A note from the editors
A favorite poetry professor of mine once explained the human capacity for language this way: "We're telepathic too, we just have to move our mouths a little." And in saying this, he put words to the unbearable attraction to language I share with all writers. I see language not as the act of translating thought, but of producing it - I understand that when we speak, we are engaging in an ancient form of witchcraft that allows us to see into one another's heads. I see writing as weaving a rope, tying one end of it to the brain, and sending the other end flying out into the world.
In this sense, poetry is a necessarily invasive act. It is the act of shaping another brain to see what yours sees. It is intrusive, forceful, sometimes violent.
The internet, too, is invasive. Computers and phones are carefully designed to interrupt, to alert. Things beep at us to command our attention. Texts are given voice, allowed to speak and scream and move.
It is this invasiveness that most interested me as Arian and I selected texts for the Spring 2015 issue of the New River. Given the vastness and inclusiveness of the world of hypertext, we weren't fully confident in our ability to evaluate texts as "working" or "not working." As a result, our curation process was not rigid or structured; instead, we found ourselves returning to texts alone, together, with friends, noticing which texts we came back to, which we found ourselves seeking more from. We found texts working their way into conversations totally unrelated to the New River. We found ourselves saying, "I can't stop thinking about that piece," as we passed each other in the hallway.
The works we have included here are the works that most thoroughly invaded our psychological spaces. If language is telepathy, then digital texts, with their multimodal capacities, their ability to speak and move, are pure magic. The pieces that we felt working their magic on us, entering our brains by force, are the works we present to you in this issue.
In trying to arrive at a cogent, and perhaps unified definition of new media writing - one that prescribes it as a fixed or exact discipline - I kept rooting around in the various paraphernalia of creative writing only to arrive at a Bakhtinian notion of layered and overlapped imaginative significance. New media writing's transient nature of meaning within language, exists only in conjunction with the burgeoning vehicle of technology and functions as a sort of imaginative cymothoa exigua. (Look into BuzzFeed's article on this adorable little bugger in order to get an understanding of what I mean and what nightmares are fully made of).
All of this is to say that rather than attempting to argue a stasis in new media writing in the same way that genre definitions fix their attendant writings, and print fixes writing in time, it is incumbent upon me to say that all I know for certain is that the lifeblood of new media writing is one of transience and ineffable change; a symbiosis of language and the vehicle by which it is driven, however drunk or recklessly, toward meaning and imagination.
The relationship by which the various forms of writing are inextricably attached to the modes in which they are delivered is essentially what the the New River Journal has attempted to both exhibit and navigate for the past 18 years. In revisiting the past issues of the NRJ, the common connective tissues that bind each issue together through the years are that of inevitable technological changes - which drive the format of the creative work - and the logic by which each editor has attempted to apply in justification of the work they'vee chosen for their issues.
In this tradition, I can say that we selected work based on immediate and largely visceral responses to the work we received. Each of the pieces in this issue transformed any preexisting notions I had of the possibilities of art, the narrative tradition, and transformative nature of technological platforms. The variety of the work we received, their ever-oblique nature, the spectrum of participation required to push meaning around, their at times disjunctive and fragmented nature, their layered sensory accosting, bit my tongue off at times and replaced it with a new speech. I returned to the pieces we selected in order to peel back their multitudinous meanings and every time I returned more layers of strata were revealed to expose new bones, new bodies buried deeper. Sometimes it was a dusty nostalgia. At other times it was the relationship between the reportage of news events and how we contextualize notions of war and disaster.
This work, much in the same way that Bakhtin argued of language, is made alive both in context and in utterance. And we ardently hope that these are made more alive when you open them up and allow each one to unfold in front of you. We hope that you are made more alive by each of the works in here. We hope you are made alive by anything. We hope you are alive.