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The &NOW AWARDS 3: The Best Innovative Writing Paperback – March 15, 2015
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About the Author
MEGAN MILKS's first collection of short fiction, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, was published by Emergency Press in March 2014. Her stories have been included in three anthologies of innovative writing, as well as many journals; two have been adapted for performance. She currently teaches creative writing, literature, and journalism at Beloit College in Wisconsin.
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in this way, &NOW3 presses you. it moves you beyond the snark of cliche and it unfairly confronts you with your own process--of reading, of judgment, of taste.
to be conventional, the gems here are Ji Yoon Lee, Daniela Olszewska, Diana George, Matt Bell, Kate Zambreno, Ted Pelton, & Matthew Cooperman/Aby Kaupang.
there is also prose poems about Kesha, unreadable fonts that mimic computer code, scribbles, four page sentence, & endless formatting experiments.
These &NOW award anthologies (this being the third in the series and the second that I have read and reviewed) read like a directory for the US (and otherwise) avant-garde writing milieux. Many of the big names are represented (Cooper, Bell, Butler, Place et c.), there are a number of emerging and less well known names, as well as strong showing from some of the notable presses, and journals active including: Jaded Ibis, FC2, Noemi, The Collagist, Semiotext(e), Birkensnake, Ahsahta and so on. So not only is the &NOW anthology a great way for the reader to find new writers and works, it is a great resource for writers as well, in a way a compendium of potential markets, MFA programs, grants and awards to keep an eye on for future endeavors.
Admittedly my tastes stray toward the more mundane prose presented here and yet I’ve consistently found a number of pieces that really grab me. I suppose this is sort of the situation with the &NOW awards: nearly everyone who reads it is going to find most of the pieces are outside their range of taste, but will inevitably stumble upon at least four or five new names that are really invigorating and exciting and totally novel and worth looking for. The &NOW2 anthology alone caused me to go out and find at least five books from authors I had not read before. The importance of this cannot be overstated. This being one of the more difficult aspects of reading in the avant scene is just finding the writers you might like in an area that can come off at times as impenetrable and intimidating. This is undoubtedly one of the anthology’s greatest strengths and crippling weaknesses: there is just so much here. It is an avalanche, a deluge a jungle of seventy plus authors/collaborations/anthologies and projects. It should be noted that all the pieces were published between 2011 and 2013 which means they are fairly new, but at this point a bit outside of the bleeding edge.
This installation of the awards notably includes a solid showcase of marginalized writers in the form of selections from two anthologies: “I’ll Drown my Book: Conceptual writing by women.” And “Troubling the Line” a collection of trans and genderqueer writing.
I’ve included a few entries on the pieces that really stood out to me. It should be noted that this is not a representative sample of the writing in this anthology, but just the pieces that stuck out to me.
Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss’ “The Desert Places” Is a vast, biblical cosmic query, a rumbling, roiling conflagration of prose that cuts to the core.
Margo Berdeshevsky’s “Square Black Key” Presents the life of a middle aged women through the objects she surrounds herself with and the memories and sensations that form her psyche.
Anna Joy Springer’s “Variations on a F*cked up Theme: The Ruling Class Rules for Realism” An essay which is part polemic against realism, part meditation on US politics and a whole lot of other stuff. Fast paced, opinionated and vibrant.
Marina Blitshteyn’s “Kaddish” A wordless poem, written out only in accents. What seems like just an interesting concept actually materializes into one of the best poems I have read in recent memory.
Jayson Iwen’s “Three Polyvalent Poems” Three poems laid out in four blocks of four lines each. This provides (at least) three different ways to read each poem depending on how the lines are spliced together, each version providing a slightly different meaning, connotation, and amount of cohesion.
Carina Finn & Stephanie Berger’s “Two Emoji Poems in Translation” Wherein a ‘poem’ is written entirely as a string of emojis by one author, then translated into English by the other author. The resulting poems are not gimmicky but clever, inventive and very engaging.
Laura Zaylea’s “Using Basic Conjunctions: And, But, So, Or” Styled as a description and lesson on the use of the types of conjunctions with illustrations in a series of permutations on a scene of longing. This piece cleverly draws us into a story we are not expecting and mirrors the expectations, rules and infractions of relationships with the notions of literary rules.
Janis Butler Holm from “Rabelaisian Play Station” Brilliant playful poems that pull every ounce of juice out of syllables and meter. While the words themselves tend to be playful or funny or meaningless the strict adherence to meter brings up notions of very serious classical poetry.
Duriel Harris’ “No Dictionary of a Living Tongue” From the anthology “Troubling the Line” Simply powerful, jarring poems.
James Tadd Adcox’ “Viola is Sitting on the Examination Table” Astute, muted, minimal realism.
Johannes Helden’s “Elect” An interactive, dark prose piece using a computer as the medium.
Alake Pilgrim’s “Blue Crabs” A stunning prose piece about an abusive uncle, crabbing, and the life of a girl growing up in Trinidad and the fallout of events in her childhood throughout her life.
Tom Bradley’s “Family Romance” A strange well written prose piece with crazy monster illustrations. Lots of words play, talking about a family, a pathogen and the destruction of the Amalekites.
Plus another fifty or so pieces.
The &NOW3 awards. Pick it up, it’s really cool and I guarantee you will find something new, hidden and interesting.
It took me a really long time to read this, because what is it? An anthology. Not a short story collection, but a collection of authors and their stories. When I received this for review, I was pretty thrilled because all of the familiar names, one I've been wanting to read. There were at least two I knew and read already. And the rest were familiar names with work I never got my hands on yet.
This whole anthology is dedicated to innovative writing, the most experimental of experimental writing. Some of them are brilliant, sometimes using imagery, and some of them fried my brain with their oddity, almost unreadable, but that's what this anthology is all about. It's all about using writing in ways you would never think of, thought of but feared the audience, or to purposely throw off the readers. Keep the writing for yourself and your soul and give the readers a hard time to own it.
I will admit that I loved the poetry more than the stories in here. There were a select few stories that I loved enough to persuade me to check out their other works. There were some that disappointed me, the Dennis Cooper one, but this anthology mostly consists of samples of these authors works.
What I really loved about this anthology is not only it's a variety of experiments, but it's diversity also. Writing from all backgrounds and walks of life. Words in different languages and formulas. Different genres ranging from non-fiction, various poetry forms, and hybrid stories that blur between non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Writing morphed by technology and coding to form more literary art. What's not to love in this anthology? I will admit that it was a bit tiring to read because of so much switching and non-linearity, because you know, it is an anthology, but it will definitely make you add new books to your Birthday/Christmas/Three Kings Day/Lunar Year wishlists.
Authors I liked with works I want to buy/read:
Lucas de Lima
Ji Yoon Lee
LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Carmen Giménez Smith
Amber Sparks & Robert Kloss
Tytti Heikkinen, translated by Niina Pollaari
Kim Gek Lin Short
Carina Finn & Stephanie Berger
Originally posted here: http://wordsnotesandfiction.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-awards-3-best-innovative-writing.html
**I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**