December 29, 2010

X again?

Looks like Table X is returning to AWP, at least as an offsite...

The lineup has changed slightly this year, which makes me wonder how you get in, though like most things my gut says it's just friends and friends-of who have awesome presses.

I am seriously in love with most of the presses involved, but last year's "barricade" approach made my eyes roll. It's not clear yet if they'll cordon off at the bookfair in D.C. with trashbags or if the reading is just a convenient marketing throwback for recognition purposes. Because I love these presses so much and for other becauses, I'll get over it either way.

But still, seeing the event pop up in my newsfeed today brought up some questions which linger from Denver. Like, if Versal were asked "in" would I say yes? Should I applaud Table X for being explicit about in-crowd(edness)? Is it a "problem" that they have marked themselves "off" from the rest? Do I actually care? Or is the momentary throwback to the high school cafeteria just an annoying re-realization that this is how we congregate--posturing tall with our hands flat on our chests, pointing "me" and this is "us", hello to all of you.

Certainly they're not the first to do it at AWP, which like most of the world has its ins and outs and is, in and of itself, part of a larger machine that writers and presses may or can or do use to build their profiles. And even Versal is doing that, by being there in its own little unaffiliated way, and after just two years of attendance we've noticed a marked increase in submissions (and submission quality), sales, and subscriptions--so we'll keep going there. So that's another because, because we're all in this machine, in fact we make the machine, and it would be dishonest of me to condemn their efforts (though I think a little healthy criticism is ok)--which in the end are just ways to profile themselves and each other in a communal way.

In high school, I was an awkward and stressed out poet-slash-closet-lesbian who wore tie-dyes and fell in love with girls in the in-crowd. Now that that's all over, I apparently still have the habit of falling in love with things I perceive as in the in--which means I think I'm in the out, which is stupid.

Anyway, blah blah blog. Here's some kids having a lightsaber fight in their school cafeteria:

December 27, 2010

Beyond Times New Roman: The Literary Journal as Object

Join 1913 a journal of forms, 6x6, The Lumberyard Magazine, Ninth Letter, and Versal for this ridiculously beautiful AWP panel . . .

Thursday, February 3, 2011
4:30pm - 5:45pm
Nathan Hale room, Marriott Wardman Park
2660 Woodley Road NW
Washington, DC

From curatorial art teams to the hand-bound letterpress, to pages upon which art and words are nearly indistinguishable, the literary journal is so much more than paper and font choice. Attention to design will turn a journal into an art object that sets it apart from the masses. Editors from five innovative journals share concrete strategies for incorporating art and design: getting submissions, working with an art editor, and how to redesign the literary journal from scratch.

The literary journal as art object goes back at least to the Pre-Raphaelite The Germ, but the subtleties of art and design can be daunting to many literary editors. A journal that does not pay attention to good design practice lessens the pleasure of the reading experience and increases the perception that journals are mere vehicles for publication. This panel shows editors how to be sophisticated about art and design choices, and how it is possible without much added effort.

Sandra Doller, 1913 a journal of forms
Shayna Schapp, Versal
Jodee Stanley, Ninth Letter
Jen Woods, The Lumberyard Magazine
Matvei Yankelevich, 6x6

Travis Kurowski of Luna Park Review will moderate.

And stay tuned for news on our offsite event Thursday eve . . .

December 03, 2010

Congratulations to our 2010 Pushcart nominees!

The Versal editorial team has nominated the following pieces from Versal 8 for the next Pushcart round (does anyone else lose track of the years?):

The Sociology of Containers, Stacy Elaine Dacheux
Here is a Photograph of the City, Colleen Hollister
Aleatory Prayer of Gold Bees, Karen An-hwei Lee
Jugni, Kuzhali Manickavel
Dominoes — Opening, Daniele Pantano
Yellow Picnic, Brandon Shimoda

Congratulations to all of our nominees!

December 01, 2010

A shameless, self-promotional note from Megan who thinks this is really cool so she's blogging about it

The other week I received word that I had been selected as one of 50 "power Amsterdammers" by Time Out Amsterdam. This for my literary community work here, which has evolved since I moved to town in 2001. I haven't seen the write-up yet but I hope it's cool.

What's remarkable about this is just the recognition.
Our organization has struggled for years with the cultural black hole we find ourselves in, which has forced us to develop self-sustaining activities as a result of the border tendencies in (cultural) funding. So in recognizing my work, Time Out is actually recognizing all of the people who have worked with me over the years to build a supportive, inclusive and accessible international literary community without the funding to do so. And it's recognizing too the importance of that community for the city as a whole.

Indeed, as Poets & Writers wrote in its last issue, Versal is the most visible manifestation of all of that community. If we had all of the money and time in the world, we would do so much more. But as it is, we are doing a lot with very little, and I am so proud of us for our achievements. I inclu
de not only my fellow editors, but also all of the writers in and around the Netherlands, who connect into the international community and help us build and sustain it. Whether you're working alone in your attic or biweekly in a writing group, whether you're trekking from The Hague to get to a reading in Amsterdam or submitting your work to Versal, you have helped make our literary community one that is, simply, community. We're not waving flags about ourselves or dead-dropping manifestos, we're simply writing and working to write, and working with each other to write. It pretty much rocks buckets.

And to think it all started with this little flyer in 2002:

November 26, 2010

Versus make for other

Recent posts here, there and elsewhere have returned me to an old question. So many of us (you know, poets and whatnot) seem to assume that poetry's evolution is driven (solely) by reactionary forces. I think this is a sad (and it could be argued violent, misogynistic, etc. etc.) way of looking at things. But why is it so hard to explore the evolution of poetics as one pushed by generative forces? Albeit sometimes these forces are reactionary, but they are also active, intertextual, engagements in dialogue, etc. etc.

My concern is the tendency to place things in opposition to each other. So I'm blogging out these thoughts before I catch the metro home. It seemed too long for a status update.

Also, I'm wondering what you out there might have to say. And what texts you've read which engage this question.

Also, CPR has a nice piece up about "standards" in poetry, which touches on the work of an editor, which nicely parallels some of what I was blabbing about a few posts ago.

November 13, 2010

Knock, knock

In a recent post on The Prague Post's blog, writer Stephan Delbos reviews the new poetry journal Full Metal Poem. He posits its solicitation-only policy as a more honest and non-elitist form of literary editing, and calls on other European journals to follow in its stead:
One hopes other editors throughout Europe will follow Full Metal Poem‘s lead in creating a journal which establishes a high literary and artistic standard without resorting to elitism.
As I am the editor of one of those European literary journals, I was being addressed--and accused of elitism.

Stephan and I have been in touch for some years, as he is part of a literary community in Prague similar to ours here in Amsterdam, and though we've never met in person I think he's doing good work and he seems like a good guy. In other words, I'd add him as a Facebook friend. So I emailed Stephan, asking him to expand his thesis, and if he wouldn't mind that I take up the subject on this here blog. He said sure. We both agreed it would be great to debate this over beers, but that building a public dialogue around the issue would probably be more valuable. Plus, I don't know when I'll be next in Prague.

Most journals solicit to some degree; some do not solicit at all; few solicit 100%.* The project of a solely-solicited journal is very different from the project of a journal which relies, at least in part, on the so-called slush pile. The solicited journal is a curatorial project--you might even say its synonym is the anthology. Setting out to spotlight a particular aesthetic, movement, or community, the solicited journal becomes a compendium of an editor's (explicit or implied) manifesto. As anthology, it can be a valuable addition to the literary landscape, acting as a magnifying glass to a particular filament of a literature. The literary journal which works with a slush pile, however, is that literary landscape's explorer--walking through it, mapping it, drawing its broad outlines or picking it out in parts. The editor of such a journal is no less driven by an aesthetic or even manifesto, but is probably also interested in the project as a learning process--uncovering new styles, voices, being challenged aesthetically.

Undoubtedly, the solicited journal--and solicitation in general--has the open-call journal to thank for doing the legwork. The solicited journal relies on the editors who do dig through the slush piles and--in many cases--kick-off the publishing careers of writers, writers who will later be stumbled upon by another editor and solicited. The open-call journals are where we start reading the work of new writers, where we follow their developments, where we grow to love them.

I'm not saying that the editor who does not solicit is a more valuable editor than the one who does--simply that they play different roles. And by no means am I arguing that the solely-solicited journal blemishes the literary landscape. On the contrary, its magnifying effect can be good for the community and its legacy. But I am taking issue with the assumption that a journal which only solicits is somehow less elitist and more honest than a journal which does not. It would simply be better to argue that the solicited journal puts its elitism out in the open so that "the rest of us" have no doubt of its motives. However, the contrary of the openly-elite solicited journal is not necessarily the masked-elitism of the open-call journal. Rather, the pivot of elitism comes down to something else entirely.

As I spoke about on the "Open for Submissions" panel at the last AWP, I firmly believe that a literary editor should have a vision for her journal. This starts with the editor herself. I suggested to the roomful of burgeoning editors that they ask themselves the age-old question: Do I play well with others? If you like working in a team, if you like your aesthetic boundaries pushed, if you like to explore, then build a press or journal with others. But if there's a specific kind of work that you set out to publish, if you're working from a manifesto or a particular aesthetic school, and more importantly if you don't want to bend to the editorial tastes of others, you're probably better off reviewing submissions alone--or soliciting.**

Simply put, a literary editor is, to my mind, a successful literary editor when she is visibly, publicly clear on what she is setting out to do and when she builds the editorial process of her publication accordingly. By success I mean what Stephan calls establishing a "high literary and artistic standard", but I also include it to mean an editor who is contributing to the continuous building of the literary community around us. If an editor can best do this by anthologizing a particular fragment of literary happenings, great. If an editor is fit for and up to the task of exploration, wonderful.

Stephan is equating an openness about editorial taste (i.e. pure solicitation) with aesthetic success, but I think that's faulty math. For one, are any of us at any point deluded into thinking that literary journals are not a matter of taste? If anything, the ripe literary conversation of the blogosphere has uncovered this once-yes-elite system to its bare bones. And I can't think of a single journal that actually tries to hide that it has a particular leaning--what would be the point? Journals, rather, seem to be polarizing for the sake of survival. Secondly, one could easily argue that the solicited journal is the most elitist form of literary editing, blockading the "rest" or "other"
off from whatever a particular editor judges is good and worthy. Thirdly, the historical foundation of purely solicited journals is one that decidedly excludes women and "minority" poetries, resulting in a narrow anthologization of an aesthetic and thus ultimately limiting its "success". These (exclusions) are hard habits to break. Until recently (and still to an alarming degree), the literary journal was the sole purview of a (white) man who published his (male) friends and male writers he liked. This model is thankfully being broken down, and today groups like VIDA are keeping a watchful eye on the "numbers". The elitist male foundations of the literary canon are being rebuilt in a dialogue that has room for--in fact is founded on--diverse editorial taste and a community's openness about where those tastes diverge, intersect, and convene.

Elitism is in the motives. The editor who uses her publishing project to derisively barricade off some work from others versus the editor who opens doors (within and without) to the range of greatness. Editors of solicited and open-call journals can be either of these or somewhere in between, and our literary community certainly sees it all. In his recent Conflict of Interest series on Luna Park, Greg Weiss writes,

…the literary poetry market is no different than any other open market—actors with congruent or complementary interests form alliances. Copperman notes that “America’s finest venues…ignore the slushpile in favor of contacts.” While I agree, it strikes me that this will always be the case. In the same manner, the importance of aesthetic and prestige gatekeepers to print journals continues unabated in electronic journals. Gatekeepers can have the positive effect of creating a distinctive style, or the negative effect of inculcating a type of groupthink.

An editor has a choice. She can choose to stand watch at some iron gate that she fabricates or joins, or she can admit that for every writer and every editor, there is a small little gate. It is the editor's motive and the editorial process which forms around it which either guard the gate, break it down, or force it open.

Ultimately, the future of literary journals is not (I hope) that all of us editors rally around plots in the landscape and stake our claims. What a gross turf war that would be. Versal--and many other lit journals to boot--has proven that you can successfully publish both Marilyn Hacker and Selah Saterstrom--in other words, that editorial taste does not have to be (seen as) static or singular, and that you don't have to have a manifesto to build a valuable and beautiful collection of writing.

To be honest, I'm much more concerned by the literary journal which hides behind "open" calls by having white lists of writers it will actually consider--and has interns reject the rest--than by the literary journals like Full Metal Poem which demarcate a particular aesthetic through pure solicitation, or by those journals which, by virtue of our world's current inundation, remain open for submissions but cannot publish even the majority of what it receives, even if it wanted to. If we're going to worry about elitism in the literary publishing world, I would look to the white-list journal first before I knock on the doors of Europe's few and underfunded, projects-of-love literary journals and tell them they've "resorted to elitism" because their doors are open.

And on that note, I'll let Harriet Monroe show us out.

* First off, I could be wrong about this; I'm basing my "calculations" off of experiential evidence. Second, I'm not talking about editors publishing their friends. That's something else entirely. By "solicit" I'm referring to the practice of editors contacting writers they admire and would like to publish. Sometimes, sure, those writers are people we're friends with, but by and large they are writers we have never met and have read at the far distance of the page. I see the journals which rise out of a group of friends/like-minded writers to rather be the projects of a community--very often rallying around a manifesto--and for me that's a very different type of journal, and one that I don't address here.

** These are, of course, not the only approaches to the editorial process. You could, say, have a computer pick submissions at random, or, as a recent magazine has done, just lift stuff off the internet.

November 10, 2010

We ain't Ninth Letter (yet)

Ninth Letter is the go-to journal for those of us busy with the place of art in literary journals and, for some, the future of the literary journal itself. I'd like to think of Ninth Letter as Versal's older, wiser and employed friend--years of experience, university affiliation, and the money to do art right.

Not that I think
Versal is lacking in experience or failing (its) art--on the contrary, we're doing damn good for a journal that is entirely funded by proceeds from our community events and sales. But what we would give for the cash to have color plates wherever we wanted!

In the meantime, our newly appointed art editor Shayna Schapp has taken on the challenge of doing the best we can with what we have: two color plates, the cover plate, lots of potential b&w space, and people. Like the poetry and fiction teams, Shayna has formed a new group of art editors who will join her and Mirabai to curate the art in
Versal via the roundtable model our poetry and fiction teams use. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to our new assistant art editors:

Hélène Webers (b. 1987, Maastricht, The Netherlands) is currently studying art history at the University of Amsterdam, with a special interest in modern and contemporary art, and completed Museology at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam. Since 2008, she has worked as a curatorial assistant at the contemporary art institute SMART Project Space and CASZ (Contemporary Art Screen Zuidas), an urban screen arts initiative.

Dafna Ruppin is a PhD candidate in Media History at Utrecht University’s Research Institute for History and Culture. Born in Tel Aviv and currently based in Amsterdam, she has worked as a literary critic, journalist, editor and translator.

Reed van Brunschot is a Peruvian/Dutch visual artist merging video, performance & fine art. She has studied in the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is currently in Amsterdam at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie's audio visual program. Her work is a playful pop reaction to modern life.

Welcome, welcome.

November 08, 2010

Whip it.

We here at Versal try to respond to all submissions within two months.

Some of you might have noticed that we're running a little behind, a fact which will no doubt make its way to Duotrope very soon and make me shed some wheepy tears.

See 'cause half of us were at my wedding in September so we didn't start reading until October and, well, yeah. But we are
definitely on it! We are reading and loving your work. And we have purchased some whips and are using them to reach each other across the interwebs. The miracle, really, that is the interweb, that makes Versal possible.

Our apologies.

Thank you for your patience.

November 06, 2010

Sometimes we put on events

I hope you Amdammers can join us on the 26th.

Visiting writer Louis Armand and newly-landed local Jane Lewty will be reading at The English Bookshop. Louis is an Australian writer and artist who lives in Prague. Jane just moved here from Iowa City, where she did that famous workshop we all hear about all the time.

I'm excited about this reading because I like Jane and Louis's her friend so I'll probably like him too, and their poetries are stellar, and in the dark cold of the end of November it'll be really nice to step away from all the Versal submissions I'm reading and hear something live. The reading will probably be the last one we put on this year, and then we'll all go into that December black hole of holidays and reemerge sometime in January a little weightier and exhausted. If you're wondering how else to beat the winter blues, I passed this on Lifehacker the other day.

Anyway, if you're in the lowlands,

Check our site
Or obviously our FB

Seriously, we used to do this event thing more often. In fact, we were so good at that we grew too big for our britches. Do you know how hard it is to produce a quality club event every month with zero budget? Nevermind, even writing that sentence was hard. You know what it's like.

I like the little ad hoc stuff we do now. It's way more low-main, and my attention span at the reading is wider/longer/higher.

November 04, 2010

(Some of our) editors in Nashville, TN

From the photobooth at Megan & Shayna's wedding
on September 25, 2010:

First attempt.

Second attempt.

Third attempt.

November 01, 2010

Your local indie innovator

I've just gotten word from Robert that Versal is listed among the indie innovators in the latest issue of Poets & Writers.

You can say what you want about P&W, but I've been reading it since I was a baby poet and I love it. And because the Dutch mail service sucks so much, I have my subscription sent to my parents in Nashville, TN and they mail my copies in care packages. So I haven't read the article yet, but Robert tells me it's good and we're next to Diagram.

Sometimes Mondays are worth starting with.

October 13, 2010

The submission period for Versal 9 is open.
We're seeking artwork that is urgent, involved and unexpected.
Submit online today.

July 30, 2010

"My comment is bigger than your comment"

I love it when poetic boxing matches erupt. It speaks to my argumentative bones. Which is why I admire Rebecca Wolff, even if I don't always agree with her (do any of us ever always agree with anyone? I'm getting a vague flashback to a Star Trek episode). Since I first started reading FENCE, I've enjoyed most her editorials that take on some element of some current discussion of poetics -- and I admit I have an underdeveloped fantasy that she and I were born under similar star formations.

When these boxing matches erupt, the poetic blogosphere becomes much more interesting. Comment sections are where the real shit happens (I read recently on Harriet's blog yet another call-out of Silliman's blog's too-often overly aggressive comment battles, which Spahr & Young also knocked in their 2007 Numbers Trouble...and yes there's a sense of irony in mentioning the latter, read below). Remember Foetry? That was awesome. It was like my own personalized gossip column. I wonder what it was like before the internet (I was born in '79, so...). Probably similar, just slower, and hell people still start journals and presses out of some irreverent response to some fault they find in whatever came before it/them. Letter presses flying about, essays in the mail, I'm sure it was an exciting time then too for the poetry-gawker. Did any fights erupt at AWP Denver? That was an expensive transatlantic plane ticket for me to have missed witnessing a poetry boxing match in person. But if something did occur of that ilk, I missed it; I was either drunk at the Mercury or asleep at the Robert Haas reading.

So the latest (or, not really, I'm coming at this one a bit late) is the clash between Rebecca Wolff and the folks of the 95 Cent Skool, specifically Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr but presumably with rhetorical guns fired by others if I'm reading the signatures right (refer to Silliman parenthetical above).

Oh, don't worry, I'm not weighing in on this one really. I see positives and negatives on both "sides". I am saddened by but recognize the hopelessness implicit in the Skool's manifesto (which goes something like, "there's not a damn thing we can write that will get through to the world, so we're going to hang out together"), but I also feel that, like most manifestos, this one kind of implodes on itself, as Wolff points out. And reading the Skool's blog reminds me slightly of the Table X "barricade" in Denver and, well, I'm not old (is 31 old now? I can't really tell) but I never was really that cool, and I still believe in non-violence as a tool so I cringe at words like "barricade". Anyway, Versal was super far away from Table X, as the AWP Bookfair landscape goes. And just like in high school I wanted to eat on their side of the cafeteria but I also felt somewhat appalled. I however did visit Table X and, next to buying about $100 worth of books, had a nice chat with Joshua Edwards and Lynn Xu, which reminded me that most of this stuff is a) for show and b) we're all just trying to sell poetry without becoming capitalist jackasses. Which means sometimes, as in the case of the 95 Cent Skool now, we come across a little more militant and exclusionary for our own good.

My point is: I would have loved to see Wolff's expletives flying through the air at the Rethinking Poetics conference. I hereby vow to find the live version(s) of heated poetics discourse at AWP D.C. Since I don't live in the States and am not, nor have been, in a program there, I don't know who likes who or who has slept with who or who hates who or who's in what "school" or has been kicked out of what "school", so my focus remains on finding, simply, great work for Versal and knowing at least where the epicenters of the discourse are so that if I ever move back to the States I can carry on a conversation with one of those "who's" and make new friends. And here, I suppose, is the crux of my interest: knowing what you're talking about over there makes me feel, for whatever split second, a little less foreign to/in my homeland.

June 21, 2010

Dear Tom van de Voorde, and Dear Amsterdam, Dear the Netherlands,

Last week, a few of us trotted down to Rotterdam for the Poetry International Festival, an annual to-do of (usually) great poets from around the world. This year, the festival highlighted American poets and poetry, and so we had the opportunity to listen to Katherine Coles, CK Williams, Christian Hawkey, Michael Palmer, Katia Kapovich (billed as an "American transplant" or some such other),

and...Wallace Stevens.

Here's the text from the English version of "Wallace Stevens: last Dutchman of America":

"A few decades after Peter Stuyvesant, the famous immigrant from Friesland who founded New York, another Dutchman, a certain Michiel Stevens, boarded ship to sail to the new world. What happened to him after that is anyone’s guess. All we know is that he married a certain Ryertie Mol, sired a few children, and in a jiffy a century and a half had passed. Apparently he didn’t leave much of a mark on history. Nonetheless, his legacy was invaluable, if only for the fact that he contributed his DNA to the grandson of the grandson of his grandson: Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), a well-to-do gentleman and solicitor for an insurance company, who earned enough money to maintain a couple of expensive hobbies."

From the rationale of ancestry follows, somehow, and very much in both the Dutch and English versions of this text, a kind of Dutch claim on (or colonization of, if you will) a major American poet. The text goes on to describe Stevens' impact on literature, which apparently would have been "completely different" without him.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoy Stevens' work. But I was rather dumbfounded by the exaggeration of an ancestry. I mean, hell, America is what it is because of a lot of horrible colonization. The majority of us are not from there, if you go back far enough. Using the logic of this text, the Dutch could likely lay claim to most of our nation, thanks to their exploratory philandering.

(And for the sake of hammering my goofy point home, the text from the Dutch version in the festival program actually begins:

"Peter Stuyvesant is not the only Dutchman who earns a star on the American flag."

Insert appropriate expletive here. Never mind that the stars represent states, not people.)

I have seen this subsumption of American-ness occur before. When Obama was elected President, an article came out in the Dutch press which claimed that he is part-Dutch, and through this or that verbal maneuvering, by the end of the piece the Netherlands was given credit for his progressive politicking. Then there was that whole weirdness that was NY400 (i.e. New York is the coolest city in the world because the Dutch founded it). Is subsuming each other just something we do? I grant that since I live in Amsterdam, I may just be able to see this from one side; the intense love/hate relationship that the Dutch have with America likely does not help my general refusal to suffer fools.

So sociological/psychological wonderings aside: Tom van de Voorde's less-than-scholarly article on Wallace Stevens simply has an unnecessary starting point. You don't need to claim Stevens as Dutch before you argue his importance to Dutch literature. Nor do you need to do so in order to market him to the festival audience. Van de Voorde's piece obstructs any "real" engagement with his work, especially for those in the audience who may have come across him for the first time.
Stevens--as most poets, as most people--stands on his own feet without claims to place or place's claims on him.

Must we locate something before we can find even the will to engage with it?

June 07, 2010

Place today

In the last few weeks, I've had the pleasure (god, who says that. And how else do you say that.) of meeting both Peter Gizzi and John Hennessy--in fact, it's been a year so far of little glimpses into what it would be like if I ever sucked it up and moved back to America, and subsequently into an MFA program because what else would I do--glimpses into that meeting thing that happens in the world's company of poets (and writers) and that so rarely happens here. Thanks, mostly, to those four weird days in Denver at AWP. But next week I might just run down CK Williams in Rotterdam, for the heck of it, but not literally run down of course.

Peter (and I think I am safely on a first-name basis with him because we have a secret handshake now) read at Perdu from, among other things, The Outernationale. I don't have a copy of the book yet because I'm broke, so I haven't seen the poems on the page, but the title piece is, if memory serves, variously interrupted by strings of suffixes which both stress and calm. Peter also read "Vincent, Homesick For The Land Of Pictures", which he said he had not before read aloud, but which was (and I don't really know how else to put it right now, and this word is either misspelled or does not exist) utterly transportative; for a moment I remember feeling as though I were in church (in a good way)--an experience I also recently had at a Jonsi show,

so maybe really it's just me, and maybe I should go to church?

If you have read Peter's work then you may nod when I say that his attention to place (perhaps especially in The Outernationale) piqued my interest immediately--and John, similarly, is busy with it, though in different ways. In particular, John's the Poetry Editor of Amherst College's new and upcoming journal The Common, which aims to publish work that "[embodies] particular times and places both real and imagined: art powerful enough to reach from there to here."

Sound familiar?

I am excited by these recent crossings with these poets, who are busy with questions similar to my own, and I hope AWP accepts our cool panel idea on the subject, too.

May 15, 2010

Versal is BOOM

or, notes from the Versal hoedown at my house today...

Since we don't have an office, everything goes down in our houses. Editorial meetings, mailouts, brainstorming sessions. Today we spent like 800 euros shipping copies of Versal around the world. Not like we have 800 euros but whatever, there's no cheap way to get them anywhere.

Jennifer and Anna are struggling over a little blurb about Versal as I type this. Shayna's surfing. Robert's trying to figure out how to get us a website that isn't built in frames. Sarah and Terri have left now but were variously here doing various things.

Is exciting better than vital
How do you pronounce "mileau" or "Eyjafjallajökull"
The loveboat
Online feedback forms
Peter Gizzi
You stay there
Do the
Why buy a copy of Versal
Maybe you need headlights

May 10, 2010

Versal 8 is here!

We are very excited to announce the arrival of Versal 8, our largest and most daring issue to date.

With new work from widely celebrated poets Chung Ho-seung, Laura Mullen and Brandon Shimoda, prose writers Kuzhali Manickavel and Selah Saterstrom, artists Michael Genovese and Kerri Rosenstein, and many many more.

Your support, buying a copy or a subscription, will help keep our little journal alive&well. We hope you'll consider:

May 09, 2010

Birthday wishes

I’ve just finished a visit with my 74-year old father and on leaving, had the curious feeling that I won’t see him again. This, coupled with being on the eve of the launch of Versal’s 8th issue (in fact the party in Amsterdam is probably just finishing up) I’m feeling retrospective.

Versal began in 2002, the same year the “war on terror” was launched. Now, I wasn’t there for the production of the first three issues of Versal, but I was in Europe in 2002. Seen from the lens of an ‘American’ in Europe, I watched as the US seemed to go crazy about weapons of mass destruction, European ‘obstinacy’ in the UN in relation to invading Iraq to pre-emptively strike a sovereign nation that, it turns out, didn’t have such weapons. Anger in the US was particularly strong towards France, with fries being renamed and wine being poured in gutters as protest.

Does all this have a point? Yes, indirectly. It shows the context in which Versal came to be in Amsterdam. It shows the place in which wordsinhere began a little literary journal to highlight work from around the world. Translocal Americans living outside the US, it felt to me at the time, weren’t infected with the insanity that seemed to spread over the US. For example, groups of people burned albums of the Dixie Chicks, a country western band, for speaking out against the tide of fear and war in which the US seemed enshrouded. It reminded me of what I’ve heard about McCarthyism in the US of the 1950s, or living in Germany or Italy during the second world war. Or the ultra-nationalism in the Balkans during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Examples are legion.

If a population goes crazy—for whatever reason—who is there to stand up for reason? If a government one day declares that two plus two equals five, and has primed people in the country through fear or coercion to believe it and silence those who say it equals four, where do the voices go that express two plus two equals four?

I’d like to think that voices of people who are outside the pockets of insanity could provide that voice of reason. Could provide, at the least, a plurality of viewpoints during periods of widespread hysteria and fear. I’d like to think that Versal is such a place: that in providing a forum for story, poetry and artwork from contributors around the world, it shows us the reader that—in this world at least—there are a multiplicity of voices, that hegemony bred from ignorance and fear need not dictate to the world.

Hmm, perhaps this entry doesn’t have a point after all. Perhaps I’m just musing about death and life, decay and birth, and celebrating eight years of Versal as well. Happy birthday, Versal.

May 06, 2010

Read poetry. Eat your vegetables.

Come drink Bloody Marys with us this Saturday!

Date: Saturday, May 8
Place: Nachttheater Sugar Factory; Lijnbaansgracht 238, Amsterdam
Time: 20.00; doors open 19:00
Entrance: 5 eur
Language: English

On Saturday, May 8, Versal will release its eighth edition, and we would love for you to be there.

Versal 8 is the largest issue of the journal to date. With widely celebrated poets like Chung Ho-seung, Laura Mullen and Brandon Shimoda, prose writers Kuzhali Manickavel and Selah Saterstrom, and artists Michael Genovese and Kerri Rosenstein, this issue once again breaks linguistic, national, and cultural borders to bring together the wide range of artistry happening in our contemporary milieu. Copies of the new edition, plus past issues, will be on sale courtesy of The English Bookshop.

Anna Arov (RUS/CAN)
Controllar (NL)
June Melby (USA)
Sarah Ream (UK)
DJ SawSeeSon (AUS/FR)
Mia You (USA)

And for the first time ever:

You get 2 minutes to strut your literary stuff. All forms of poetry and prose welcome. Sign up at the door. The winner will be chosen by the audience, and will receive a free drink and copy of Versal, past or present!

Not in NL? You can preorder now and get free shipping!

Only two days left to preorder Versal 8 and take advantage of our FREE SHIPPING offer. Just click on the link below to get your very own copy of Versal's biggest and best edition yet.

May 01, 2010

April 19, 2010

Update from the other side of Eyjafjallajökull

Our flights are canceling like dominoes and it's not clear when any of us will get back. Luckily, at least so far, none of us are stuck in airports. But Europe never seemed so big, and so much for a small world and all that. Boat?

No complaints, it could be way worse. As long as I'm Stateside, might as well enjoy the benefits of good bagels and Hulu.

April 14, 2010

Versal 8 Launch Party

Amsterdam is home to a vibrant literary world. On Saturday, 8 May, that world comes together to launch Versal's latest issue, the internationally-acclaimed annual print journal from our very own canals.

Versal started in 2002 as part of the broader "wordsinhere" project to create a literary community in Amsterdam which reached out to its international residents. Until 2007, wordsinhere produced one of Amsterdam's most successful literary evenings, The Open Stanza. It now focuses its non-profit and volunteer efforts on publishing Versal and organizing a broad program of writing workshops with local and visiting, published authors. wordsinhere also runs a bimonthly literary evening in Utrecht called Salon des Mots. Versal has received international praise for the quality of its writings and sense of design.

Versal 8, which will be officially released at the launch party on 8 May, is the largest issue of the journal to date. With widely celebrated poets like Chung Ho-seung, Laura Mullen and Brandon Shimoda, prose writers Kuzhali Manickavel and Selah Saterstrom, and artists Michael Genovese and Kerri Rosenstein, this issue once again breaks linguistic, national, and cultural borders to bring together the wide range of artistry happening in our contemporary milieu.

The launch party will celebrate not only the release of Versal 8 but also the vitality of the local, international literary community. The program includes American spoken word artist and writer June Melby (, who is joining us all the way from the States, local band Controllar (, and DJs to boogie to.

And this year, Versal is opening up the stage for the "Local Mic Open Mic". Local writers are invited to sign up at the door for an open mic session during the night's festivities. Each writer is given 2 minutes to read a selection of their own work, and afterward the audience will be asked to choose its favorite. The winning writer will receive a free drink and one copy of a Versal, past or present.

Date: Saturday, 8 May
Place: Nachttheater Sugar Factory; Lijnbaansgracht 238, Amsterdam
Time: 20.00; doors open 19.00
Language: English
Entrance: 5 euros (ticket sales at the door)

Versal is published annually by wordsinhere, and is available at local bookstores like the Athenaeum and The English Bookshop, as well as online at wordsinhere is a community-focused literary organization.

April 12, 2010

Meeting you in the thick of it

A Monday recovery in Nashville, TN in the solace of my parents' acreage, still slightly reeling from the madness of three-plus days in the Denver AWP wormhole. I don't think I got more than a few hours' sleep at any given time, nor did I apparently manage to eat an actual meal, but the local stouts kept the carbs coming and clearly energy itself came from elsewhere. What an odd, odd place, AWP.

And because of that oddity or madness or, we barely had a chance to "blog" or "update", our Facebook pages and the Versal fan page going still as we went from place to place, person to person, table to table, book to book, reading to reading, to. And I can barely distinguish the days from each other, so telling you all about it now seems a failed exercise. If you have been to AWP, then you know how it is and won't want to read (more) about it; if you have never been, then a blog outlining the raucous timeline likely comes across as indulgent.

I didn't go with an agenda; I didn't have an AWP technique in hand. I barely kept to the vague schedule I'd laid out for myself. I didn't give my chapbook manuscript to anyone, I didn't meet anyone famous, and I didn't sleep with them either. I also did not dance at the dance party, though I did check it out and giggle for awhile. But I will say this, to anyone (you) out there. Meeting you, if I did, was the best part. For those days, Versal was not far away. Versal was right there, in the thick of it, meeting you: old friends, contributors, fellow editors, new writers. Something jumped in me every time you came up to the table and said, "Hey, you guys are great!" or whatever it is that you said that told me that you knew of our little project before I even gave you my spiel.

On Sunday, the Versal editors dispersed to various North American regions, all taking a few more days or weeks on the continent before heading back to Europe. Now I'm on my parents' porch in Tennessee, mulling over plans for the Versal 8 launch party (May 8!) and my girlfriend's 30th birthday. And also, now, it's spring, and as always, it is weird and wonderful.

April 07, 2010

hmm...that wasn't so hard...

Gearing up for the AWP conference

It’s 2010 and blogging is not something I’ve done before. Oh, I’ve been writing off and on – first keeping a journal and then writing fiction – for twenty or so years, but not blogging. So when my friends and colleagues at Versal asked me to contribute to the Versal blog and shepherd it for awhile, I agreed. It’s twentyten and I’ll try something new.

I work on Versal as one of the fiction editors, live most to half of each year in Amsterdam; the other three to six months I live in a warm, sunny climate – currently that is Burbank, CA USA. Somewhere on the Versal/wordsinhere website there’s a bio about me.

...ok, for the past few weeks I’ve had a case of blushing blog – unable to write much more than a couple pages because the argument I wanted to make here wasn’t clear, and I felt that just typing a bunch of random stuff wouldn’t work. Blogging doesn’t seem to be a thesis, however, and I suppose I should just get over the need for the argument to feel fully formed and get this up.

For now, I'll leave off the topic I had begun (another way to give me more time to flesh it out), to talk about the AWP conference, which starts tomorrow. Versal is going to be there, big time, with about six of its editors ranging about the grounds in Downtown Denver. It's going to be a hootenanny, and there will be more to say as it gets under way. For now, I hope to see you all there--either in the flesh or by video/energy feed.

March 29, 2010

Versal rough guide to AWP 2010

To start, here are three things that Versal has organized for AWP: a table, a reading, and a borrel (aka the three essentials).

And if you want to hear me speak about starting Versal, check out Poets&Writers Magazine's panel on Friday: Open for Submissions (see event listing below for details).

Versal at the Bookfair
Versal has a table in the Bookfair, table M3. Please drop by, we can't wait to meet you!

Orbiting Salt: A Quarterly West/Western Humanities Review/Versal/Barrelhouse Reading
Thursday, April 8 4:30-5:45pm
Room 111, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
This reading features writers recently published in Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, Barrelhouse, and Versal. Spanning the traditional and the experimental, the regional and the global, it celebrates the diverse and powerful work of four journals with editors currently studying creative writing at the University of Utah.
Check out the event on Facebook, and RSVP.

Versal borrel: Going Dutch in Denver
You are all invited to the Versal borrel on Saturday, April 10 from 5:30-7:30pm at the Strata Bar in the Hyatt. It's a completely informal borrel (Dutch for "drinks"), open to contributors past and present, subscribers, and friends of Versal.
Check out the event on Facebook, and RSVP.

Our past and present contributors also sent us info on panels, tables and the like. I've listed these below, along with some panels you'll find us on. Info's been taken off the AWP site so apologies for any errors, panelist changes or omissions.


Hsahta/Omnidawn reading
Wednesday, April 7 7-10pm
The Magnolia Hotel Ballroom, 17th & Stout
With Versal contributors Ben Doller, Noah Eli Gordon

Diode Poetry Journal / Makeout Creek reading
Wednesday, April 7 7pm
Jones Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1101 13th Street
With Versal contributors Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Cynthia Lotze


The Long and Short of it: The Evolving Shapes of Creative Nonfiction
Thursday, April 8 9-10:15am
Room 110, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal assistant fiction editor B.J. Hollars

Sarabande Book Signing
Thursday, April 8 1-2pm
With Versal contributor Karen An-hwei Lee

Goodbye to All That: Coming of Age in the Personal Essay
Thursday, April 8 3-4:15pm
Room 201, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Nicole Walker

Queering Desire: Queer Poets' Aesthetic Libidos
Thursday, April 8 4:30-5:45pm
Room 110, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Maureen Seaton

Rare Breed: A Reading with the Black Goat Poets
Thursday, April 8 4:30-5:45pm
Room 201, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Amatoritsero Ede

Writing in More than one Language: Significance, Opportunities, Challenges, and Audiences
Thursday, April 8 4:30-5:45pm
Room 207, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal assistant poetry editor Jennifer K. Dick

Colorado Writers Reading
Thursday, April 8 5:30-7:30pm
Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St.
With Versal contributor Noah Eli Gordon

Prairie Schooner "Baby Boomer" reading
Thursday, April 8 5:30-7:30pm
Common Grounds Downtown Coffee, 1550 17th St.
With Versal contributor Maureen Seaton

Wild Lives, Raucous Pens
Thursday, April 8 8-9:30pm
Adirondacks Room, The Tivoli at Auraria Campus
With Versal contributor Simmons B. Buntin


Thin Air Book Signing: This Noisy Egg by Nicole Walker
Thursday, April 8
With Versal contributor Nicole Walker

Beyond the "First Compliment, then Criticize" Method: Teaching Students How To Be Better Workshoppers
Friday, April 9 1:30-2:45pm
Room 207, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal fiction editor Robert Glick, Versal contributors Kathryn Cowles, Rachel Marston and Alissa Nutting

Immigrant Poetry: Aesthetics of Displacement
Friday, April 9 3-4:15pm
Room 110, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Uche Nduka

University of Denver Faculty Fiction Reading
Friday, April 9 3-4:15pm
Room 201, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Selah Saterstrom

Open For Submissions: Starting Your Own Literary Magazine or Small Press
Friday, April 9 4:30-5:45pm
Room 109, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal editor Megan M. Garr

Colorado's Innovative Writers Past and Present
Friday, April 9 4:30-5:45pm
Rooms 301, 302, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Noah Eli Gordon

Astrophil Press Off Site Party
Friday, April 9 7pm
7 South Broadway (Hi-Dive)
With Versal contributors Selah Saterstrom and Sandy Florian


Tupelo Book Signing
Saturday, April 10 11:30-12:30am
With Versal contributor Karen An-hwei Lee

Tupelo Press 10th Anniversary Poetry Reading
Saturday, April 10 3-4:15pm
Room 207, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributors Karen An-hwei Lee and Joshua Marie Wilkinson

A Chorus of Hauntings: Giving Breath to Ghosts
Saturday, April 10 3-4:15pm
Rooms 301, 302, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
With Versal contributor Brandon Shimoda

Poets in the World: Building Diverse Communities through Independent Poetry Centers, Blogs, and Radio
Saturday, April 10 3-4:15pm
Granite Room, Hyatt Regency Denver, 3rd Floor
With Versal contributor Barbara Jane Reyes

FENCE & 1913: Off-Site Salon
Saturday, April 10 5-7pm
Mario's Double Daughter's Salotto, 1632 Market Street
With Versal contributor Ben Doller

Reading and Book Party for the Starting Today Anthology
Saturday, April 10 6pm
Paris on the Platte Cafe, 1553 Platte Street
With Versal contributor Joshua Marie Wilkinson

A Reading Hosted by Apostrophe Books with Action Books, Black Ocean Press, Slope Editions and Tarpaulin Sky Press
Saturday, April 10 7pm
Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street
With Versal contributors Joe Hall and Julie Doxsee
(includes release of Joe's first book Pigafeta is My Wife)

March 16, 2010

A big March news reel

First, I'm excited to announce that Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé's interview with me has just been released on Luna Park Review. Desmond made the interview really interesting by posing questions around his own narrative of his return to Singapore. I enjoyed engaging with him in these questions, and hope you enjoy reading it.

Next up: a rundown of some books to put on your wish lists. Versal assistant poetry editor and past contributor Matthew Sadler just found out that his first collection, The Much Love Sad Dawg Trio, is coming out with March Street Press. Versal 5 contributor Joe Hall is getting ready for his upcoming launch at AWP of his first book Pigafeta is My Wife. Versal 8 contributor Neil de la Flor also has his first book of poetry coming out, Almost Dorothy, which won the 2009 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize. He and fellow Versal 8 contributor Maureen Seaton just won the Sentence Book Award for their manuscript, Sinead O'Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, forthcoming from Firewheel Editions in 2011. Versal 6 contributor Derek Henderson and co-author Derek Pollard have their book Inconsequentia coming out with BlazeVox this week. And another one that's just hit the shelves is Versal 8 contributor Kevin McLellan's chapbook Round Trip, a collaborative series with numerous women poets. All titles to add to your collections!

There's plenty of activity on the journal and anthology fronts as well. Versal editor Megan M. Garr has new work coming out in The St. Petersburg Review, Tuesday: An Art Journal and Sand out of Berlin. She and assistant fiction editor BJ Hollars were both finalists in the 2009 Black Lawrence River Chapbook Competition. Fiction editor Robert Glick has a story forthcoming in Fourteen Hills and a poem in Blue Earth Review. Assistant poetry editor Jennifer K. Dick has poetry, translations, reviews, and articles published or forthcoming in numerous publications: Tears in the Fence, Trans-, Ekleksographia, Big City Lit, Lungfull! Magazine, Voi(es)x (an anthology), New Pony: a horse less anthology and Action, Yes! And Matt has a short story coming out in this summer's Indiana Review. Versal 6 contributor Dawn Lonsinger was a recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize this year, and has poems forthcoming in Post Road, Sycamore Review, Southeast Review, Cave Wall, Barn Owl Review, and in the anthologies A Generation Defining Itself: In Our Own Words and I.O.U.--New Writing On Money. Versal 7 contributor Lehua M. Taitano has stories coming out in The Anthology of Indigenous Writers from Micronesia and The Fiction at Work Bi-Annual Report, a Green Lantern Press Anthology. Her essay "Reticulation" is forthcoming from dislocate journal, and was the winner of The Contaminated Essay Contest, judged by Lia Purpura. Lehua is also the University of Montana's Merriam-Frontier 2010 winner, with her chapbook appalachiapacific coming out this summer. And Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, also from Versal 7, has work forthcoming in Blackbird, Breadcrumb Scabs, Copper Nickel, Ganymede, Pank, and Spilt Milk. His sequence “When Dada Rewrote Koans” was selected by Mary Jo Bang as one of six finalists in the Noemi Press Poetry Chapbook Award.

In other news, 2010 looks to be a busy year for Versal 5 contributor Helen Burke. She's reading poetry and exhibiting art at the upcoming Scarborough Literature Festival, and also reading at the Leeds Literature and Manchester Festivals. You can also see her later this year at the Viennese evening of poetry and music at Schubertiad in Suffolk and the Whitby Folk Festival. Helen is currently preparing a new collection of poems and writing a play, as well as being mentored by the BBC for radio plays. Versal 6 contributor Mark Wisniewski tells us that he recently finished a novel, Straightaway, in which the main character in his Best American Short Stories 2008 piece dishes out some no-bull truths about desperate crime, betrayal, and genuine love in the Bronx. Mark also has a new agent, Seth Fishman at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

And if you're in Berkeley, CA: Versal 8 contributor Dan Thomas-Glass is launching the 4th issue of his journal With + Stand this Sunday, with readings from Lisa Robertson, Stephanie Young, Anne Lesley Selcer, Melissa Mack, Brian Ang and more. Check out the journal's blog for complete details.

If you're looking for online reading material, check our Versal 1 contributor Amatoritsero Ede's Maple Tree Literary Supplement. And upcoming Versal 8 contributor Karen An-Hwei Lee has a brand new blog!

Finally, if you want a taste of Versal 8's cover, check out artist Kerri Rosenstein's installation in the Trickhouse backroom.

Congratulations to everyone. Though we're not sure how many people will read every word of this little (?) news reel, it's super exciting to see such great work happening on so many levels, with so many folks who have filled Versal's pages since 2003.

March 15, 2010

Inside Eight

Admit it. You, we, all of us, when we pick a lit journal off the shelves, the first thing we normally do (sometimes the only thing we do) is scan the list of names in the TOC or on the back cover (or front cover in the odd case).

Versal Eight's not here yet, of course, so you can't inspect its pickings. But you can have some early scanning fun with this: the list of contributors to Versal Eight, coming in May. What this means is, when the issue's all done and printed and hanging out on some bookstore shelf, you can skip over the scanning and right on to the buying (cough, cough).

Congratulations to everyone:

Carlos Barbarito
Simmons B. Buntin
John Carroll
Chung Ho-seung
Stacy Elaine Dacheux
Neil de la Flor
Michael Genovese
June Glasson
Siân B. Griffiths
Sabrina Harri
Kim Holleman
Colleen Hollister
Bruce Humphries
Laurie Junkins
Lotte Klaver
Deanna Lee
Karen An-hwei Lee
Evi Lemberger
Paul Lisson
Norman Lock
Sarah-Jane Lynagh
Kuzhali Manickavel
Kevin McLellan
Amy McNamara
June Melby
Laura Mullen
Elizabeth O'Brien
Daniele Pantano
Carlos Pardo
Alex Piperno
Amy Purifoy Piazza
Carol Radsprecher
Jadon Rempel
Kerri Rosenstein
Selah Saterstrom
Maureen Seaton
Gregory Sherl
Brandon Shimoda
Brenda Sieczkowski
Kristine Snodgrass
Audri Sousa
Bianca Stewart
Lucas Stoessel
Stacey Swann
Dan Thomas-Glass
Bouke Verwijs
Siobhán Webb
Samuel Day Wharton
Mia You
Elizabeth Zuba

March 06, 2010

Nota bene

Versal Eight is being constructed amidst liters of mint&cinnamon tea, with episodes of The Universe on in the background.

It's that time of year when I dig a deep and quiet hole to "finish" Versal.

I think Robert has joined me, if his poem (below) can serve as evidence of protracted (status quo?) jet lag.

March 05, 2010

Cheesy Poem Gone Awry

A cat's paw
is a miracle
provided that
it is attached
to a cat

February 13, 2010

Versal 7's Rufo Quintavalle editing nthposition

Todd Swift, nthposition's poetry editor since 2002, is taking a break to complete his doctoral research. Paris-based poet Rufo Quintavalle, from Versal 7, is now acting poetry editor.

New work is posted every month; if you want to submit then write to him at rquintav AT gmail DOT com. Send up to six poems embedded in the body of an email. No attachments please! We accept all styles of poetry. For more information see or browse in the extensive archive.

January 30, 2010

Main site down;

Our main site ( went down overnight. Our hosts are alerted to the problem and we're moving towards getting back online.

In the meantime, you can read through our blog archives to pass the time.

January 25, 2010

Contributor news: Jane Monk in The Times

Jane Monk, a contributor to Versal 6, has been featured in an article about The Times' mentorship scheme. Over the last year, Jane, who is writing Manwife, an historical novel, has been mentored by novelist Adele Parks.

Keep the contributor news coming! Email us on versaljournalATwordsinhereDOTcom with updates about prizes, publications, readings and so on.

January 21, 2010

"I'm holding on too tight. I've lost the edge."

I admit it. I love Top Gun. There's so much wrong with it, I know this. But I saw it as a kid, completely fell in love with Tom Cruise and/or Meg Ryan, and I get a kick out of the soundtrack.

I thought of Cougar's lines yesterday when I received an email from a fellow Amsterdam writer who runs workshops in town. Over the years I've tried to build a circular network with her, to no avail. She refuses to have anything to do with us. The only time she ever did was when we created "lit goodie bags" for the now (sadly) extinct Amsterdam Literary Festival. We offered every organizer in the community a chance to add something to the bag, so she jumped right in.

With our renewed initiatives to keep the local literary community here strong and healthy, I thought it would be a good time to try her again. I emailed her asking if she might consider adding a link to our site, and threw in a note about the great community we share and how we can work together to keep it alive and well. About a week later, I got her reply (yesterday):

Dear Megan,

Sorry, but I don't list other workshops on my site; and the only links are to writing experiences that I've had personally or non-profit writing organisations.

Hope to see you soon.

All best,
Jane Doe

Seriously? When did wordsinhere become "other workshops"? I know she knows better. That's when I thought of Cougar. She's holding on so tightly to what she perceives as her own square centimeters of this literary community. And it's a shame, because community doesn't work like that, at least not how I read it. Writers should be able to move around as they like, and should be given the information to do so. It's not an "us and them" thing, at least it shouldn't be.

It reminds me of one of the first meetings I had with another literary organization when wordsinhere was first getting off the ground back in 2002. I contacted the Dutch organization that promotes translation (into and from Dutch) and had a coffee with its director. I told him about our plans to start an international literary stage (the now-extinct Open Stanza, which ran from 2002-2007), and he looked at me with great confusion and said something like, "I don't understand why you want to meet with me about this. We work with writers to translate their texts. You're an American. I don't see the correlation between what you're doing and what we're doing."


In my reply to Jane Doe, I pointed out that wordsinhere is non-profit but I wished her success with her work. Then I mentioned that at last weekend's literary borrel - a free event which we organized for anyone who wanted to come, to meet other writers and find out about some of the offerings in town - a woman came up to me and asked me if Jane Doe was there. The woman had heard about her workshops and wanted to know more. I told this woman that Jane Doe knew about the event, but I wasn't sure if she was coming.

In my reply to Jane Doe's dismissal, I wrote, "At our last literary borrel someone asked if you were there. It's a shame there isn't more connectedness in this community, you may have been able to garner some more clients."

Yeah, I have my limits.

[Cut to Meg Ryan and Goose, great balls of fire.]

January 15, 2010

Versal submissions period closing today!

A final reminder to submit work for Versal 8 before we close for submissions today. You can read our guidelines and submit via our online submissions manager here. Thanks to everyone who has submitted work so far.

And a reminder for those of you based in the Netherlands: we're celebrating the new year and Versal's new membership scheme and events programme tomorrow in the English Bookshop at Lauriergracht 71 in Amsterdam from 4 pm. Free entrance - do drop by!

January 14, 2010

HERE: HP-09-07-009

Although the ice-skating season is well underway in the frozen Netherlands, Versal is being read in warmer climes by South African Liesl Jobson and her friends. They took a HERE copy of Versal 7 with them to St James' Beach in Cape Town to re-read during a Christmas Day picnic. Thank you for the photos, Liesl.

January 04, 2010

Happy 2010! You can now join the Versal community, officially

For the last several months, we've been reevaluating our work in the NL literary community. Taking a look at our workshop offering, our relationship with local writers, and how we can continue to support this great community while still publishing the literary journal that has put this city on the international literary map.

What has resulted is not only a completely revamped literary programming aimed to keep you writing and inspired. To help better connect you with other local writers, we've developed the 2010 LOCAL Versal membership. You'll get freebies (VIP entrance to the Versal launch!) and discounts to all wordsinhere/Versal programming. And anyone who becomes a LOCAL member before March 1 gets a copy of Versal 7 thrown into the deal!

There's also the GLOBAL Versal membership, for anyone, anywhere. GLOBAL members get a 2 year subscription to Versal while directly supporting a journal and community that you love.

Both membership types are great gifts for your writerly friends and family, too.

Visit our Membership pages for complete details and to sign up!

And for those locals out there, we hope you'll join us on January 16 at The English Bookshop for a celebratory New Year's borrel.

Join your fellow poets & writers for a celebratory New Year's borrel on Saturday, January 16. Bring your writing group and friends down and meet others. Versal's editorial team will provide drinks and will be on hand to answer questions about your literary life in Amsterdam in 2010. What workshops, groups and clinics are on offer? What other things can a writer expect this year?

You'll also have the chance to sign up for workshops and buy your entry tickets for writing groups and clinics. The Borrel will also be a great chance to purchase your 2010 LOCAL membership to benefit from fantastic discounts and freebies.

Saturday, January 16
Starting at 16.00
The English Bookshop
Lauriergracht 71, Amsterdam
Free entrance