Where’s the Literary Underground?

FINDING THE UNDERGROUND

WHERE is underground culture?

NO ONE online is underground. We’re on a system this instant– the Internet– that was initiated and in large part paid for by the United States Defense Department. An electronic arrangement where every word can be recorded and tracked with a few keyboard clicks.

With our new state-of-the-art print zeens, we at New Pop Lit are partially underground. They’re handmade in-house, and unregistered. No barcodes.

Why is this important? Because print underground literature is an actual alternative– samizdat!— a free space of ideas not subject to self-appointed hall monitors and censors. Breaking the hive mind. No bureaucrats, official or unofficial. In the tradition of Thomas Paine, Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, Robert McAlmon, the Beats– and including Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a host of other international samizdat writers. The genuine article. The authentic American yawp.

THE ANALOG EXPERIENCE

We’ve begun exploring ideas behind new analog culture (vinyl, zines, film) in a newsletter, The Analog Experience. We’ll soon send copies to our “prestige” customers– those who’ve purchased three or more of our zeens. BUT you can subscribe to four issues now at our POP SHOP.

Doing so will keep you abreast of underground happenings, ideas, and debates. Plus in some small way it keeps this project alive.

Consider it a door to another world. A portal to underground culture.

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Fight the Monolith!

Which Side Are YOU On?

c/o Kamil Grzybek

We are watching in real time the conglomerization and monopolization of everything.

The gigantic corporations every day become more gigantic. Amazon WalMart Google Disney Apple Microsoft CVS Facebook growing larger encroaching over more real estate removing privacy small business competition independence options and they decide who’s given a platform is allowed to speak to market to express contrary opinions or ideas.

We’ve all become members of the Herd. Everyone is plugged into the Hive.

HOW do we get out of it? Is there a way to escape?

YES! The escape is in new analog culture. This includes authentically-independent literature, of the kind offered at New Pop Lit‘s POP SHOP. We’re making plans to move more of our operation offline as we operate under the radar screen of mass A.I.-generated conformity, orthodoxy, and groupthink. To stop having everything monitored and recorded online is the first step toward living once again as free-thinking beings. Our literature, if nowhere else, should be an intellectual refuge free from raging ideological mobs left, right, and center– the blind unthinking stampeding throngs on all sides.

Escape into Art– and freedom.

(The contents of our upcoming analog in-house-produced newsletters as well as our artistic print zeens now on sale are UNavailable in pdf form or any other way on the Internet, except for brief glimpses used for announcement purposes.)

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Zines or Zeens?

RETURNING TO PRINT

THE WAY to think about the difference between zines and zeens is to think lo-fi versus hi-fi. Or cassettes versus vinyl.

Traditionally, print zines– real zines, of the photocopied-at-a-coffeeshop variety– were inexpensively made, black-and-white images and text on basic 20-lb copy paper. The DIY punk rawness of the presentation was the point. Illustrations were cut-ups and collages, for a sense of chaos. Type was the smallest possible, words scarcely readable, and there was a lot of it. A few classic zinesters are still using something akin to this style, among them Joe Smith of Alternative Incite:

At the same time (90s; early 2000s) there were a lot of art zines around, which were raw in a different way. Unique shapes and sizes. More colors; usually better paper. Hand-colored pages with unique drawings and designs. Even material glued on them– feathers, sequins, felt: anything. Words themselves often hand-lettered. The drawback to more intense artistry was that the number of copies which could be made was strictly limited. Sometimes as few as 20 or 25.

THE ZEEN DIFFERENCE

With our new print zeens we’ve taken every advantage of print zines and bumped them up a level. There’s rawness and authenticity– combined with quality. Quality materials, designs, and writing. We’ve emphasized the analog experience, so that words and images pop off the page. The writing we’ve accepted or solicited for each zeen has fit the particular aesthetic of that zeen, so that each one– Extreme Zeen 1 and 2, ZEENITH, Crime City U.S.A. and Literary Fan Magazine— has its own individual personality.

Purchase a couple or three at our POP SHOP and see.

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The Art of Pop Poetry

POETRY NEEDS HOOKS!

MUCH DISCUSSION has taken place in recent days– based on the firing of Danielle Rose by Barren Magazine— about the place of poetry in contemporary society.

Is anyone asking the question of HOW to best connect the poetic art with the general public?

At New Pop Lit we’ve tried to do it in a variety of ways. At our online site, by publishing what we consider the highest quality poetry we can find.

For our new print-zeens, we’ve sought high-quality poems that, for the most part, are also visual and concise. Poems which can be illustrated or used with designs in some way to make the reading experience more striking.

Then, also, there have been our experiments a few years ago with Fun Pop Poetry.

FUN POP POETRY

Fun Pop Poetry was a feature we ran for a number of months at one of our blogs. (Which was then later used for the uncompleted “All-Time American Writers Tournament”– yet another example that we’ve been experimenting with a number of things.)

The idea behind Fun Pop Poetry was understanding the roots of poetry lie in oral culture. Pre-literary. Poetic devices such as meter and rhyme were used to make recitations of the spoken word musical and memorable. Rhyme and other euphonic tricks are hooks that embed themselves in the poet’s– and the audience’s– brain.

EVEN Shakespeare’s work– the soliloquys in particular– though usually written in blank verse, has hooks all over the place: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. . . .”

Which make them easy to remember and a joy to recite.

The idea of hooks in poetry is akin to hooks in pop songs. Which brings us to pop poetry.

New Pop Lit‘s Kathleen Marie Crane writes poetry with hooks which stay in your head– is in fact the master at it. For instance, “You Don’t Stand a Chance,” which she recorded for our Open Mic feature.

Or, this previously unpublished poem:

Grand Mackerel Spa and Resort 2

Pre-fab flab floating flotsam hotel pool

Blank faced guests spoon their morning gruel

Evening drunks form a fluorescent queue

Craft designer drinks served by a skeleton crew

Mirthless grins light dim empty faces

Labyrinth of vacant rooms with no human traces

Pint glasses clink with a hollow sound

Here’s to burning this fucking hotel to the ground!

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How could anyone not remember that first line? (Or not have fun reciting it?)

Kath has written many other pop poems, some of which are at the aforementioned blog under the Fun Pop Poetry heading, under a pseudonym. We hope to someday collect those and many more from other poets who participated in that feature, into a zeen. If so, it will be colorful.

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The Writer In a Suitcase ™

NOW AVAILABLE!

Popping up in writing programs across the country!

The Writer In a Suitcase ™ comes packaged in a box, and his mind– what there is of one– exists in a box. More, he puts all the people he meets into mental boxes, with labels on them. He perceives the world strictly through well-ordered labels and boxes.

Ease of Use! There’s no need for The Writer In a Suitcase ™ to monitor himself, as so many other writers now are doing. This writer comes pre-screened, proper acceptable attitudes built in, so to speak. There is zero possibility of The Writer In a Suitcase ever thinking an untoward thought, much less saying one.

Ease of Storage! At the end of a day of writing or editorial duties, The Writer In a Suitcase ™ can be put safely away in a drawer, there to be retrieved in the morning without a single change in perception, ideology, or beliefs. Guaranteed!

Though his literary style may be rather wooden, bloodless and humorless, without the failings of normal writers, this is small price to pay for the predictability of his writing. No surprises! No sarcasm, sneering, anger. No hate or lust. No mocking or violence or thunder: Nothing. Not a single self-generated emotion. What comes out of The Writer in the Suitcase‘s mouth is only what you the artistic gatekeeper put into it. This writer is utterly completely safe.

Order yours today!

-K.W.

The Strategy Behind Zeens

RETHINKING THE LITERARY PRODUCT

FROM THE START the thinking behind our zeens was to create a better literary product. We’ve done that by incorporating color and design into the inside pages, not just the covers. Big Four publishers– as well as some boutique outfits– do this to a minimal extent, usually for non-fiction offerings (on diet and fashion particularly). Seldom for novels or short story collections.

The idea no doubt in not doing it– besides inertia– is to keep the reader focused on the text. Our approach is to enhance the text by incorporating design into the narrative. Use of colors– pages or text– or changes of font, or font size, to emphasize conflict or emotion. Breaking all accepted publishing rules in so doing. 

Being from Detroit, we’re influenced as much by car design– emphasis on sleekness and efficiency– as by standard graphic design.

In addition to innovative design, we also use different types of printing paper to enhance the visual effect of our zeens. The goal: to have words, colors, and art “pop” off the page. Effects which can never be achieved on an electronic screen.

Our first zeen, Extreme Zeen, released in April 2020 during the first surge of the pandemic, is fairly crude by the standards of those we’ve produced since, but does contain striking visuals, including a blown-up photo of a rose to illustrate a poem about same, and psychedelic centerpiece art, “Lucy in the Sky,” by our own Kathleen M. Crane.

Our latest, Extreme Zeen 2, goes further in utilizing design– not solely to enhance the individual stories and poems, but predominantly to project a consistent aesthetic theme throughout the issue. The overall impact is both apparent and subliminal.

Among our models are upstart record companies of the past like Motown and Subpop, but also the many new EV motor companies of now who are challenging the giants. We consider Extreme Zeen 2 a prototype pointing the way toward further innovation in creating the Ultimate Literary Publication.

(Purchase one of our zeens at our POP SHOP.)

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Lessons from Vinyl Records?

VINYL IS BACK!

c/o Erika Records

The sale of vinyl records has increased greatly over the past fifteen years– 27.5 million vinyl LPs sold in the U.S. last year according to Forbes magazine– which makes them more than mere collectors items.

A plethora of online music sites explain the resurgence. Ted Goslin with Yamaha Music gives four reasons for it: -that vinyl is tangible -the cool factor -the listening experience, and -the sound quality. Another online site says it’s because vinyl is “warmer, fuller, more authentic,” and credits also the artwork of vinyl records.

One of the more thorough analyses of the phenomenon is this essay by an outfit called Way Back When at Medium:

Additionally, the cover art on albums is displayed in a much better fashion on vinyl records. Don’t believe us, just go to a vinyl record shop and compare the art on your phone compared to having it in the physical. There are so many little details missed within the artwork when it’s on your phone than when you hold the album in a physical version.

Vinyl records are also a sign of someone having an exquisite taste in music.

THE QUESTION

The question for us at New Pop Lit is whether these same reasons can apply to literary products– such as the zeens we’re selling at our POP SHOP.

Zeens are about the analog reading experience. They’re designed to be viscerally unique, with emphasis on quality of paper, art, and a lot of color, to create a warmer, more tangible presence than any other print publication. More real than digital.

(Can people truly be satisfied spending most of their waking hours in the fake two-dimensional world of electronic screens, when a 3-D alternative is everywhere around us?)

Will the analog revolt extend to the literary field? We hope to find out.

VVVVVVVVV

Types of Cultural Change

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF CULTURAL CHANGE

1.) GRADUAL CHANGE

The kind of change which improves a skill or art within-the-field, but doesn’t expand the field or the field’s footprint within the greater culture. Most often the change is incremental, such as modest improvements in technique.

For example, the sport of tennis. In men’s tennis where every top player has a high level of skill and talent, Novak Djokavic has been able to stand out through changes in his training and diet.

The problem with gradual change is that it’s not enough to keep interest in a sport like tennis from dropping in relation to the greater culture, as other sports and other cultural happenings move forward at a faster rate.

This situation applies to literature and especially with the more esteemed “literary” end of the spectrum. MFA programs train students in refining their craft, polishing their short stories, and the sentences within, without changing the basic template. Without rethinking anything about the art. The nature of the writing workshop in fact discourages experimentation, or any writing which might look “bad” or disturbing because it’s trying something new.

The result: an unexciting literary game which presents always the same-old same-old. The predictable and been done.

2.) RADICAL CHANGE

A leap forward. The kind of change which drastically remakes an art and in so doing creates an explosion of interest in it. For instance, the way rock n roll beginning in 1955 exploded onto national then international consciousness and completely remade the music business, expanding interest and multiplying the size of the market many times over.

In sports, an example would be the emergence of Babe Ruth as a star circa 1920. He’d started out as a pitcher. With nothing to lose in his perfunctory at bats– expected to make an out– he began swinging for the fences, taking huge swings at pitches, thereby striking out at an increased rate but when connecting, hitting the ball for a home run. This went 180 degrees against the practice of the time of playing it safe, the goal to just make contact with the ball and get on base.

Ruth’s monster home runs caused massive fan interest. New York Yankee attendance doubled, while many other baseball teams smashed their previous attendance records due to the Ruth effect. Babe Ruth became for ten years the most popular figure in America.

THE QUESTION is whether or not this kind of change could happen to the sleepy literary game?

What it would take is allowing writers to embarrass themselves as they try new ideas– to “make outs”– as they work toward making the art fresh and exciting.

If it can be imagined it can happen.

Wake Up the Tastemakers!

ONE of the reasons literature is in sad shape– its role in the greater culture plummeting– is that staffs of Manhattan magazines, beneath surface differences, are invariably the same. Well-educated upper-middle class climbers from the “best” schools. Usually the same schools. Their ideas on art and culture are the same.

Will they be able to recognize the radically NEW when it lands on the desk in front of them?

Why does it matter? It matters because they have the remaining promotional infrastructure for all things literary in today’s media world– an infrastructure underground publishers lack.

What we offer are ways to engage the larger culture, via more exciting literary products. We’re little different from hip-hop creators and others who’ve come from outside the cultural system and with new ideas were able to reinvigorate that system along with the culture at large. They depended on perceptive outliers among media able to spot an opportunity and jump on it.

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HOW do you revive an art? Another example from pop music history is the early 1990s when groups like The Pixies and Nirvana injected pop elements into punk rock and thereby created a new hybrid. Not dissimilar to what we’re doing at New Pop Lit via our zeen creations. Check us out. Drop into our POP SHOP.

Lessons for Cultural Insurgency?

IS IT TIME TO CHANGE LITERATURE?

c/o Sidiqullah Khan/ AP

We operate under the premise that the current literary system is top-heavy and ready to be taken down.

The Question: What strategy will accomplish that end?

(It’s been revealed by recent world events that all is illusion, power is illusory, that which seems stable can collapse overnight. The trick then is to apply this realization to other realms. Such as: today’s literature-and-publishing empires, where all is hype and bluff, dusty academies or skyscrapers filled with time-servers and ticket-punchers, with an original idea nowhere to be found. Instead, a well-trained herd following blindly a well-trod path.)

The Countdown to Change has begun. We at New Pop Lit are prepared to document it, and whenever possible, to light a spark. The stakes are huge, the prize enormous: a revived more colorful and exciting literary art.

WATCH this blog for steady updates as we report on the ongoing transformation of American and world literature.

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