Together, these six chapbooks look like some kind of bouquet. It is no surprise that something from Alice Blue, an online journal and press, would be beautiful—they are known for their meticulous, artful book production, with work ranging from the recent release Monster: A Glottochronology, by TFD and Thomas Cook, which consists of two hand-sewn signatures of French archival paper and a red vellum slip ($12), to a $500 story quilt which depicts Laked, Fielded, Blanked by Brooklyn Copeland in silk-screen images and hand-embroidered lettering. Their latest project, Shotgun Wedding ($20/$5 each), a chapbook series that highlights the work of Pacific Northwest authors, seems at first like a far cry from their usual production. Shotgun Wedding is just printed pages, folded in half and stapled. In an e-mail, Amber Nelson, the creator and editor of Alice Blue, said, "I wanted to make chapbooks without the usual waiting for handmade paper or picking the right vellum or hand-carving linoleum stamps or hand-carving plastic stencils, without the hours of sewing. Just lo-fi, take it to your local copy shop, wham, bam, thank you, ma'am."
And yet, the series arrived at a look that could become iconic. "The design was kind of slowly built," wrote Amber. "I knew I just wanted to do photocopy chapbooks with saddle staples. But I thought they would just be white." When she decided to publish all six at the same time, with uniform font and design, she thought "it also made sense to do something that would distinguish them from each other. The orange one. The pink one. The blue one. You know?"
When describing her desire to focus on the Northwest, Nelson wrote, "Seattle is fucking vibrant right now," citing the Five Alarms Lit Crawl, the Furnace series, SPLAB, the Breadline, and others. These chapbooks have as much vibrancy as the community they're drawn from.
The belle of the ball is Tara Atkinson's Bedtime Stories, or rather, "the purple one." You might know Atkinson from her work with APRIL (Authors, Publishers, and Readers of Independent Literature), which collaborated on Lit Crawl Seattle a few weeks ago. It's a pleasure to see the writer behind the rabble-rousing. I love it when an author can make me feel nostalgic for the life I am presently living, treating the quotidian as something we should treasure. Bedtime Stories feels like going through a box of photographs from a gorgeously average youth, with bus commuters, various common foods, "mid-sized bungalow homes," city planners, couples asleep and ignoring each other. Her prose has none of the tired trappings of young writers with something to prove; it's sweet, sincere, and feels personal and intimate without being self-aggrandizing. One of my favorite stories, in its entirety:
For the Kitchen
A cherry popsicle or a bowl of cereal or a Pop-Tart or a piece of toast; cold pizza, hot tea, orange juice, Saltines, ice cream, apple, blueberries, baby carrots; those ring-shaped cookies with fudge on the bottom, maybe, maybe bread, maybe pomegranate.
I wanted to wake up next to you in the middle of the night and head to the kitchen for a snack and I wanted to know you long enough to know what food it would be.
Other volumes of note in the series include the unbelievable exercise in punnery Reflummoxology: Or, a Navel Inverse (get it?) by Tim Orme. It is a flabbergasting read, some kind of Pynchonion nightmare. Orme must have one of the sharpest minds for language in the Pacific Northwest, and it is as though he's decided to use his powers for evil, not for good.
Some lines from Reflummoxology read, "Should we buy him some breed? Maybe a fun girlick loaf or a french broad? Two hot buns for the loven." The whole volume is written like that. It's hard to follow the plot, but easy to get caught up in the book at the level of the line, cracking the code of what Orme is saying. It's brilliant, different, and completely insane.
The four remaining volumes are the poets: Elizabeth Myhr, with The Dictator's Mistress; Michael Rerick, with Morefrom; Bill Carty, with Refugium; and Trina Burke, with The Best Divorce. Bill Carty's "Mutuals" series is worth a read—for example, the poem "Mutual Nightmare":
Where are the children?
The sailors bought the children.
The poetry volumes generally don't shine as brightly as Shotgun Wedding's fiction offerings, but Elizabeth Myhr holds her own with a poignant and honest volume dedicated to survivors of domestic violence, to whom she says in her afterword, "It is never too late to be safe." Myhr has an MFA from Seattle Pacific University, and her craft is evident in her ability to move, upset, and right the reader without resorting to any cheap emotional puppeteering.
Nelson says Shotgun Wedding will likely be an ongoing project, and she encourages submissions through the Alice Blue website. You could be the next "purple one."