"I Hope to Give Voice to Authors Who Might Otherwise Struggle to See Their Work in Print."
You know that moment . . . the one after something wondrous or terrible or happy or tragic happens. That pause when your mind regroups and reflects. That pause when, for writers, the words begin to form. Then, after the pause, we write to express, to feel, to understand. Art follows the pause.
After the Pause is a quarterly experimental online literary journal. The first issue debuted Winter 2014, and the second issue for Spring comes out March 2015. The journal features poetry, flash fiction, and visual art from new, emerging, and veteran writers.
Michael Prihoda talks to The Review Review about the online journal he created, the “literary ephemera” he loves to see in submissions, and why he wants to help bring back typewriter art.
Interview by Linda Taylor
Poetry is your first love. Where did that come from? When did you first discover a love for words?
I’ve always loved words and reading, but didn’t start writing until my late teens. I started with fiction, but quickly got frustrated with how much effort it required of the writer/reader, often with terrible struggle and little payoff (though David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolaño’s fiction transformed my life).
Then I borrowed some back issues of Poetry magazine from a friend in college and read a poem by Nat Klug. It was eight lines and part of it has forever stuck in my head: “the need to keep on breaking what we make to keep on making.” Suddenly, I realized how transformative words could be when bundled in tiny packages, which people called poems. I immediately started writing small things, thoughts, ideas. Poems can be one word or a thousand, and I love that. Poems can be written in ten seconds and actually be and do something. The line matters so much to a poem. I have a brain that loves sparkling lines.
Recently, there have been a slew of typewriter poets taking social media by storm (Tyler Knott Gregson, Christopher Poindexter, Marisa Crane, etc.). Producing and distributing their work the way they do requires the poetic medium, I think. Because of the concision, the economy, the brevity of a poem, it allows for massive experimentation in presentation, format, delivery. It’s not such a big gamble the way experimentation in fiction would be. Poetry welcomes failure. Poetry affords infinite possibilities. A friend once described the difference by saying writing fiction was like building while writing poetry was like discovering. Both are great, but right now I love discovering.
You’ve already had your poetry published in other literary magazines. Why, then, decide to create your own magazine?
I’m thankful for each of the magazines I’ve been included in. Some of my favorites are Rasasvada, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Lines + Stars, One Throne, and Sein Und Werden. I also have a chapbook forthcoming from Weasel Press, which I am stoked about.
My wish to found a magazine started in the many months I spent receiving rejection letters (I received acceptances as well, but as far as my editorial development was concerned, the rejections were vital). They provoked me. I wanted to give writers another shot at getting published because I knew how much rejection sucks. Beyond that though, I hadn’t fully found my aesthetic in the literary magazine community and wanted to fill that void.
While a litany of awesome magazines publishing cool work exist, the poetry community still felt inaccessible and stuffy, even for someone like me who adores poetry. I wanted to build a magazine that felt accessible to people who weren’t crazy about poetry, who didn’t think they could understand it. A poetry and aesthetic for people who weren’t poets. Poetry has so much to offer the common person. I also wanted a magazine that would publish things that weren’t necessarily fashionable and not the kind of thing more traditional magazines consider publishing.
Starting a magazine was by no means an excuse to stop writing. My magazine doesn’t include any work by me. I still regularly send work out and I’m excited to have work forthcoming in The Bear Review, Peaches Lit Mag, and Otoliths. More recently, I’ve begun looking for a publisher for a full-length manuscript.
Your first issue of After the Pause debuted in Winter 2014. When you look at that online magazine, what makes you especially happy?
It’s pure existence. When I founded the magazine, I was apprehensive that a debut issue would ever exist, or at least an issue I would love. But I love that first issue. Each poem, story, and piece of artwork feels special for having been in the inaugural issue. Those authors/artists trusted me with their work. Every magazine starts somewhere and I am proud of After the Pause’s beginning.
You’re a published writer and now you’re on the other side of the desk as a literary journal editor. Describe how those roles work together. That is, does being a writer make you a better editor, and vice versa?
Definitely it does. I couldn’t have been an editor if I hadn’t started as a writer. My experience receiving acceptances and rejections has been vital. All the reading I’ve done has taught me what I’m most passionate about publishing. Also, the development of my aesthetic through all the different writing projects I’ve undertaken has taught me what to look for, what I really want, what matters to me.
I also learn a lot about writing by being an editor. As an editor, I read lots of good submissions along with lots of bad. I get inspired by some of the submissions I receive. I see what the bad ones do wrong and what the good ones do right. Writing and editing is a never-ending learning process with lots of cross-over; I am completely in awe that I get to do both on a daily basis.
What is it about a submission that makes you say, “I definitely want to publish this”?
Usually it’s a feeling. I finish a piece and I feel like my having read that piece mattered to my life. It changed me. Maybe a line from it will stick in my mind. Maybe an image. I love working in bite-sized chunks of literature (which is why the magazine only publishes poetry, flash fiction, art) because it takes less time to read but can still affect me as much as having read a three-hundred-page novel.
Emotion of some kind seems necessary to what I accept. If a piece connects me to the human experience and does so elegantly, experimentally, riskily, then I want it. Things that appear simple yet contain depth also appeal to me. In looking at what the magazine has published, the themes of pain, nostalgia, relationships, and humanity seem to crop up.
If a piece connects me to the human experience and does so elegantly, experimentally, riskily, then I want it. Things that appear simple yet contain depth also appeal to me.
You mention in your submission guidelines that you take typewriter art. What is that, and why does it appeal to you?
Typewriter art is art created by only using a manual typewriter and the keystrokes producible by the machine in order to make an artwork. I only do black/white typewriter art, but many colored reels exist and can be mixed to create more chromatic compositions. The form is constricted and limited (the platen only allows certain sized paper, especially if the paper requires rotation, which many pieces do) and completely final. Every stroke is imprinted on the paper forever. It feels like painting combined with writing, since letters or symbols are the brushstrokes of the compositions. I love how hands-on it feels, how physical it is when I push the buttons of the typewriter while using my other hand to guide the paper.
Working this way seems to add layers of meaning to a piece. I love mixing words/images/shapes/backgrounds in a composition to create more depth on a page. Much of my personal poetry explores layering meaning beyond just the words, and I think typewriter art and concrete poetry in general provide that sort of opportunity in creation.
I love the concrete poets from the 1960s and other poets who have used the typewriter in how they’ve blended levels of meaning. Bob Cobbing, Dom Sylvester Houédard, and Eugen Gomringer are some of my favorite artists who used this medium. While typewriter poetry is back in vogue as a genre, examples of modern typewriter art are few and far between.
A lot of magazines take experimental writing, as you do. What does that mean for your magazine? What types of “experimental” do you like to publish?
For me, experimental means being weird, risky, strange, or original in a way that works or accomplishes a goal. Some examples from our March issue include a flash piece in which none of the sentences end, some pieces of visual poetry mixing images/words, and poems whose words/symbols combine to create a sort of hypertextuality that goes beyond the norm. Being experimental can include messing with form, design, structure, genre, etc.
I think some forms of creation will always get labeled experimental, at least as long as they don’t receive widespread recognition or popularity, such as visual poetry (vispo), typewriter art, concrete poetry, and even flash fiction to some extent (at least the very short varieties). I think these forms, while oftentimes flying under the radar, have as much if not more relevance to the literary scene as anything else getting produced.
You offer something called the “Guerilla Broadside Series.” What do you want readers to know about that service?
The Guerilla Broadside Series features a specially selected poem/story, one from each issue. Only ten copies get printed for each series. The author gets five, the magazine gets five, but all ten get mailed to addresses around the United States or else they get left in public places for people to find. The point is giving art away. So far, some places our Broadsides have ended up include bookstores and the MFA departments at various universities. The Guerilla part of it is inspired by Keri Smith’s books because these broadsides are sent without notifying the recipients. People have no idea what they’re receiving until they receive it. I love how unasked for these are. One day they just show up, and somebody gets to read a poem and have a piece of art in their hands and their world is changed without them having to do anything. It’s my idea of street art, but in this case the art finds the audience instead of the other way around.
It also advertises the author and the magazine, which is an added bonus.
In addition to your quarterly online magazine, you plan to publish an annual print anthology. Tell us more about that.
The print anthology will feature work from the previous four issues. The first is scheduled for December 2015/January 2016. Alongside the work, I hope to make each issue unique, again inspired by Keri Smith’s writing along with Ninth Letter’s ridiculously inventive issues. Each anthology will hopefully include a section that calls for reader interaction or pushes the boundaries of what a physical book can be or asks of the reader. I’m thinking about messing with arrangement of pieces on a page, having pages where readers are called to add their own contribution, including pages that ask the reader to color them in. I want readers to own the copy of the anthology, defacing it in a positive way, making it personal.
Books are serious, and when a reader adds himself to a book, it becomes more intense, more vibrant. Here I’m thinking of the book S. by Doug Dorst in tandem with J. J. Abrams. I have a friend who told me about a copy of this one book he came across, I think it was Catcher in the Rye, that got passed around, and every time somebody read it the person signed his or her name in the front cover and gave it away. When my friend had it, there was a whole list of names in the cover, people he’d never met, ghosts inside the ink. I’m sure that kind of thing has been done throughout history but I love that, the ownership in a signature alongside the redistributive principle of recycling being employed on an artwork. Getting the most out of something by giving it away and enhancing its purpose.
What else would you like these future readers to know about After the Pause?
Something exciting for the future is the expansion of the magazine to include a small press. I am looking to launch our press imprint in March 2015 with a collection of poetry called The Softest Girl on Earth by Peter Gabriel Res (who features in our March 2015 issue). Proceeds from the press will be donated to charity, and I am looking forward to working with/supporting the different charities I am passionate about (To Write Love on Her Arms will receive profits from the imprint’s first book).
As before, with this new venture, I hope to give voice to authors who might otherwise struggle to see their work in print because it may be too experimental/weird or else it may not be trendy or in vogue with the literary community.
Linda Taylor is an author, an editor, a writer, a college writing instructor, and a constant learner. She earned her B.A. in English and Writing from Houghton College, her M.A. in English from Ball State University. and will be pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction beginning summer 2015. She currently teaches in the Professional Writing department at Taylor University and continues to do freelance editing and proofreading. She blogs about the joys of editing and grammar at lindaktaylor.wordpress.com.