Introduction to the Second Issue
“What, in fact, is the aim of every creative artist?” retorts Albert Camus in a 1951 interview. In answer to his own question, he suggests that it is “[t]o depict the passions of his day. In the seventeenth century, the passions of love were at the forefront of people's minds. But today, the passions of our century are collective passions, because society is in disorder. . . Artistic creation, instead of removing us from the drama of our time, is one of the means we are given of bringing it closer.” As our government embarks on what appears to be yet another unjust, horrific, and brutal war, it may be difficult to think about the prose poem in any significant way. It may be even more difficult to engage in a discussion of genre boundaries and borders when our military pushes past the borders of other peoples often leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Some of our writers address this very issue in their responses. In fact, many of the responses to the genre questions in our second issue seem somewhat angry about genre distinctions at all, acknowledging the inevitable, and, sometimes, undesirable political configurations and consequences attached to any art. As you will see, some writers reply by attacking genre definitions altogether, others poke fun at the attempt to define at all, and, still, some attempt specific definitions.
These challenges that the writers pose, both in terms of genre and forms, as well as the challenges posed in their work, seem wrought with the tension and chaos of our times and the same chaos Camus seems to suggest. Is our current epoch any more chaotic, confused or violent than any other? It certainly seems, living in this moment, in media res, that we are ‘thrown' into these lives, this existence, as Heidegger suggests, with an increasing uncertainty and trepidation as to how to proceed. But, it is because of this that art and literaturethe prose poem and flash fictionbecomes more important, more vital than ever. In his essay, Was That a Real Poem or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself?, Robert Creeley writes: “As a poet, at this moment . . . I am angered, contemptuous, impatient, and possibly even cynical concerning the situation of our lives in this ‘national' place. Language has, publicly, become such an instrument of coercion, persuasion, and deceit. The power thus collected is ugly beyond descriptionit is truly evil. And it will not go away. Trust to good verses then . . . Trust to the clarity instant in being human, that knows and wants no other place.” Creeley wrote this in 1974 while another brutal war was coming to a close and the House Judiciary Committee was deliberating over Watergate, but his words still resonate today, perhaps more than ever especially with a current American President who is barely capable, when pressed by reporters, of stringing together a single coherent and grammatically correct sentence to save his life. As Creeley suggests, we must trust in the verses . . . in these paragraphs, in these stories, in these poems.
The pp/ff form is now a major force in literary publishing. This, of course, carries its own problems, but the dilemmas associated with literary categorization certainly seem infinitesimal compared to the real conflicts of war happening today, and, certainly, they are less significant than the benefits we all receive in reading authors like the one's presented here in issue #2. Including Double Room, there are several new literary journal devoted to publishing the pp/ff: Sentence, CUE, Quick Fiction, Untitled, and Minima. In addition to journals, there are several new anthologies being published, which are devoted exclusively to the pp/ff: Sudden Stories: A Mammoth Anthology of Miniscule Fiction edited by Dinty Moore and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, edited by David Lehman to name a couple. In the introduction to his anthology, David Lehman writes the following of the prose poem: “Writing in prose you give up much, but you gain in relaxation, in the possibilities of humor and incongruity, in narrative compression, and in the feeling of escape or release from tradition or expectation.” This release from tradition and expectation is crucial to our literature and art today more than ever. As this form continues to develop and put pressure on both verse and proseand on itselfwe as writers and readers are forced to face human consciousness and experience in similarly new and unexpected ways.
In this issue we are happy to feature a vast array of work that sometimes puts the reader in a position to question their own role in the construction of experience and at other times pushes the reader to laugh at their own perceptions and perspectives. We include some well-known writers, like Bin Ramke and Brian Kiteley, as well as some new up-and-coming writers like Joanna Howard, Susan Maxwell, Matt Miller, Tony Leuzzi, and Anthony Tognazzini. We are also happy to publish writers who have either been very prominent in the prose poetry scene in America for a number of years, like Peter Johnson, Albert Mobilio and Gian Lombardo, or who are part of the new burgeoning pp/ff publishing scene, like Morgan Schuldt. Moreover, this issue includes some international poets: Marjana Gaponenko from the Ukraine and Johannes Göransson, who is originally from Sweden. Once again, the aesthetic sensibilities and styles of the writers in this issue are extremely diverse, but all are of the highest quality. We are also happy to feature the artwork of Mexican-American artist, Jesus Polanco; be sure to click on his name for the entire gallery of work. And, we have a new web designer, Cactus May, who has done an amazing job with the graphics and page design. We're delighted to have him as our web master. The discussion of forms continues with growing intensity. If any of you are interested in joining a similar discussion, you can do so by joining the pp/ff listserv and discussion group, which includes numerous writers, scholars, publishers and editors who are interested in the pp/ff form: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PP_FF/.
Finally, we need to thank several people. Literary publishing is always a collaborative effort, and Double Room is no exception. Our contributors have been wonderful in helping with more than simply submitting poems and responses, so thanks to all of you, and special thanks to Michael Neff, Cole Swensen, Dale Chisman, Bin Ramke, and Peter Johnson. We hope you enjoy the work.