“Experimental Discourse” Feature: Foreword by Contributing Editor Warwick Newnham

Warwick Newnham
Contributing Editor for Experimental Discourse

O:JA&L Celebrates XPD: A Foreword

“Ocean Energy #6” by Gene Kreyd

Wikipedia defines experimental literature as: “Experimental literature refers to written work—usually fiction or poetry—that emphasizes innovation, most especially in technique.” I would include with this “the experimental use of language both in form and function.”

I have always loved experimental literature works with favorites such as the work of Burroughs, Selby and McCarthy being regulars on my night stand. What attracts me to it is its willingness to defy convention and literary expectations and allow for development and free expression in which new ideas or re-representations of existing ideas can be presented in ways that enable the reader’s participation in the promulgation process where engagement and interactions create new neural connections and experiences.

As an author, it is also somewhat self-limiting to write in the experimental mode because it can limit the market for one’s work. To write as an experimentalist anyway requires a certain bravery and conviction, a belief in the experimental mode.

As the curator of this collection, it was a real pleasure to read such a wealth of creative and experimental submissions. The following were selected:

Kimberly Crafton: “Questioning the silence”
This is a personal narrative where the internal landscape of the author is intimately explored as she struggles with the philosophical “big questions.” It has an immediacy of viewpoint without enforcing her view, rather allowing the reader to travel with her as she covers the ground from birth to death in a succinct yet eloquent manner. I love the punchline: “I think I am ridiculous, and I find that profound.”

Rollin Jewett: “Swingtown Snake”
A noir piece reminiscent of pulp detective novels with a re-invention of linguistic mores in which the author engages a lexicon that is fresh, inventive and of his own device. It snaps and sizzles with a rhythmic insistency that transforms the noir genre into the author’s personal gift for language and timing. I am reminded of crisp monotones like films from the forties and fifties.

Nelson Lowhin: “Journal of Dead Prose”
Lowhin writes the experience of warfare with short bursts of words like double taps: A communique from the front line, it reads with the immediacy of a SIT-REP. A chilling visit to the nightmare world of PTSD dreams and sleepless nights spent in existential pondering.

Zeeshan Amit: “Wall People”
Rebuses and inserted symbols like semaphores lead the reader through narrow openings in the mindscape of the author’s journey from light to dark, childhood to adulthood in which death, the final encounter, is a passage. A wildly experimental piece.

Shawn Anto: “Lessons on Constancy”
The 10 “easy lessons on toxic love and dependency learnt the hard way as the milestones of a relationship heading downhill like to hell in a handbasket” slide by inexorably. It is at once a personal and universal exploration on separation need and loss made more effective for its brevity.

Luis Lopez-Maldonado: “The Witch, The Egg and The Cure”
This is an intimate exploration of the effects of child’s illness on a family struggling with poverty as the parents try to find cure in folkloric traditions. Witches and wise grand-mothers attempt the cure, but in the end, it is a small dog that proves efficacious. We are provided here with a window into the author’s upbringing in a culture reliant on the spiritual world to make change in the physical.

Emma Beard: “Her Return”
Written as a high school assignment, this piece engages a multilayered approach with the characters telling the story from an interlinked patchwork of personal opinions and points of view. This writer has some serious chops for one so young—her work is multifaceted, mature, and compelling.


About the Contributing Editor and Curator for this offering of Experimental Discourse:
Contributing Editor Warwick (W<J>P) Newnham is the winner of the 2016 The Lifted Brow experimental non-fiction prize, a highly commended award in the 2016 Stringy Bark Stories “times past” anthology. He was selected as a finalist in the 2017 Pen 2 Paper Coalition of Texans with Disabilities Fiction Prize. His work “Tootie; My little Pig” was selected as a finalist in the spineless wonders 2018 year of the dog special with the piece performed by actors as part of the Sydney Literary Festival.  Newnham’s short stories have been published in O:JA&L, Nocturnal Submissions, Overland, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, Westerly and Horror Sleaze Trash and others.

Image: Ocean Energy #6” by Gene Kreyd. Mixed media on canvas. 70 x 80 cm. 2017. By permission. Gene Kreyd is a Russian-born California artist. He is well-known internationally for his clothing design, films, music, and photography; however, his primary interest is and has always been painting abstract art. Kreyd exhibits across the world, and his paintings are in public and private collections in Europe, Russia, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Kreyd is the O:JA&L Featured Artist for April 2019.