Warwick Newnham, Contributing Editor for Experimental Discourse

O:JA&L Celebrates Experimental Fiction: 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 Warwick Newnham:
W.J.P. Newnham hitchhiked around Australia working as barman, bum and waiter, slaughter hand, deckhand and master, spending 25 years working in the Northern Prawn Fishery. He has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Japan and speaks marketplace Indonesian with some fluency. He is the winner of the 2016 The Lifted Brow’s Experimental Non-fiction Prize. His numerous short stories have been published in Nocturnal SubmissionsOverlandThe Lifted BrowMeanjinWesterly and Horror Sleaze Trash [to name but a few]. Newnham is Contributing Editor for Experimental Discourse at O:JA&L.

Image: Ocean Energy 6 by Gene Kreyd. Oil on canvas. 70 x 80 cm. 2017. By permission. Gene Kreyd is the O:JA&L Featured Fine Artist for April 2019.