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“While literature in Ireland is currently as bountiful as it has ever been, we feel that something is lacking: a nexus for innovative, genre-straining work that is alive to the present (and the future), not only in content, but in form – work fuelled by a restless dissatisfaction with the conventions that have long held sway in the writing that is read and written here. Though there is still good writing being produced that is faithful to the traditional forms – novels that look like novels, poems that read like poems, and so on – we crave to hear voices that speak in nascent tongues, that suffer and confront the existential crisis that fiction, poetry, and literature itself are going through in an era that taunts them with the threat of obsolescence. And let’s face it, the newest humans are struggling to find sustenance in the well-worn forms. In our bleaker moments, we even sense that novels, short stories, and poems are being kept alive purely on artificial respiration, out of politeness and respect for the elderly – perhaps they should even be allowed to die.
Unless, that is, these forms can both make and prove themselves anew (consider the very word novel – something new, a new thing). As passionate readers, we are respectful and enamoured of literature’s past, but frustrated when it refuses to learn the new dialects, when it proudly, or fearfully, or sluggishly seeks to ignore the post-millennial onslaught, with its all-disrupting technologies and the mutations they are performing on human consciousness. To be alive today is to be subject to an uncanny experiment that renders quaint the dreams of science-fiction and religion. Writing – fiction, poetry, criticism, none of the above – must be more than a nostalgic refuge for those who would pretend that the future is not happening, and doing so faster than we know how to handle. Books, stories, and poems must struggle to justify their existence in a way they never had to when they were at home in the world. Why am I here? To whom am I speaking? Who is listening? What do I have to offer? Anything at all? Anything but nostalgia?
This crisis can be exaggerated. After all, there are voices out there, plenty of them, which are attuned to the schism, which acknowledge that consciousness is going elsewhere for its kicks, its ecstasy, its illumination, and that literature had better look sharp if it’s to survive as something other than a tea-party in period getup. These are the voices which keep our devotion alive, and they are making some fascinating sounds. Here in Ireland, though, we don’t hear enough of them. We suspect there are more out there; perhaps they lack a platform, a forum. Maybe their morale is weak. Maybe they’re close to giving in, abandoning the great ship Literature as it threatens to do a Titanic somewhere in the middle of the smart-phone century.
We want to seek out those voices – or even help usher them into being. We want to read work that will slake our thirst for the cunning, the quick, and the profligate, the wide-awake and the dangerous-again. We are placing ourselves within our own projected audience: we want to learn, to be stunned by the lightning flash of the unannounced. Faithful to traditions that are in danger of expiring before our eyes, we want – in whatever small way we can – to help apply the electrodes and administer the ecstatic shock.
So, what kind of work are we looking for? In short, stuff that takes place at the edge of whatever discipline it kicks against. We particularly want ideas: essays, brilliant literary criticism, polemics and radiant unclassifiables. We want poetry in destabilised forms, or if it is lyric, that is awake to the full, staggering duende of the moment. We want video-art, sound-art, and spoken-word that roams the margins of form, taste and reason. We want a wondrous babble of work in translation – across the disciplines – because much of the code that quickened our dreaming came from elsewhere. In fiction, we are interested in work that looks beyond the mode that has dominated Irish writing for a century – broadly, melancholy naturalism, the delicate story of minor epiphanies and subtle emotional shifts.
Very nice, very nice: but give us, instead, your velocity. Give us enigma, trespass, and the glee of vandals. Disrupt and derail. Give us the kinky stuff. Assume our minds are cluttered and fevered with too much info, techno, coffee, clubs, choices, clicks, products, perils, pills, pornography, modernity. Give us cheap kicks in a high-art capsule, or vice versa. Give us sex and violence, because we are not very mature and probably never will be. No, wait – give us the joyous mystic, a glory of spirit that transcends all irony and despair – or give us just the echo, the travesty of it. Champion the ridiculous. Light the fuse and run away, or stand right there, grinning. If your stuff is sly, sharp, easily-bored, and can run faster than our net-maddened minds, send us that; if it is compellingly weird, or difficult not out of ostentation but out of necessity, or still, quiet and serene in spite of everything, send us that, too.
And if you want to persuade us that distinctions between fiction and non-fiction are tedious or unhelpful, all the better. We love stories that read like essays. We love hoaxes, fakes, pranks, subversions and provocations. We esteem well-read writers, and love work about writers and books, imagined or real. We love criticism that is creative. We love the dangerous, the contrary and the questionable. Give us mad ambition over polite manoeuvrings. Give us obsessions, lies, lists, fragments and aphorisms. Malign the pieties. Swing for the arteries. Give us derangement, filth, evil and fury… or not. Give us beauty, but acknowledge that the old rules no longer hold, that we live amid the pulse of the megabrain, in screens and systems, in magnificent collapse and permanent daylight, the atrocity exhibition and the war on whatever, the post-everything freefall, the global hurl.
The kinds of mind that turn us on: Borges, Bolaño, Acker, Houellebecq, H.D., Joyce (think Ulysses more than Dubliners), Desmond Hogan, Geoff Dyer, Djuna Barnes, Sebald, Markson, Blake, Césaire, Ben Lerner, Etheridge Knight, Burroughs, Scott-Heron, Bernhard, Kundera, Lorca, Dick, Susan Howe, David Shields, Saul Williams, Rimbaud, Nagerestani, Nietzsche; and yes, all the vanished avant-gardes, the suicidal modernists, the crazed disruptors and godless visionaries, the deviants and saboteurs (oh, I don’t know, Bataille, Beckett, Stein, Baudrillard, Pasolini, Sade, Hamsun.)”
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