Thursday, January 30, 2003

Dan Featherston, who edits A•Bacus these days, has some thoughts on the question of editing & shape in today’s far different literary landscape:

ron —

the diversity issue you raise is something i've been thinking about a lot viz editing. i think that despite the great number of people published in a.bacus, there was an aesthetic stance under peter [ganick]'s editorship (1984-2000): primarily (though not exclusively) language writing.

i've tried to expand this aesthetic ("language-influenced," "non-language influenced," "translation series," selection fr lisa jarnot's duncan bio, etc.) in order to bring into the fold a greater diversity that reflects, i think, the many trajectories of "innovative" writing over the past, say, 15 years. i've also tried to focus more on younger/lesser known poets. next year, for the 20-year anniversary of a.bacus, i'll be running issues guest-edited by past contributors.

of course, all editing involves exclusion as well as inclusion, but as you seem to point out, diversity can be a euphemism for "lack of vision, lack of stance." having studied several years ago under [clayton] eshleman, i take from him (for better and worse) the importance of making a strong aesthetic/political stance, though i think this has become much more complicated and difficult since, say, the period when he was forming an aesthetic/political stance in the 1960's qua caterpillar: aesthetics and politics have, it seems, become more balkanized. also, there is now a blizzard of print and on-line journals devoted to innovative poetry, which wasn't the case 30 years ago.

from my historical perspective (34-years-old), i see the aesthetic/ political positions a lot more balkanized today than, say, 30 years ago, so the difficulty gets grafted onto editing. part of me resists the sort of "fence" approach (i.e., no stance) to editing, which can, i think, devolve into a kind of epcot approach to terrain – "it's all here in miniature!" and another, lesser part of me resists being too partisan / narrow in my editing decisions.

all best,