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Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ever-Smaller Screens of Comprehension

At our AWP panel on experimental writing this past February a lively conversation arose about the experiments technology and new media are making possible. In Volume 17, Joe Bonomo writes about a childhood memory from fractured perspectives that include those seen through the lens of Wikipedia, Twitter, the Track Changes function on a Word document. He writes:
Near the swing set during recess. N. on the swings. She swung and her plaid skirt lifted and I saw her sky-blue underwear. She squealed.
Mon Sep 20 11:01:23 2010 via web

Joe Bonomo is remembering N. on the swing set and that thing that happened.
4 hours ago clear

st&ing nr d swing set durin recess @ st andrew d apostle. N. s on d swings. she pumps her lgz n grips d chain n leans bac n d wind n her hair streams n she swings upward n her plaid skirt lifts +I C her sky-blue undies.  

Later in the essay he adds:
Tweets, updates, emails, texts, confessional, autobiographical. Montaigne in his tower; me at my computer. Have we reached the saturation point? Ur-stories are collapsing on top of other ur-stories. We must be made to matter. Will the future of personal writing be composed of images, flash, tinier paragraphs, infinitely more pixels, infinitely more memory, smaller screens of comprehension?

Though the essay makes use of these ever-smaller screens of comprehension, it also celebrates the search for a holistic understanding all these screens complicate, but don’t necessarily obliterate. Bonomo quotes Degas: “It is very well to copy what one sees; it’s much better to draw what one has retained in one’s memory. It is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.”

Post-modernisms, deconstructionism, so many other theoretical –isms have insisted our reality has become increasingly fractured, mutable, and uncertain. Literature only reminds us that all an illusion. Is it delusional to think the chaos of new media in collaboration with imagination and memory might provide a way to make our lives matter again? Is it na├»ve to believe in a saturation point where fragmented perspectives coalesce into a fixed meaning?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is Experimentation Passe?

It got quiet here at the QAE blog in the past few months. That’s because we were busy putting together the new issue (if you’ve subscribed, it should arrive in your mailbox any day now). Volume 17 includes a critical feature, “The Future of Creative Writing.” We’ll be excerpting from the many thoughtful essays in that feature here on the blog, but today we’d like to give you a chance to respond to the questions we asked a number of writers:
“Ezra Pound’s admonition to 'make it new' is nearly a century old. The prose poem is over one hundred years old, language poetry is settling into its middle age, even flash fiction and the lyric essay are comfortably familiar; yet these modes dominate our conversations about experiments in literature. We find ourselves in the paradoxical position where radical experimentation has become a predictable norm. Moreover, in recent years the term experimental has been used to describe an increasingly specific range of familiar and canonical forms that emphasize language over narrative and fragmentation over linearity.... Are there are other ways to define experimental writing? What new forms or variations will the next generation of writing bring? Where do we go from here?”
Writers, what do you think? Readers, what do you want to read?