Cut Out and Keep Up:
The Make It Happen and Not Make Do Issue
This issue is about past and present collaborative ventures and about offering invitations for future possibilities. I would like to begin by thanking and congratulating Kate Fagan on the wonderful job she has done of editing How2 in recent years and for strengthening and defining this online and on the ground community of innovative and modernist women writers. Without her lead and generosity I would be taking on a very different challenge as the incoming editor. Kate brings a matchless dynamic energy and enthusiasm to the journal that I can only aspire to emulate. Luckily for us she will be carrying on as an active member of the EAB and I am sure that she will continue to be a driving force for the future of How2. Like Kate, I hope to continue to find ways to develop the journal through dialogue and collaboration with YOU the How2 community of readers.
Highlights of this issue include: a cut out and keep e-chap section -- which "Flip, flip, done" will give you a book of new writing, the collaborative web project Pantoume, an exchange of letters between established and emerging poets, features on Dusie Press, and on the Archive of the Now, translations of work by Elke de Rijcke and extracts from conferences in Southampton and Cambridge. We are also pleased to present Jena Osman's project, Public Figures; Jena has worked with our web designer, John Sparrow to create a Flash setting of her poem / essay. You can contribute new writing to this edition of How2 by responding to Public Figures with your own texts and images.
This collection of work has been brought together by our intrepid section co-ordinators in mutual recognition that "the isolation project doesn't really work" and in the hope that "mixing and sharing" will make "projects happen"(Kruk, echap). I hope that as you read through this issue of How2 that what emerges will trace some similar lines to what Joan Retallack describes in her letter to Brenda Iijima as "A noticing, questioning, inventing of constructive ways of being a non-destructive part of our world", poetic strategies useful and used to the full in defeating the "greed for 'MY security, MY nostalgia, MY preferred stability" (Retallack, Letters).
Issues of gender are clearly central to How2 and each of our sections follows a different direction in relation to this broad area of interest. The possibilities of digital media are recognised in many of the sections as important strategic tools for the furthering of debate between women writers and also as a vital resource for the maintenance of a context for innovative writing by women. According to Susana Gardner, founder of Dusie Press "A room of one's own is simply not enough", for many women writers an important survival strategy is to off-set "a lack of money and materials for a paper-based press" with a DSL which can "hook-up to the outside world"! (Kruk, Dusie).
In this issue of How2. we have chosen to foreground a number of new media projects which hook-up to the outside world through collaboration (Pantoume) and archiving (Archive of The Now). What does a gender tag have in common with a “tender gag”? asks Sophie Robinson, in her introduction to the web collaboration Pantoume. Together Morris, Robinson and Fierle-Hedrick discuss their struggle "to develop an everyday, non-alienating language" through which to address issue of violence against women. Also in the New Media section Rosheen Brennan and Andrea Brady discuss how alternative kinds of practice, which previously might not have not made their way into the public networks for poetry, can now be readily accessed on the internet. Rosheen Brennan has also made an overview of poetry web resources and we have updated our own web links and sites that we feel might be of interest to the How2 reader. We encourage you to contribute your own alerts, links and updates to us. You can now also search How2 and we hope that you will investigate connections between this issue and our previous archived material.
Further pressing questions in this issue return to the vexed terminology surrounding the use of "innovative", "experimental" and "avant-garde" Participants at the Southampton conference questioned the whether innovative and radical poetics was "still necessary and what politics can be ascribed to it?" (Sheppard/Bloomfield, Southampton). As Andrea Brady notes "all these terms are very fraught with other ideological implications", as well as the implication that innovative poetic forms are linked to a search for what Brady calls "some kind of final truth" that could substantiate an a priori "hypothesis" and this would create a view of poetry that would make practice itself "secondary" (Brady, Archive of The Now).
Other poets in this issue approach this problem with a different focus; Joan Retallack’s theoretical investigation in ‘The Experimental Feminine,’ swerves away from any necessary fixity of hypothesis or methodology. Instead Retallack connects the ‘complex realisms’ of contemporary experimental arts to a ‘Feminine dyslogic’. As Sheppard and Bloomfield point out, for Retallack the innovative is engendered out of a critical dialogue with history, but also "out of the radically unintelligible nature of the contemporary." A contemporary poetics by women would need to "reinvent the terms of engagement and move on" (Retallack, Southampton).
The recent conference at Cambridge was involved in doing precisely this as the organiser Emily Critchley sought to provide a timely celebration and also a contemporary response to the 1996 anthology Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the UK. As she notes in her conference overview this anthology was "a crucial discovery" (Critchley, Cambridge) for her and I hope that you will find the selection from the conferences at both Cambridge and Southampton as necessary and important.
Finally this issue of How2 seeks to further distribution of radical poetic practice by women writers as well as to investigate the possibilities of this practice in relation to the medium of the web itself and with this in mind we are really excited to be able to feature Jena Osman and John Sparrow's collaborative version of Osman's ongoing Public Figures project. Public Figures is an extraordinary essay / poem / meditation on the domestication of violence within our own public spaces and by implication on our own anaesthetised daily acceptance of the war in Iraq. Public Figures seeks your response in the form of images and texts relating to the armed statues in your own vicinities.
Finally this issue of How2 would not have been possible without the tireless energy of both our web designer John Sparrow and our new managing editor Kai Fierle-Hedrick. Anything you like about this issue in terms of its design and organisation can probably be sourced to their imaginative ideas and careful hard work. Thank you to all the section co-ordinators and participants in this issue--you have done a wonderful job and I hope that you will all continue to write and be involved in future issues. I am also deeply grateful for the ongoing support of Kathleen Fraser, Ann Vickery and Kate Fagan and for their belief and determined support in How2. I especially hope that you three like this issue! It's for you! And thanks also to the EAB for a number of helpful suggestions and comments.
As Retallack says "it can be startling to hear a sentence begin with we" (The Reinvention of Truth, Letters to Poets, Retallack, and Southampton audio performance). Nevertheless, We -- this community of Us -- hope you enjoy this new How2. We invite you to collaborate by responding to any of the issues and ideas that you have encountered here and you can do this through the many postcard links at the end of each section. Write soon!