Archive for September 13th, 2010

A wisdom of owls: “not a magazine and not a blog in the traditional sense”

Monday, September 13th, 2010
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You never know who you will meet in the blogosphere.

Some time ago I posted about a beautiful book cover — Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary featured  at Sutura.  I had meant to top Morgan Meis of Antwerp, who had salivated over Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, which I found rather sedate for my prurient tastes.  Morgan wrote:

Sexy?

“There is nothing sexier than a book you haven’t read yet. Especially if it has a nice cover and nice fonts. Especially if it is by someone with an aura. The volumes of Kierkegaard’s writings put out by Princeton University Press used to drive me crazy [see left]. The block of color on top and the pure black underneath. The line drawing of Kierkegaard’s profile in an oval in the middle of the book.”

Making spaces for "talented folks"

The response, some time later, was not quite what I expected.  In short, I encountered The Owls.  It’s a website where a few Stegner fellows congregate, including Josh Tyree, who is also a former Jones Lecturer at Stanford. (He is also a writer for Film Quarterly, American Short Fiction, The Believer, The Nation, New England Review and Sight & Sound.)

He wrote to me:  “The Owls site is kind of like one of those bands that musicians form with other musicians as a project on a micro label. I created the site, I live in Ohio, and I teach creative writing classes online for Stanford. The basic plan for The Owls was to create a place where talented folks could set up online projects either as curators or writers. Curators come to the site with an idea for gathering up posts from other writers using one topic or assignment.”

Sean Hill, “a great poet I met as a Stegner Fellow” got involved via the project “A Natural History of My ________”  Josh, for example, contributed with  “A Mild History of My Asthma.”  (Wait!  That’s “A History of My Mild Asthma.”)

Sean Hill ... "a great poet"

Josh says the site has published a number of Stegner Fellows, though it’s currently unaffiliated to any institution — for now.  “If the site continues to grow I should probably try to connect it with an institution of some kind.”

Meis ... a smallish man

Where does Morgan Meis fit into all this?  He’s is another writer who is one of the Owls — not “of Antwerp,” as his tag says, but apparently from New York City.  He is a major force behind the popular 3quarksdaily site, which Josh helped edit during its first year.

Morgan’s has been described as “a smallish man who is almost constantly moving” and a founding member of the Flux Factory, a NYC arts collective, and a columnist at The Smart Set.  He participates in the Owls site via a writing project extended over a series of posts, “Doodlings from Antwerp.” Ad Hamilton also  has a series, “Single Servings.”

The site also includes art projects like Daupo’s ongoing series, “Loneliness: A Coloring Book for Adults.”

“So it’s not a magazine and it’s not a blog in the traditional sense,” says Josh, “it’s an experimental space with a messy aesthetic for creative projects that takes its character from whatever the writers and curators become interested in. Future projects might include a guide to a fake writers’ conference, serialized short stories, a series of dispatches from Peru….”

On one thing we are certainly agreed:  “I love books and print and I’m not a booster for the web, I just think these technologies and spaces should create their own mediums for expression. It’s quality that matters, not technology.”

By the by, most people think the venereal term for owls is “a parliament of owls.”  But an alternative is “a wisdom of owls.”  I rather like that better.