Follow Harriet on Twitter
Try is a xeroxed and folded 8-and-1/2-by-14-inch magazine issued by poets David Brazil and Sara Larsen. It began appearing out of the Bay area in 2008, maintaining an impressive rate of two-issues-a-month during its first year. More recently, Brazil and Larsen switched over to printing Try once a month. I tend to send them my intermediary (alchemical) pieces, guilty pleasures that sometimes betray signs of where one’s work might be heading, or fragments that may end up in a longer work. In this way Try has become invaluable to my process. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
The first thing I submitted to Try was a pair of Paul Eluard translations. (They are not “real” — they were made from several horrible English translations.) I’ve sent in my notes from Bill Berkson’s “Sensational Poetry” lecture at San Francisco Art Institute; a collaborative poem with the artist Will Yackulic entitled “Strange To See Where”; and several drawings, one of Dante, one of John Wieners, and a few Exquisite Corpses made with friends. For the one year anniversary issue I made a cento of my favorite moments from the first 10 issues. I am typing it here in its entirety in favor of rushing to find beautiful new excerpts, otherwise I might go on forever:
The figure is being ground into the field
Yvonne’s story about the flood and how in all her desk drawers, the permanent ink was washed away while the pencil (graphite) stayed. Graphite is a rock
Pain soaks through me
colder than rain
When playing Spiderman, Leo is Spiderman and I am either Iceman or Firestar. We go to the restaurant and order food. If I am Iceman I freeze his water so that it has ice cubes in it. If I am Firestar I warm his water up
When does the psyche touch on truth and attain it? When it has dismissed the sensible and when she has as little as possible to do with the body, as little intercourse, contact
I grow paler than grass and lack little of dying
They wanted me to be there early for a drink. Everyone was always roaring mostly art world types & I was their young poet who arrived a little loaded, smoking and talking and watching their faces change with the light
Study for Treatise of the Veil, 1970, wax crayon, pencil, color pencil, collage, scotch tape
Now I see why your poems are like you’re on the moon trying to get back to earth
In the composition of good poetry you may find yourself outside of comfort. Comfort is beside the point
Translation has to recognize a train wreck, nothingness behind words as they exist in writing (literature). Writing aka literature seen one way is nothingness and seen the other is language. The able translator leaves out neither
Accuracy, fidelity (but not literalness) are one side of the writing. Nothing is its other and spiritual side
Rushing into print is sometimes just the thing, especially if the work has not been edited down or built up to perfection. I have long been a believer that the existing imperfections in a piece are often conversely the point of entry for a reader. David and Sara seem to enjoy printing work with an outright texture — works in longhand, concrete poems, correspondence, works in which the content matches the bloody black-and-white aesthetics of production.
Try sprang up during a time of many house readings in San Francisco and Oakland, gatherings that always began with a party that would die down on command, then pick up again with twice the energy after the readings were finished. It feels rather like a party flipping through an issue. Opening one at random (dated Oct. 23rd, 2008 on its back cover) I find work by Andrew Joron, Craig Santos Perez, Dottie Lasky and Rodney Koeneke. Every issue seems built on a concept of cosmos. The first issue presents a family tree of sorts, paying homage to a few magazines of the past and present to which the spirit of Try is hugely indebted, These include Semina, Mirage, and Floating Bear. One difference that sets Try apart is its refreshingly loose editorial stance. I’ve been told that David and Sara are willing to print pieces that neither one of them like. I find this sort of approach to be in the best interest of poetry. It can only help to erase dividing lines, both real and imagined.
After I had put together my last collection, Stranger In Town. I decided to try and put together a book of B-sides, collaborations, translations, and prose. It ended up being titled Slivers. I never would have thought to do this if I hadn’t been sending precisely this kind of work to Try over the past few years. Three of the pieces collected in Slivers made their first appearance in Try. Are there other magazines with similar production values that appear as often? Try always looks to me like uncorrected proofs without a cover — the guts of Bay Area poetry, really.) There is Mirage, edited by Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy, and the brand new SERIES, edited by Drew Kunz. There must be others…
To send work to TRY contact email@example.com