Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sein und Werden, (Spring/Summer 2022)

Sein und Werden, ed. Rachel Kendall. Spring/Summer 2022 issue. Online at www.kissthewitch.co.uk/seinundwerden/sein.html

Reviewed by Julie Reeser

Sein und Werden Spring/Summer 2022. If I were you I'd… . click on these bad boys… Contents ContributorsSein und Werden, per their onsite manifesto, is a quarterly online and occasional print journal whose goal is to invoke Werdenism, a term coined by the editor to encompass her modern aesthetic vision of “being and becoming” taken from the Expressionists. Each issue is themed, and this one starts with a prompt of “If I were you…” This is carried cutely by the home page where you are directed to a choice between two arrows: content or contributors. The overarching or underlying philosophy of the works chosen revolve around Existentialism, Surrealism, and Expressionism.

Similar to our societal woe of lost scale, this issue of Sein und Werden offers each piece up equally, with no way to separate the vital organ from a laugh. This leaping from heartache to overheard conversations to death squads to stream-of-consciousness with twists of morality is a perfect encapsulation of the doomscrolling world and our (in)ability to parse the competing and conflicting firehose of information we consume daily.

There are thirty-eight pieces, and several authors have more than one entry, with one contributor being a collaborative effort of a writing collective. I especially enjoyed the poems, whether the poetry traditionally falling down the margin or compressed into a box. This preference within the context of the strange and varied buffet on offer shows me my own rigidity, my unwillingness to try the side dish with a name I can’t pronounce. The longer pieces of prose and non-fiction required me to chew more than maybe I’ve become accustomed to doing in my online reading. Neither of these revelations were unwanted, just impossible to ignore.

There are three visual arts pieces mixed throughout. Two are static works—one a tessellation reminiscent of Escher, and another whose colors and tension brought to mind Saturn Devouring His Son. The third is a two-minute video of pasted together stills and a voiceover poem that I didn’t hate, despite it being rhymed and politically dark. (Relevant and right, but grim.) The video felt like a visual zine, the kind you’d hand out at the park or stuff in laundromats and bars, and I love that it gave off that vibe.

My favorites out of the individual entries were the ones that played with language like a pouting child forced to eat a dinner they never chose. Delicious remakings of prose that get the reader to engage with humor or sly secondary meanings. James Gering’s “If I had Been Gwendolyn Brooks, I’d Have Tried a Series of Golden Shovel Songs” has a title almost as long as the poem. It bounces and ends on the jarring bone you get when you think there’s one more stair. I also loved Kate Meyer-Currey’s two dense, one breath, stanzas with their garden references full of armor and teeth and surviving. I read and re-read “The Imp” by Christian Ward—“pretend-feed my tonsils to the hungry blackbird.” Lush and weird and a perfect length for dropping into another’s reality.

I will say, with some sadness, that there were several typos sprinkled throughout. This makes me think the pieces aren’t edited with as much care as they deserve. As with many markets leaning toward the existential side of things, the contributors appear to be mostly men. This collection would be brilliant in print; some things just work better that way, and I strongly think print would be an asset here, but I also understand the financial considerations. The set-up of clicking “next” to page to each subsequent piece is pretty close to the feel of a print magazine, but I found myself wanting to flip back and forth to find where the works echoed and spoke in conversation with each other.

I’m all for more markets with the weird, combining a sense of aloneness with community and a feeling of the absurd plopped into our critical mass midst. It’s kind of where we are right now, so it’s nice of Sein und Werden to meet us halfway with art squeezed out of the collective consciousness’s angsty air. Overall, the entire zine taken together was stimulating, and would make a great jumping off point for your own inverted shadow-thinking or discussions with friends.

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