A while ago, I was toying with doing a poetry 'zine called Diseases of Staggering Beauty. I'd gotten tired of a poetry scene that seemed divided between 'respectable' little magazines that seemed mainly to publish poems by middle-class people about whichever former Eastern Bloc city they'd last gone on holiday to, and those newer poetry mags which seem to me to be the literary equivalent of landfill indie, slick production values and an edgy attitude which only emphasises the disconnect between the marketing campaign and the pallid reams of 'content' within. Diseases, I decided, would be neither respectable nor slick: it would concentrate on transgressive subject matter and it wouldn't give two shits whether it was 'cool' or not.
And then I forgot all about it.
To be fair, I had my reasons. The bookshop where I worked went bankrupt. I was unemployed for a month; I'd barely gotten settled into a new job when Michelle came down with breast cancer. Ironically, though, it was Michelle's being in hospital that gave me the impetus to crank Diseases up again.
One of the things that had led me to hold back with getting started on the 'zine was that, as much as I wanted it to be raw, I also wanted it to look nice. I decided I would need to learn how to do desktop publishing, design, all that sort of stuff. I wanted to make it look professional.
Then a friend of Michelle sent her a care package, which included some of her own 'zines, which were brilliant, and energetic, and simple, and elegant, and busy, and vibrant, and wonderful, and had been put together with no technology more sophisticated than scissors, glue, paper, and a photocopier. Why do them so simply? Why not make them slicker, nicer, more professional?
Because that's not the point. The point is saying something. The point is putting something out there, making your point, and not letting self-consciousness or diffidence get in your way. Really professional magazines look the way they do because they have art departments and big production budgets and enough staff to sort out a proper division of labour. If you have something you really want to say, if you have an idea you really want to put across, a point of view that you wish to advance, then worrying that you can't make what you want to produce as slick as, say, *wallpaper magazine is just going to prevent you actually saying what you want to say. At some point you have to, as they say, just do it.
All of which preamble is basically to say that I've decided to start Diseases of Staggering Beauty up again, and to ask for submissions from you, you beautiful people. What do I want? I want stuff that's angry, weird, out-of-place, questioning, questing and queer. I don't want the tweedy, well-meaning teacher or the strutting, testosterone-addled lead guitarist with the local rock legends, I want the angry kid with downcast eyes at the back of the class who sits there seething with a private rage to be something other than the options on the table. I want the kind of stuff I want to read, really, the stuff I don't see out there at the moment.
If you'd like to contribute something, I'd love to read it. It's mainly poetry I'm interested in but prose, whether fiction or non-fiction, that fits the bill will be considered as well. Art too, but be aware that production limitations will probably mean black and white, simple stuff will work best.
So: if you want to contribute, email your work to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . All copyright remains with contributors; I can't afford to pay anyone but obviously you get the usual complementary copy (and probably a few more copies for distribution purposes into the bargain).