Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Krystal Languell : Notes from the Field : Greetings from Chicago

Greetings from Chicago, where it would be dishonest for me to claim I know what’s going on. I continue to work from home while the local headlines tally daily shooting deaths, shift around what percentage capacity restaurants/bars are allowed to operate at, and announce the ongoing closure of free public beaches. I continue, but to what purpose. I read, I volunteer a little bit. What change can I initiate that does more than feed my vanity?

Earlier this year, I took an 8-week online workshop with Jessica Baer on science fiction, with Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren as the core text. I first met Jessica when they were living in Chicago, and they’ve since moved on, traveling extensively in North America, before landing at a home base in the South. The author of Midwestern Infinity Doctrine, forthcoming from Apocalypse Party, Jessica can capably expound on literary theory and tie high and low media together with the vehicle of meaning, making texts look new in the process. The workshop gave me the chance to dabble in fiction, which I now feel better equipped to approach. If Jessica offers this workshop again, I highly recommend it.

Bone Bouquet issue 10.1’s print run has just recently sold out. I have a few left to ship internationally, which I can’t figure out in Paypal. It’s time to get to work on issue 10.2, but that work must pause because I have made a commitment not to print another issue with zero Black editors on the masthead. The editorial team has varied in size from as large as eight to as few as two or three, which is where the count sits now. In sports terms, it’s a rebuilding year. Why would anybody want to be involved in an unpaid role with this magazine? I’m writing up the specific responsibilities and purview of a true co-editor, which I’ll post publicly. It has always felt ridiculous to me to solicit “applications” for “editorial positions” that pay nothing, though there are bigger profile magazines than mine that make no bones about it. With this in mind, I’m moving slowly forward.

I have thought many times many ways on how and whether to keep the magazine going in its current iteration. Ten years is in many cases quite long enough for a literary or editorial project. Printing and shipping expenses could easily be cut to zero if I moved to an online-only model. But then I finally sat down a few weeks ago and packaged and shipped this issue, and it was such an enjoyable activity. As I’ve very slowly formalized my withdrawal from involvement in small presses, it has begun to feel more imperative to maintain Bone Bouquet, and perhaps even to find a way to expand it. To that end, this summer I’ve added a column to the website to feature poets reflecting on the act of reading. Poets respond to the question “What are you reading for?” with personal narratives on specific recent reads of any genre. I’m curious to learn what poets are getting from their reading experience, which is much more interesting to me right now than conventional book reviews.

What’s going on in Chicago outside my walls? I wouldn’t even begin to claim to know a comprehensive answer to that question, but I can report that Tara Betts is the recently-appointed Lit Editor of NewCity, and in that role is editing book reviews for that publication. I do believe fellow Chicagoans can find her there and pitch reviews. She is also raising funds to establish The Whirlwind Center, a community arts space in Chicago (https://gf.me/u/x83nf9). Our independent bookstores are taking online orders for shipment (Seminary Coop: https://www.semcoop.com/) (Semicolon Bookstore: https://www.semicolonchi.com/)  or contactless pickup (Women and Children First: https://www.womenandchildrenfirst.com/), just to name a couple. Virtual readings are on offer from many organizations. Story Studio Chicago (https://www.storystudiochicago.org/) has a big array of online workshops on offer. If there is a silver lining to the limited mobility we’re currently living with, in terms of literary life, I’d argue that it’s the fast proliferation of online readings (to view and to perform in) and workshops (though once in a while, one seems of iffy quality to me; just saying, stay vigilant)—there are more opportunities than ever to stay stimulated and stay active as a writer. As the buffet of online offerings grows, perhaps a soulful and even equitable alternative to big bucks graduate programs can emerge and thrive.

Krystal Languell lives in Chicago, where she works at the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of three books: Callthe Catastrophists (BlazeVox, 2011), Gray Market (1913 Press, 2016), and Quite Apart (University of Akron Press, 2019).

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