by Tom Hibbard
earnest, political nondescript" -- from How2
article on Genevieve Taggard
As far as we
know it, humanity dwells in an enormous space. The ends of the universe
are beyond the reach of time as it would be measured by the longevity
of our civilization. It is in this space that the web journal How2,
a bi-annual of "modernist and contemporary innovative writing practices
by women," has etched its beginnings and direction, perhaps
similarly to the way Euro-American pioneer women first viewed the
space of this continent's western plains.
The space I've
mentioned is physical. But it could be moral, illusory, a societal
emptiness, a political vacuum created by prejudice, reaction, secretiveness,
helpfulness, skepticism. The point is that this excellent though
unobtrusive web journal, that makes good use of the new virtual
medium, with pictorial reference points, tri-columns, hyper-text
and hyper-textuality, with "postcards" and "alerts"
and artworks of potentiality, seems to be filling some sort of void,
not in haste or particularly in defense, but with its labor, its
interest and skill, its inclusiveness, its learning. It is for a
feminist perspective--for any perspective--a glaring opportunity
for a pure and intimate moment of deconstruction.
the Spring 2003 issue, editor/publisher Kate Fagan speaks of "disparity
between experience and perception while sounding a call to poetry's
material capacities" and words that "hold a singular and troubling
currency." From her introduction I sense that Fagan and her fellow
editors and contributors are less interested in political campaigns
than previously and more occupied with developing a sensitivity
on basic levels of existence. How2 seems on its way to a
global reflexivity that, from its particular struggles, fills the
large aforementioned space with the establishment of an alluring
of "a profound array of everyday rhetorical strategies." These lines
from Rachel Blau DuPlessis, "Drafts 44: Stretto," are part of the
subject of her introduction:
for it can't think anywhere near the size of what has happened
to bring is forth and set it rolling out:
besides, we're called to run a time behind, upon,
plus of that scroll.
tangled in the long veil of the page
for the glinting world, for cumulus congestus
Which fear is a gift,
a kind of dowry
settled on us.
poetry is also quoted in Fagan's introduction:
I can't see clearly
this light sun of forgone conclusions drives the day
bitter pace and headlong into what never ceases
Perhaps I myself
am simply caught up in excitement generated by the high quality
of this web publication (founded and co-published by Kathleen Fraser),
its anonymous, hardworking profusion, the rewarding variety of its
The home page
of How2 has a red-on-velvet-black directory and a masthead
decorated with crisp visuals, including a photograph of genial Gertrude
Stein and Alice Toklas with large genial poodle (on leash). From
the home page, the reader has the option of going to the current
issue or to an archive that goes back to May 1983, the first issue
of HOW(ever), predecessor of How2, or to a message
board of events. Each current issue opens as a three column broadside
offering links to subsections such as "new writing," "translations,"
"in conference," "visuals," special sections,
emails. There is even occasional opportunity to download audios
of writers reading and commenting. The Spring 2003 issue translations
are of contemporary female Italian poets. There is a special feature
on "American Modernist, Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948)."
The 'new writing' section for this issue was coordinated by Pam
Brown. There is also an interesting feature titled "Inappropriated
Others." The inviting predominantly white-space format is highlighted
by two delicate color artworks by Virginia Coventry and Carla Harryman,
which connect to further artworks and commentaries from the artists.
has a general title, such as "the signal of a breaking point", "the
fold," "embracing difficulty," "misfittings of the text," "Topo/graphics."
Some highlights from previous issues, I thought, were experimental
women's writing from the American South, Afghan woman's writing,
exchange and contributions prompted by 9-11, and new Australian
But each issue is also rich in overall content presented without
much particular bias in a way that interests and educates any reader.
In its intelligent and enthusiastic use of web technology, its earnest
study and wide focus that uncovers valuable literary and artistic
work, How2 legitimizes its contemporaneous spatial claim.
MAGAZINE: THE NEW WILDERNESS
by Tom Hibbard
unassuming demeanor in photographs I've seen of him and his backshop
style sheet, I view John Tranter, editor of the widely read online
journal Jacket, as something of a Theodore Roosevelt of the
intellect, journeying to uncivilized wilds and frontiers, garnering
topical trophies, writing papers, all for the enlightenment of his
readership and geographical societies of societies to come. His
publication offers a robust cosmopolitan range both in content and
style, from Ethiopia to San Francisco, from Edwin Denby to John
Wieners, from the exotic stylish translations of Henry J.M. Levet
to a frenetic wildcat-looking Joanne Kyger, from the bluejean depths
of Beat dopefiend despair to the hallowed rarified quiet of Cambridge
mathematical precision. All this is presented, rather neatly and
succinctly, in a bully decor of fonts, splashy-colored panels embedded
with contrasting colored headings, "candid" photos, linking dots,
nimble art tastes.
In a subtle
etude of grays, pinks, browns, light greens with dark blue text,
the current issue 21 skips from Edwin Denby to the poetry of Baja
California edited by Harry Polkinhorn, articles on John Wieners
-- including Pamela Petro's 'The Hipster of Joy Street' -- to excerpts
from a Tom Clark novel about London, to a Tranter-written contribution
about America's poet laureate position, to the sturdy "reviews"
section (including one by yours truly), to a collaboration between
Anne Waldman and Tom Clark, an article on film noir and "poetry"
section. Everything in this issue makes the pulse beat faster and
multiplies the wrinkles of the cranium.
There is an
intangible feeling of importance in Jacket that I think derives
from journalism. Often a feature is prompted by the passing of a
writer -- Wieners, Philip Whalen, Ed Dorn, John Forbes -- or some
sort of event or information-based subject. Thus the issues of Jacket
become a document of change, the progression of numbers at the top
of each home page a calendar of progress of the literature of our
age. Add to this the in-depth quality that comes from many contributions
on a subject. Tranter's use of previously published writing gives
an archival sense of lasting endeavor.
But the tone
of Jacket is far from somber and is often humorous, sometimes
satirical. Issue 12 contrasts a striking photo of Paul Blackburn
in black cowboy hat with a vacuous 50s-style pop-deco drawing, preface
to a series of gritty, tantalizing offerings on American literature,
such as Robert Creeley on Charles Olson, four poems by Rae Armantrout,
a review of Jerome Rothenberg's A Paradise of Poets. This
is followed by a section on Jorge Carrera Andrade, with dapper-mustache
horn-rimmed businessman photo, followed by a section on Kenneth
Patchen ("Poetry and Jazz Days, 1957-1959") with soulful photo of
angst-ridden Patchen and young self-effacing Allen Ginsberg.
does not represent the demise of the wilderness but the beginning
of its preservation. In the same way Tranter is not taming the wilds
of literature but extending its borders. All subject matter of Jacket
is presented as out-of-the-way. Many of the names in this web space
are familiar or "famous," but the editorial good nature of Jacket
does not acknowledge renown that accrues beyond a certain modest
amount. Famous or not, everything within this lively and lifelike
virtual harvest is to some degree infamous, mistaken, human, unerringly
on the wrong track. On purpose, there is too much crammed into each
issue for any one person to encompass. The reader is forced to select,
to choose his or her path.
issue of Jacket -- from 1997, begun by Tranter "in a rash
moment" and sponsored by Australian Literary Management -- is somewhat
brief in comparison to the more recent ones. It contains an article
on "Cyberpoetics" by Kurt Brereton of the University of Technology
in Sydney, Australia. Brereton states in his essay, "Virtual texts
have no substance in any physical terms." Though Jacket has
not continued to focus much on the subject of technology and what
the new medium means, I feel that that newness underlies all of
the contents of the publication, permeates its impetus. Jacket
seems to constitute a bold, outwardly-directed exploration, not
a diversion but a search to uncover distant value with the highest
aim of improving humanity in every way.