On Going Down Swinging
Come and go with me, it's more fun to share,
We'll both be completely at home in midair.
We're flyin', not walkin', on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings..
Williams via Gonzo,
The Muppet Movie
What is so important about round
numbers? Why do we need to celebrate
milestones, eras or fixed points in time? And
is it the basic function of art to mark that time whether it be the creation of
poetry, stories, comics, any form of art are we searching for some order from the
chaos or are we hoping to create more?
If you direct that last question
towards the editors of a journal the answer may most likely be to create
order. But if you go deeper, perhaps the true answer is both. Because in
practice, journal editors open the doors and windows to artists all over the world, and
invite the chaos in. The editor must create order, reach a number of pages or fill a round
number of minutes, curating images and sounds into a coherent whole. Then a printer stamps
it down, a reader or reviewer encapsulates it all in a thought or a sentence, and we find
a little portion of human chaos has been cut and polished, filed under art or
literature in the local library. Does this satisfy? Of course not. Because
once its done, we go and do it all again. And we love it. It might be a fundamental
function of the human mind to swing from chaos to order. Telling stories, making stories.
There and back again.
Going Down Swinging No.30
which we have affectionately dubbed the clusterfuck issue began
as all good stories do with an open invitation to chaos. We called for new work. This
time, artists and writers accepted our challenge in a terrifying way we received
twice the usual number of submissions in almost half the usual time. Simultaneously, and
at the same time, as Gonzo is known to say, we pulled on the strings of the past
which brought the whole, creative, dysfunctional, global family of GDS tumbling
down on our heads. Some of the best of this gaggle of creative souls, Kevin Brophy, Myron
Lysenko, Adam Ford and Grant Caldwell, stepped up to order the chaos of two thousand
poems, stories, haiku and comics into a cohesive book. Meanwhile, Cristin OKeefe
Aptowicz, Ian Ferrier, Ian Daley and David Prater fired spoken word tracks across the
seas, filling our ears with some of the sexiest voices weve heard in ages. And
weve heard a lot of voices.
Our commissioned writers and artists
Paddy OReilly, Eddie Paterson and Michael Camilleri delivered us the most
extraordinary pieces of art. Eddie and Michaels work in particular challenged our
equally courageous printers, Arena, with some unique problems. Luckily, problems are what
printers (and journal editors) exist to solve. Meanwhile, Melbourne artist Katrina Rhodes
was painting one of the most wonderful pieces Ive ever seen, so we plucked up the
courage to ask her to let us reproduce her gentleducks on the cover
even as she was still applying the paint. She said yes.
These serendipities are what make
this business of publishing so addictive. You make considered choices about the people you
work with, and that is obviously key. So much fine craftsmanship goes into every edition.
But then, there is also an aspect to this business that is really without getting
too cosmic on you here about alchemy, blind trust, magic. I dont know if this
is true of all literary journals, but this is certainly true of Going Down Swinging.
What GDS achieves is not through a wealth of resources, of time, or of money.
Its through a wealth of goodwill, from a community that goes way beyond the Melbourne
literary scene, into all walks of life. That we can draw on the expertise of so many
wonderful and talented people, who work above and beyond the call of the pay-check, is
something quite precious. And it stretches right back to the goodwill of its founders,
because you simply cannot work with GDS without a bit of that altruistic spark in your
Reportedly coined by the hippie
poet Ed Sanders in the 1960s, the term clusterfuck is frequently used in the
military to describe a particular kind of Catch-22, in which multiple complicated problems
mutually interfere with each other's solution. According to Wikipedia, anyway. In the
house of GDS, the No.30 clusterfuck is a marvelous collection of interrelated
complications that combined to a) create an incredible edition of an incredible journal
and b) cause the kind of sleep-deprived inspiration that is necessary in order to not only
make this happen with very few resources, but make this happen well. The logistics of
working with, effectively, eleven editors on the one issue not to mention working
on a slew of special events, articles, radio shows, podcasts, and a website is not
the kind of thing you can approach with a sane mind, lets face it. At GDS
ideas are always big.
Since January Nathan, Ella and I
have looked through the twenty-nine editions of GDS, puzzling over the various
cover images, reading over the works of the literary scene that was, plucking out names
that have become synonymous with Australian writing. Amid this curious study, three things
became apparent about why this humble literary journal has remained so unique for so long.
Firstly, GDS always seems
to be reviewed not only for its content but for its attitude. Its been called eclectic,
provocative, feisty, the champion of the literary
underdog, a journal with an ego, surprisingly youthful, and
(our favourite) PC pap only once has it been described as a
serious literary magazine, and that was in the context of an insult. And yet its regularly mentioned alongside
these so-called serious literary magazines.
Were not sure whether that says more about GDS, or about the seriousness of
Australian literary culture in general but we figure another thirty years should sort that
question out. Speaking for myself and my co-editors as writers previously published in GDS,
when youre in GDS youre not just scratching more publication marks in
your desk. It feels as though youre joining in on a conversation with the times,
adding to a crazy, intelligent, often unintelligible intellectual chain reaction. In other
words, it feels good.
Secondly, GDS has always
had an adventurous and unapologetic deliberation of style.
From the first hand-made issues to the yearbook-style of the 80s; from the
paperback years of colour covers to the cheeky spoken word CD with bonus
literary magazine 90s; followed by for-the-love-of-good-paper-and-beauty 00s. GDS as a journal has always been kind of
self-reflexive. The actual process of
publishing, of making ends meet, of sticking things to paper and recording onto sticky
tape and rust (or, these days, burning plastic) is as much a part of its identity as the
stories, poetry, comic art and spoken word that fills its pages. Perhaps this is because its almost always
been edited by poets and artists. But that
seems too simplistic. Many journals are edited by poets and artists. It has to come down to the chain reaction that the
founders began, back in 1979, when they decided to slowly and with intention
blow some shit up in the Australian literary playground.
The key words here being
slowly and intention. This was no random explosion. The first
editions of GDS have a sense of real gravitas mixed with natural irreverence. The
process and the struggle are unapologetically laid bare the door and window latches
are always half-open to the chaos. GDS will appear haphazardly, they
say. In fact, Myron is $4,000 in debt and Kevin has broken his collar bone and is
. But the intent is also self-assured and clear. GDS will feature
think are important influences on Australian fiction. Its a confident setting
out with authority and order, but the focus is on influence, as opposed to celebrity.
Kevin and Myron werent very interested in who was the hottest writer
around, but who was really, substantially, changing the prevailing winds by influencing
those who would become the hottest. The
word radical is often overused and undeserved, especially for late 20th century literary
caricature. But Kevin and Myrons GDS was radical. In Australias
particularly celebrity-driven literary scene, this journal thumbs its nose at all that.
Any attempts to turn an editor of GDS into a celebrity are always undermined by
the journal itself. GDS is the only celebrity here.
Kevin and Myron, and under their
influence, all GDS editors since, recognise that journals and collections are
moments in time; that they follow those times but must also lead them. The decisions and the orders that the editors
stipulate change the climate in the room of the reader.
All thirty editions of GDS as with all journals around the
world stamp down the influences and catalysts, flaring matches of every new
literary artistic or social revolution. Journals,
if they are publishing new, unseen work, are not just surveys. They are much more dynamic than that.
Back in 1980 Kevin and Myrons
small detonation of ideas and effort sparked a self-propagating series of explosions. If we imagine uranium as the idea and water as the
effort, then GDS is the second only known natural self-sustaining nuclear chain
reaction the ultimate clusterfuck. Each
issue is really a sum result of individual fire, grunt and exhausting correspondence, plus
the behind-the-scenes hits and misses that stick with us in a heartfelt way. Perhaps this
is the third element the total lack of a safety net, the often terrifying knowledge
that there is no five year business plan and, like many of the best things in
life, the future is not certain. Sometimes
that means GDS has experienced a rest year and sometimes weve
gone biannual. Someones always in debt; someones always got a broken bone (or
a broken heart). But still we manage to produce something; still we use the best recycled
paper and the finest valve compressors we can get to produce something beautiful. Whatever
it takes, whoever saves GDS bacon in the next hairy moment; its the collective
consciousness that drives all of these heroic efforts. The knowledge of whats come
before. Editors jump on board to pilot this beautiful balloon for a little while, holding
on, as the song suggests, to those invisible strings.
Welcome then, to Going Down Swinging
No.30. Nathan, Ella and I hope that the
writers and artists in this edition flare matches in the listeners and readers
hearts; that this years efforts keep the chain reaction going. With one voice, all
of GDS editors past, present and future salute Kevin and Myron for starting
this fantastic explosion. On behalf of the whole magnificent clusterfuck, to all the
writers and artists who completely overwhelmed us with your work, thank you for showing us
just how loved, respected, and wanted, this little journal still is. And I know that I
speak for all when I say onwards and upwards, to all who all understand that you cannot
fly if youre not prepared to crash as well. Theres definitely something in the
air here, and we all in some way coast on the collective updraft.
As Team 2010 swoops away on our own
particular jet streams, and new pilots Geoff Lemon and Jessica Friedman get in their
flight suits and prepare for takeoff in 2011, GDS enters yet another era and the
future is, yet again, unknown. Can the little magazine that could, still do it, for
another thirty years? If history is anything
to go by, if the energy and enthusiasm and abiding love of our wider community is anything
to go by, the answer is a resounding yes. Something thats operating on
thirty years of hot air simply has its own momentum.
To paraphrase Kevin Brophy and Myron
Lysenkos now immortal words: This is the thirtieth blow as we go down
with Nathan Curnow and Ella
Holcombe, editor of Going Down Swinging , 2010