Allow me to introduce myself—I’m Ashley, and I’m thrilled to be an editor here at PANK. This promises to be quite a transformative journey for me as a writer and as an editor, and I can’t wait to see what kind of art we can show the world. This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the writer’s responsibility as a citizen of Earth and as an artist, and I think, now that the year is reaching its end and all those confusing New Year’s Eve feelings start to creep up, I’ve finally realized what that responsibility is. In short, an artist must be responsible. My art is primarily concerned with race, gender, and American culture, and that type of art carries various responsibilities—historical accuracy and/or truth, a certain level of open-mindedness, and a responsibility to adequately give voice to the histories I’m telling or retelling. In this way, an artist has a responsibility to pay attention, to write the art that defines her era, to keep her finger on the pulse so that, years from now, readers can get a sense of what it was like to live in Birmingham, Alabama, USA— or Anywhere, USA— in 2015. But there’s also the artist’s responsibility to the art itself—we are creating because, at some level, it’s fun and it’s exciting and it makes us feel alive. Throwing yourself wholeheartedly into a piece, exploring new avenues of language and sound, and pushing the envelope with content and style are all things that artists should be thinking about as they take to the page. We are required, in many ways, to uphold some of the magic and wonder of art and its ordinary mystery. This is what I will try to do in my own work, and that is what I’m looking for in submissions to PANK. I want us, as artists, to create wild art with purpose. I want us to care about what we put on the page, and I want us to be passionately responsible. In the immortal words of troubling-yet-funky superstar James Brown, I’m just tryna do my thang. And I want you—I need you—to do yours.
Here I am, standing between cases filled with books, most of them listed alphabetically, or at least by genre. I’ve made a routine of this. Opening and closing, returning and removing. I flip open each book to read the first sentence, or the first full paragraph. Then I begin again. It’s become my obsession. I want to be overtaken, or taken somewhere new. Again and again. But first I need to be held, or held in place. I need to be arrested. As our culture continues to proliferate images, text, and yes, moments, increasingly devaluing experience and our time, or the time we spend in solitude, the written word has never been more important, or more powerful. When I received the opportunity to co-edit PANK, I asked writers to send me something they believe in. Before I can believe it, you need to. If the passion is on the page, it will dismantle the page— or screen— through which we’ll eventually read it. Mediums are storefront windows. I want words that teach me something new about the language we use every day.
Here I am and here you are too.
I believe in art that renounces politics in favor of provocation; nothing is more dangerous to all forms of dictatorship. I believe in art that is not Left or Right but forward. The one area of our culture that cannot afford to be coddled, self-censored, and silenced by self-righteous liberalism or regressive fundamentalism and the binaries and polarization that have produced both. I often think of the Left and Right as infants, crying and carrying on in the hopes of drowning each other in each other’s reductionism, playing a game of chicken or a staring contest, wondering when the other might blink, only to find that, upon blinking, intellect and understanding have actually disappeared. Soon, there won’t be anything left to collide with.
I believe that we can only create this sort of art together vis–à–vis a community of people who are fearless and vulnerable and not afraid to be anything but themselves—and to see themselves in one another.
I might as well start with my name: Chris. The people that know me best often call me other names: Tribilín, Cuba, Chris Pup, cc. Everything else is a click away. But among those Google search results, you won’t find whom I love to read, and the kind of writing I deeply admire.
I became a writer because I read William S. Burroughs’ The Wild Boys and realized I wanted to create worlds, inhabit them with characters, live in them too. He dropped syntax and disintegrated narrative and it made my mind stop. It still often does. Then came Edith Wharton, especially The House of Mirth, and much later, Genet (“The Balcony”), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Tres Tristes Tigres), Antonio Tabucchi (Indian Nocturne), Manuel Puig (Heartbreak Tango), Olive Schreiner (The Story of an African Farm), Jean Rhys (Voyage in the Dark), Severo Sarduy (Cobra), and a list that continues to exhilarate me. The poetry of Matthew Arnold and Andrew Marvell and e.e. Cummings and Philip Larkin and Nicanor Parra and Terrence Hayes and Eduardo C. Corral and CAConrad and Morgan Parker. Musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne and Bernard Sumner and Trent Reznor. I’ve abandoned divisions between poetry and prose in my work and celebrate the artists who’ve traced similar marks, emphasizing rhythm and the relationship that exists between words, words that ricochet off other words, words that live on in other words, language that reads like music.
So like Madonna catechized during “Into the Groove,” back in 1987, or as David Bowie demanded four years earlier: