NA: When I think of Drunken Boat, I think first of Arthur Rimbaud, and second of this wonderful International web-magazine, which just released its 18th issue. I thought maybe we could start with you saying a few words about your online magazine.
RS: Well Rimbaud and Le Bateau Ivre, with its furious lashing of the tides, mystic horrors and future Vigor was in part the inspiration for the inception of the journal in 1999, because of the synesthetic way that the French poet combined the visual and the verbal in his work. Similarly at Drunken Boat, we strive to create a curatorial space where many genres can collide and converse. This year, we will be celebrating our 15th anniversary and it has been tempestuous and fulfilling journey at sea, and I’m always perpetually amazed at how we have attracted such a talented and dedicated staff, and really all of our successes over the years are directly attributable to them, from our genre editors to our readers around the world.
With respect to our mission, we have always striven to publish the best of more traditional forms of representation such as poetry, prose and translation and works of art endemic to the medium of the web, such as hypertext, digital animation, web art, video and sound art. We are excited by the possibilities that publishing online presents, from the egalitarian distribution of the arts to the vast international audience we can and do reach; from the potential for new forms of artworks that incorporate multimedia and interactivity to ways to revivify the extant genres by including, say, audio with a printed poem or hyperlinks with a work of fiction; finally, we are continually invested in creating an exhibition space of cross-pollination and so at our live events, we may have a sound artist, a filmmaker and a poet all performing, or a fiction writer, a hapa haole bricolage artist and a performance artist. Those juxtapositions, and conversations, between genres, between emerging and established writers and artists, are what genuinely excite and motivate us to continue.
NA: What are some of the highlights of editing Drunken Boat?
RS: It’s hard to choose just a few, but I’ll try. First, I should say that working with such extraordinary individuals has always been the highlight; Drunken Boat is a true arts collective and were it not for the shared energy of all the folks who come together in just such an unique and spectacular way, the journal would not be possible. Our new Managing Editor, Erica Mena, Assistant Managing Editor, Emily Vizzo, and Director of Outreach, Mary-Kim Arnold have revitalized our publishing process and Drunken Boat owes great debts of gratitude to everyone who works on the magazine. It would take too long to thank them all individually, but I encourage folks to go check out the Masthead, just to see how many dedicated people, many of them exceptional working artists and writers themselves, work on the journal.
Other highlights include from our appealingly low-fi first issue, published in 2000, the fact that a handful of established writers and artists took a chance on publishing something in an utterly unknown enterprise. These include Alfred Corn, Rachel Hadas, David Humphries and Leslie Scalapino. Here’s a poem from the late Scalapino, whose inclusion in that first issue gave us some of our forward momentum and the direction that our journal would take.
A validation of our entire endeavor happened with the publication of Drunken Boat#3, our issue dedicated to ethnopoetics. The issue, which you can see here, has an alternate map navigation and includes contributors from 20 different countries, establishing us as an international journal of arts. Putting this issue together was fulfilling on a number of levels; first corresponding with and reprinting Jerome Rothenberg, the godfather of Ethnopoetics, was a lot of fun; next, publishing work from Eritrean poet Reesom Haile in an endangered language, Tigrinya, and being able to listen to and read the script of the beautiful, dying language, thereby taking full advantage of our new publishing medium; finally spending time with street poet Donald Green, whom we would often see hanging outside of Washington wearing a sandwich board that proclaimed he would recite poems for money. We hung out with him for a few afternoons, sharing bagels and hearing his stories about how he had been a janitor at Columbia University when Langston Hughes was there and cobbled together an education by reading what had been left behind on professors’ blackboards. We discovered and published him before the The New York Times and The Village Voice did features on him. We also included work from a number of writers who were in the midst of or would go on to spectacular careers, including Alice Fulton, Heather McHugh, Eugene Gloria, Zoe Beloff, Julie Sheehan, Peter Orner and Carole Maso. For all of our hard work on this issue, we were nominated for and named a finalist for a South-by-Southwest Web Award, and got to go out to the famed Austin festival to experience the Interactive portion of the proceedings, admittedly the ugly stepchild to the Film and Music festival back then, but a great honor and thrill nonetheless.