To refine, to clarify, to intensify that eternal moment in which we alone live there is but a single force —the imagination. This is its book. I myself invite you to read and to see.— William Carlos Williams
I’ve heard, read, been told that reading others creates a false writing identity within you. From teachers to other writers, they’ve told me that to be influenced by others is to limit the growth of your artistic identity. There is a thin and often blurred line between inspiration and appropriation.
However, when you think about every movement, every formal tradition, every writer's collective, the start of anyone’s writing identity is always through the admiration of other writers. When you look at the greats you see a concession of those whose emotional and personal identity helped in the creation of that great writer. The feelings of inspiration are innate within humans across all boards of creativity whether lingual, kinetically, or visual. Did you not try your hand baking if not for seeing others do it. Is your flourless tea cake somehow fraudulent because your pastime is watching happy midwestern wives bake their grandmother's heirloom recipe. Or did you copy and paste your abstract impressionist painting of an apple shaped like a pear in a glass vase on top of a burning table. Where in writing is there not room for inspiration. Who wakes up one day haven’t read one book and decides they want to write a fantasy epic about black dwarves and brown fairies.
Breton, who created one of the most influential movements (whether you want to admit to it or not), revered artists like Rimbaud, Lautreamont and Sade. He did not take the exact preternatural atmosphere that is woven through Rimbaud’s Seasons in Hell or Lautreamont’s Les Chants of Maldoror. He did not plagiarize the highly lurid and taboo essence of Sade’s work. Instead, he recognized these traits, understood their presence, and in molding his poetic identity and through collaborative work with like-minded people, he created the surrealist movement, an idea of interlocking the two selves, the conscious and subconscious, as a process towards achieving higher being.
Baraka, who, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. And dealing with the Beats, and other avant-gardists created a powerful league of black writers interested in propelling and showing the depth of the black voice, the black style, and the black image. It was also spurred from a phenomenon that later on, Toni Morrison calls “Africanism” which, as she describes, is a “fabricated brew of darkness, otherness, alarm, and desire” that informed the creation of literary whiteness that is pervasive in American literature. He, as a writer, was constantly reckoned with the fact that his place in literature was only that of a construction in which white people could draw from. The Beats appropriated the black aesthetic into a sort of “cool” that is still duplicated by hipster whites and tenured professors under 40 today. But he was a man with a mind as complex as the artistic torture box that was Kerouac's brain. He, in his true blackness, knew he of other black writers were as brilliant as the inaccurate but multidimensional translations by Pound. The systemic push and tussle against blackness as a humane identity, and of blackness in literature, is what created the need to bring forth the black writer and give them the power to set straight what it is to be black.
And in that string of the black arts movement being inspired by blackness, there were the Negritude poets who were inspired by the surrealist. The very core of surrealism, Aime Cesaire felt could describe and make sense of the surreality of blackness.
Olsen, through his manifesto, Projective Verse, inspired the black mountain poets, language poets, and forged a link between them and the imagist poets.
In literature then, community and literary communion was the biggest factor in not only the forming of their identities but as well as the reach of their works. Originality is not contingent on an absolute un-spurred thought. And yes, there is still form for originality. I believe that 100 percent.
There aren’t many communities specifically for cultivating, sharing, and publishing work. The current form of publishing literature is writer to agent to editor to publisher to the public. Publishers have their own set of rules, ideas, and concepts of form albeit loose but it’s there. I, in my own form of writing, felt a desire to create a space where it’s writer to writer using communal editing, to share and publish with the world. There needs to be compassion and empathy for the artist, for the reader, and for the language.
Who are you writing to?
There should be an understanding of the writer’s life and the need for their work to reflect that and their quality of life to reflect that. There needs to be a balance between understanding the soul of others through language, the desires of those who seek refuge in language, and the livelihoods of these beings.
This is what I hope for and is the ultimate goal of Oni.
I am not proclaiming a revolution. This is not a vanguardist proclamation of a movement. I am not inferring that I am somehow better or more dignified because of these observations. I am not working on Breton levels of egotistical. I am simply working on my desires. Oni House is not a collective, it is a publishing house. But it is a publishing house that wants to be transparent with authors and has authors engaged in the process. The editors are to be writers and poets as well. I want to close the gap as much as I can between the writer and the reader. I want to create a community and art that understand previous works as a body, to understand the nuances of that body, the emotional disposition of the body, and to consume, to empathize, and therefore give rise to a work that is unique to the context of your being in the moment of understanding the language of the past. And through this, the feelings you must portray will make it’s way straight to the reader. I want emotion in literature. To make writing as art as powerful as it can be.
To me this means to not relying heavily on semantics, or the business of logic (and logistics), but rely on the feeling of language in relation to your body, and what language can lend to the creation of complex art. What are you feeling at the moment? What are you feeling after reading your favorite writer? What are the first words to come to mind? What are the words that come to mind with the feeling those former words gave you? To see this process in words might look odd to you but it is more natural than what you think. This process is the same if you use a visual or an audio medium as an emotional charge. To repeatedly express yourself in language, to create a story or the meaning of a poem with emotion, and to allow the emotions to run through the characters, the houses you built through language, the dogs, pigs, and bulls that permeate within this world. These are not rules comparable to “never introduce a list with ‘like’”. It is a tool to create rules of your own through your mode of reality.
There is no one purpose of art. Art lies beyond the current habit of needle-like oversimplification. Art is not simply or only “where the soul” is or a”conscious act of resistance”. It is all of that and more as it presents itself different within every artist. Art is as complex as the human form, and it is to be as complex as it is pleasing.
I want to stress though, artistic literature is not a process that compliments complex vocabulary over simplicity. It is not about intellectuality in the popular sense. Simple language can very easily attempt to describe the complexity of being, of relationships, visions, and voices of the world and beyond worlds, as much as intellectual/complex language can. But this is also not advising to deter people from using complex or academic language. It can very much bear emotion and invoke emotion despite what is widely understood of it. It is all about conveying the being in the text to the reader. It is about being vulnerable with the reader. It is a confessional of the depths of the human mind.
The spectrum of language, the continuous morphing and adapting of language, the transmuting and deconstruction of reason, an exploration of etymology, is the basis of writing as an art and creating with emotion. It is about desires and curiosities.
I believe this gives room for many stories to be told in the unique voice of the writer and make room for a story, as long it is a story, and a poem, as long as it is a poem. Like the avant-gardists and surrealist poets, where they were able to freely navigate through language. They had the ability to close the gap between subconscious surreality and conscious reality, to create the sort of immediacy similar to visual works, despite the extra step of opening the book. This immediacy informs the growth of imagination in the reader. The reader than can, with the power of the text, imagine the worlds inside of a human being. It is the closest thing to mind reading.
I want to remove the writer from the process of creating for profit, creating a niche for profit, commodifying revolution, and creating art with a false personality for profit. However, I want there to be an understanding that ingenuine work will always be rewarded, and there is always room for anew. I want them to understand themselves at the moment, and cultivate a sense of self that wants to move others. I want to help in this process. I desire for Oni to be this space that cultivates this emotional maturing and literary growth. I specifically want to work with new and/or young writers. I want to move them away from the logistics and focus on the power of language. Meaning has no power over the individual without the emotion of the artist.
Why is emotion important? Emotion, I believe is what informs the thought, and therefore action. I felt alone as an appreciator of avant-grade and surrealist literature. The feelings of loneliness created my decision to search for others who as well are interested in these works. That decision gave way to the action to create and in that creation, I formed bonds with other writers. We, in our camaraderie, created and shared with each other. This process repeated, and repeated then grew what is Oni.
The exploration of language, the experimenting with form, and the communion of artist to artist to reader, is the basis of emotive poetics. It is the basis of the art that Oni wishes to publish.
It is the power of the artist. It is the power of the mind. These powers than create art that instigates and gives desire in the reader. Art should emote others into action, whether it’s to cry or to revolt.
This was present within modernism, the desire to move from the restrictive poetic form and the push towards a humane poetics. The romantics (yes, this sounds contradictory, but even in their rebellion, the modernists were inspired by the romantics), with their love for life and death, and the ultimate form of pleasure in the wake of destruction. The symbolists, who transmuted that new century ennui into works filled with decay and rebirth. We look at these examples and see a pattern.
What does “I” say to the heart? What does “be”, “becoming”, “I am”, “it is” mean to the nerves which control feeling? What is your natural inclination at that moment, and what could you do with tools of language to create art? What are my dreams telling me? What are the angels telling? What happens when I wake up, what do I feel? What about at 2 pm, 3, and 8 pm? These begin the formation of zoning into the emotion, and what that creates.
“...to step back here to this place of the elements and minims of language,
is to engage speech where it is least careless—
and least logical.” — Charles Olsen
In projective verse, Olsen describes the future poetic form, “A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader.” If we think of these histories of poetry, of literature as a whole, and their successes and fails to ultimately make the reader feel the energy, the emotions of the poet or what emotions the poet wants to portray, we come to see this result in what he describes as projective verse which goes on to influence in large all of poetry in the 20th century. Is this work apparent in current literature? In some, perhaps, but mostly, whatever emotion is emanated in one is repeated over and over as a sort of mass production. This gives an appearance of artistic literature, but it does not showcase the individual being. How many variations of the same conversation is supposed to take place? How many shades of the same subject must we rehash with no intention to move forward? Is the stagnation no intention to renew in all aspects of literature and art as a whole is what we have resigned to?
I do see a shift in the right direction towards the path of artistic freedom. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have started Oni or the work I’ve done so far personally and through Oni. It is especially apparent with the recent surge of 20th century women’s literature. But what do we do with the girls of now? Where are the girls of now? The little brown girls? The hungry girls? The feral girls? How do we move beyond the current catch-all definition of diversity and agency and work towards action? There needs to be not only a resurgence but an understanding of how do we propel the voices of others? Of those who throughout history have died a literary death? How do we cheat death in the present?
I thought of Oni with the desire to give space for works that spark the strongest variation of emotion that is targeted. If it’s to make someone uncomfortable, let it sit with them for days. Let their world shatter, let the immediacy of that uncomfortability shock one into another mode of being, as the world the writer created changed them. Let the grotesque conquer your affinity for the familiar and make you think beyond the insularity of your day to day life.
Let us examine the body of Other, of you, and the complexities and the depth of that moniker that was assigned to us by the self-ascribed normative notion of who are people. Let us explore the art of literature as a system of relationships, between artist and subject, between subject and its art, and those layers examined by the viewer and its relationship between old and new viewers.
As Jeanette Winterson says in Art and Objects, “Process, the energy in being, the refusal of finality, which is not the same as the refusal of completeness, sets art, all art, apart from the end-stop world that is always calling ‘Time, please!’” The infinitesimal input and output that art creates is vital in literature. Literature should be complete as a body, but forthcoming, inviting to interpretation, to misunderstanding, to the spectrum of the sense’s responses. It is to make every aspect of the consumer feel deeply and spiritually. The art of literature is moving constantly towards the light, against the breath, and through the very nature of our being.
“The world of the book is a total world and in a total world we fall in love” — Jeanette Winterson
Let us examine the way nature plays in the art of language. In what ways does our language communicate to the air around us, to the world inside worlds and beyond world that are the billions of people, their internal and external processes of thought. May we look at the poem, at the short, at the novella, at the novel as a processes of energies as the reaction of nerves, from the brain to the hand that creates what is indeed an artistic form of language. May we be guided by our predecessors through our own adventures into art as a constant, existing deforming and reforming production of air, light, and emotive coping.
Let us understand the past as a bridge to the present that begets the future. We need to understand our work in this timeline. As we bear the emotions of the past via our dna, the drive, the trauma, the laughter, the cry, the subconscious affinity to language, the subconscious movement of fingers to pen to paper, or finger to phone. We are the children of legends— of those who found the drive of being.
Let us remember their visions for a new breed of art via the mind—the absolute mind, no matter of complexity or intelligence. No, we tap into everything. We welcome all variants, offbeats, poetics, and marginalized.
This is a place for full body honesty, emotional maturity (a continuous strive), and the full use of language as an art.