Writers shouldn’t ever feel too proud or glorious. We should remember our horrible origins.
Writing was born of the desire to control and exploit people and things. It’s fundamentally a weapon of cabals and bureaucracies. Its mesopotamian evolution was a major advance for rapacious power, meeting the requirement for a sophisticated symbol system that could count and describe large numbers and varieties of goods, and order newly ridgidified societies around the organising principle of greed.
The codification of alphabets and invention of writing enabled sealed commands to be sent from capital cities to the reaches of empire. Exploitation and mass murder are in the DNA of writing. The quill is carved from indigenous bones and dipped in the blood of the annihilated; there’s no getting away from it.
The complicity of words, especially words as instructions and labels, is a foreground theme in many pieces included here.
Happily, if we are willing to take risks, oppression’s implements can be turned against it. Anyone who has witnessed tear gas canisters being courageously flung back at police lines will know what I mean. A revolution means the rank and file shooting their officers. But a truly new and redeemed society would have no memory of armies or guns.
Literature, too, may disappear. If we accept Wilde’s definition of all art as quite useless, much literature faded into aesthetic insignificance a long time ago. Whatever is dependent on profit-making to survive is useful and being used, a parasite on a monster. When the minotaur is killed his nits die too, of dehydration.
Ground-breaking word-art takes place in the non-literary fields of live and performance art, visual art, and sound art. Many of the best artists of the word aren’t writers, though they may take inspiration from literary modernists. Many word- artists in this issue relate to, and in some cases also create in, other spheres, and it comes through in their work.
There are plenty of serious thinkers who believe that our civilisation’s crisis is irresolvable, final, apocalyptic. Apocalypse is a period of tremendous rupture, realignment, resurrection and revelation. It is a carnival, the greatest party ever thrown, at which everyone and every-no-one shows up, to which every imaginable thing is invited. All kinds of new connections are being made in the cracks and shadows of our apocalyptic days. All the dead and the denied forms are rising again to commingle. The flesh, the inorganic, and the fantastic mate, evolve, hybridise.
The lab-bred Dodo rides the gene-spliced unicorn and their hideously beautiful offspring evade capture and labeling.
This issue of The Stinging Fly is a showcase of such promiscuous, queerly interbreeding forms, of forms in flying, un-predetermined metamorphoses. The future’s unwritten, remember? And so is the No-future. Here be some of those trying to unwrite it.
Dave Lordan June 2012
Issue 12 is available to buy here.