When I first read – or rather, studied – this issue of ZYZZYVA, I had no idea how to review the thing. The entire issue is in “textimage, instances in which text and image collide on the page,” and since I’ve been interested in the written word for over twenty years and visual art for only five, I ought to be excused for my quandary. On my second reading, I decided to describe what is in the journal and encourage readers pick up a copy and make their own commentary.
In one place in the issue, artists lay alphabet shapes on top of one another to form completely different shapes, another place displays artist Ann Chamberlin’s “Tremor Drawings,” scribbles and words and letters across pages, exercises she did to recover from a stroke. One section is filled with visual poetry – “VisPo” – another section combines new words with well-known images so the images take on new meanings. There are also Diagrammars, Architexture, and Grafiction – the etymology of these words gives you a sense of what types of art they conflate.
Okay, I do have a couple opinions: my favorite piece is Aimee Bender’s “Some Romans,” in which she uses different types of fonts to inspire tone and characters for her paragraph sketches. The paragraph written in Avant Garde font is about an avant-garde artist, “Lucinda was the brightest girl in her class, so bright they had to wear a dim raincoat to block the glare,” and Verdana “drinks yellow drinks and wears yellow clothes and pees lightly yellow pee. But instead her heart is blackening slowly.” It’s an idea for a fun and worthwhile writing exercise to give your students, if nothing else.
I also liked Sherman Alexie’s “The Writer’s Notebook,” which photocopies notes he made on random advertisements and questionnaires. The result is heartbreakingly hilarious, as only Alexie can be. “Did the workshops and focus groups meet your needs?” the form asks. “The Indian boys on my rez are spraying lysol on Wonder Bread and eating it,” Alexie answers. “What did you like best about the conference?” the form continues. “There were ghosts in my room but they were boring,” Alexie writes. “What could be improved?” the form asks. “and didn’t know any stories I hadn’t heard before,” Alexie continues.
So, buy and study this issue yourself. It’s definitely the most unique issue of a journal I’ve reviewed for NewPages.