Ventures in internet publishing fail all the time, although “fail” is probably an unfair word for what it is: more a fading away into other projects, a gradual loss of interest, an overworked editor with so many other things to do. This has always happened to magazines, reading series, radical efforts to change the world; it’s just a lot more visible when it happens on the Internet.
This weekend, however, was something different: up from the digital ashes rose New Wave Vomit, the beloved, “legendary” alt lit magazine that championed writers like Steve Roggenbuck, Frank Hinton and Spencer Madsen until its social media activity sadly sputtered out. Founded and edited by the San Diego-based poet Ana Carrete, the zine/site shows up on most lists of alt-lit reading requirements, and its re-design promises more opportunities for incisive, experimental writers to showcase their work. To celebrate the rebirth, we combed the archives – “old wave vomit” – for some of our favourite NWV work.
The managing editor of Alt Lit Gossip, Dankland writes fiction that’s both crisp and edgy, perceptive and hard to ignore. Although “The Scooter Club” is just over 250 words, Dankland’s shrewd selection of detail and punchy sentences make it feel like a fully formed portrait of “Vomit Breath, Rat Tail, Squid, Pimples, Coke Nose, Herpes, and Sleepy,” à la Burroughs, Bukowski and Denis Johnson.
When asked about past pieces that stood out to her, NWV editor Carrete went for Chiem’s driver, surprise me: a frenetically paced, self-proclaimed “love story” full of hard questions and harder #feels.
Santos brings out the absurdity of existence in this darkly comic piece about encountering the world we’ve created and populated. Although the poem most obviously deals with the shared experience of laughing at the ludicrousness of it all, the speaker has some funny moments all to himself, too: “Being somewhat of a wind connoisseur, I noticed a hint of ginger” he says of the breeze he feels at a crosswalk, “with a delicate bouquet of foreboding.”
Barcelona-based Luna Miguel’s stark declaratives are a jab to the feels, but what makes her work so good is that her poems are aware of the growth they both depict and critique. “I detested from birth” she writes in the tiny “15 Years.” “I hated throughout my childhood. / At the age of 15, / I began to make love.”
We’re big fans of Morissette’s smart, thoughtful prose – it’s contemporary without feeling trite, and these poems are similarly original. Surprising images and articulations don’t resist the impulse to play, and his work’s fluidity makes it feel accessible, but never too easy.
Overlapping themes – soup, mothers, un-death – connect this sharp trio of poems with a rare potency and urgency. Chen flows from bombs to soup to Annie Hall to mothers and the helplessness they pass down. Chen’s food imagery – “your ignorance like the obese seed / of an avocado” – mixes with insight on love (parental or romantic) and femininity to create a sense of (nevertheless fraught) wholeness.
In a (fictional?) response to a rejection letter from a literary magazine, Lit Bomb, the narrator taps into that “But…are you sure you like me?” feeling that all writers, artists and people who’ve been in relationships know too well. The subtleties of the voice and artful evocations of the rejected story are uncomfortably real.
“I'm a weirdo” begins Richards’ flash piece Outdoors in the Yard, It Is Cold and Green, about a family dysfunctional in an unexpected way: it’s not just the narrator who’s a “weirdo” – or rather, it’s not her fault – given that her mother, we soon learn, “was actually a small rodent. She looked like a hamster but preferred to be treated like a common house cat (feared for while and then hated after a period of about three years).” Kafka-esque in its familiar approach to the bizarre, “Outdoors” manages to balance absurdism with perceptive observations on family life, and it’s great.
Favourited by Pop Serial editor and sometime-spokesman for the alt lit movement (if we’re calling it that) Steven Tully Dierks, Chiem’s Old Tampons plays on the sentimentality of break-up literature by highlighting not some heart-breakingly sweet memento from a past love, but rather: “the mummy of an old tampon, the last thing she leaves me before departing back to Boston.”
There’s a woeful dearth of sex puns in “serious literature” of late, and this early poem from the blogger and editor Wiredwriter confronts that head on, drawing out the explicit sexuality in what’s supposed to be mundane nomenclature. “Of course there’s a cock / found in Hitchcock and Cocker” – and we’re just supposed to ignore it?
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