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--Review by Tom Hibbard


"worried, 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.

Introducing 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 "self-presence."

Fagan speaks 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:

The ear opens tunnels
     behind itself.
           Thought is frightened
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, within, inside
plus of that scroll.
tangled in the long veil of the page
for the glinting world, for cumulus congestus
the sky,
Which fear is a gift,
a kind of dowry
settled on us.

Geraldine McKenzie's poetry is also quoted in Fagan's introduction:

Sometimes 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 scholarly strata.

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.

Each issue 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 writing.

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.



--Review by Tom Hibbard


Despite his 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.

Teddy Roosevelt 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.

The premier 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.


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