quest to claim authenticity and thereby take a stand on Being. The work featured in the inaugural release, in my mind, is the beginning of what I hope to be a lengthy adventure.
It is my sincere hope that you will join in that voyage by reading the e-zine and submitting literary works that will lend the Fall 2013 edition the stamp of authenticity and depth of thought.
P.S. Eskerrik asko (many thanks) to the staff for all of the hours of work. Without you and our contributors, there would be no Red Savina Review. Some of the works featured are rather long, making it a bit difficult to read online. As such, we plan to offer a Kindle option for future issues. Stay tuned.