Literary magazine Just Another Art Movement brings us its current installment, JAAM 27: Wanderings (JAAM Collective, $TBC), with guest editor Ingrid Horrocks at the helm. With Horrocks’s call for submissions for “wandering fiction, poetry and, especially, creative non-fiction,” you may expect to find a volume of disparate, if independently beautiful, creations. Upon cracking the new spine of JAAM 27 I half expected to be thrown into literary disarray—poetry cavorting with non-fiction, promiscuous prose showing up wherever it pleased—foolhardily thinking that wandering was synonymous with all over the place. I stand corrected.
Contrary to my expectation for the collection’s structure to twist and swerve, for form to follow content’s ambulation, I found instead, order. Mike Ting’s images Naturalize and Overnight Sublime, which appear at the end of JAAM 27’s first section, serve not as a transition from poetry to prose, so much as a means of separating the two—a spatial authority. But then again, perhaps my expectation for word to match action was recklessly and hastily formed (as expectations are wont to be); a weary postmodern conceit, supposing that structure will forever and always remain seemingly haphazard and self-referential. None of this to say that Wanderings does not answer Horrocks’s call for “works that digress in creative ways from narrative, argument, or genre”. As she points out in her Editorial, formal distinctions are blurred throughout the collection, evidenced in the loose-lines of certain poems and by the appearance of three prose poems. Not to mention Vana Manasiadis’s quirky poetic fiction piece: “Wedding Address,” a wonderful exchange of dialogue and photographs, and Martin Edmond’s psychedelic “Thousand Ruby Galaxy,” the first work in the creative non-fiction section, which Horrocks says, “challenges any sharp distinctions one might want to make between fiction and non-” (5).
And perhaps recognizing this difference, between the sharp distinctions and reckless expectations one wants to make, and the reality of the text, is Wanderings’ first challenge. Accordingly, the wanderings of these polished poems and prose are too sincere in their creative digression to be likened to chaos or confused with listlessness. There is a subtlety and nuance in wandering that sets it apart from mere straying or disorientation, a control that is manifest and mastered in this exciting collection.
There are too many contributions to praise and decipher here, too many conversions, conversations, journeys, and correlations to extrapolate and to do them all justice. A brief and bold catalogue is as follows: Martin Edmond’s “The Thousand Ruby Galaxy” waxes lyrical and surreal on technology and poetry while Pat White’s “This Place” asks philosophical questions of exile, migration, and post-colonial societies, and compellingly explores the opposite of wandering: dwelling. Then there is Helen Lehndorf’s short story: “A Stumbling into Motherhood: In Which the Author Saves for a Trip to India But Ends Up Staying in Wellington to Have a Baby Instead and Mainly Finds It Quite Challenging, Perhaps Even More Challenging Than Negotiating the Rajasthani Camel Fair,” which is true in plot and in humour to its title, but which is also a sad, serious, and witty contemplation of modern-day motherhood. Alongside these various explorations, Kelly Joseph captures in “Mt. Taranaki” the widening gap between siblings, most frustrating for the younger sister who tries in vain and frustration to decipher the codes and language of growing up through the mirror of her older sister. Likewise, “Cycling for Safety: A Memoir” by Ian Richards and “In Limbo” by Susanna Gendall speak to the myriad ignorance and the simultaneous astuteness of childhood.
By no means a complete inventory, these synopses are mere morsels of JAAM 27, a taste of the wanderlust, lyrical observations, and boundless curiosity of forty Aotearoa artists. JAMM 27 answers Horrocks’s call for creative wanderings and in so doing, challenges the narrative and generic impulse towards linearity and sometimes even, clarity. Far from literary disarray however, this is an intricately threaded, yet capacious, collection of poetry and prose, whose permeable boundaries have allowed the authors and texts to digress and wander in indulgent, thoughtful, and surprising ways.