Once every two weeks

Pub date November 24, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionLiterature


LIT I have a stack of Try magazines on my lap as I write this. The pages are white, marked by the black of letters and photocopied pen marks and the gray shades of color photos or aged pages filtered through Xerox. Some of the pieces in issues are printouts of e-mails, or maps of sites in Oakland going into foreclosure. Others are copied from typewritten pages — or bank receipts. There are numbered lists, unnumbered lists, exquisite corpses, poetic critiques of programs, hidden sonnets for the public, and mash notes from poet to poet. There are images of Peter Lorre, and images by Dean Smith. One of my favorite poems in Try is "Flipper Turns 25," by Alli Warren. Another, by Stan Apps, is partly about Big Star. One of my favorite issues has writing about Contempt (1963) and Overboard (1987). Cover stars include one of Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculptures, at least one member of Ralph Eugene Meatyeard’s Crater family, and an erect David Wojnarowicz wearing an Arthur Rimbaud mask. It was in Try that I learned that no book by Jack Spicer is under copyright. The names of the contributors to an issue of Try are usually found on or near the back cover.

SFBG Why Try?

Sara Larsen Working with what you have at hand. Just because we don’t have much money, that doesn’t mean we can’t put out a magazine every two weeks or so. Also, we looked around us one day and realized we are surrounded by brilliant writers and artists. And that all of them really should know what the others are currently working on, that this knowing is generative and produces more work.

David Brazil We’ve seen so many people assume that it’s impossible to get anything done in the arts without institutional support, grants, or other kinds of fundraising. We intentionally designed our project to be as inexpensive as possible to produce and also to be free. We’re trying to give the lie to a whole set of assumptions — both about how something is made, and what it could be for.

SFBG How do you manage to print biweekly/bimonthly? How have Try‘s content and the submissions changed over time (if they have changed)?

DB We usually manage to print by the seat of our pants. There’s invariably some logistical or financial obstacle. We’ve tried to learn the lesson of incorporating setbacks as constraints governing the production of the product — a sort of chance operation. And as it’s turned out, issues we’ve produced in this way have often been far better than what we imagined in the first place.

SFBG The particulars: when did you begin publishing Try, what are your frameworks or structures for it, and how many issues have you done to date? What do you like about the folded 8 1/2 by 14-inch (or 2 by 7-inch) format?

DB We began publishing Try in the spring of 2008 and developed our framework as we went along. We’re in the habit of breaking rules as soon as it becomes apparent that they are rules, but we’ve done every issue staplebound on legal size paper, so that’s become habitual. I’d guess we’ve done 28, but we date them rather than number them, so sometimes even we lose track.

SL The 8 1/2 x 14 paper we fold over to make Try gives a spacious page and it’s easy — every copy store has it.

SFBG Do themes or similarities ever emerge within an issue due to happenstance?

DB As time has gone by and our slush pile has expanded, we’ve gotten into the habit of curating our issues around not themes exactly, but motifs, which can show up in subtle ways. The issues we’re the most proud of end up harmonizing the work of the individual contributors and themselves forming an aesthetic whole.

SL Sometimes we’ll know someone is coming to town to read and we’ll solicit work from them and a number of poets who we think resonate with their work. And we’ll throw in some surprises too — someone unexpected, or someone whose work is totally different from everything else in the issue.

SFBG Have you found out about any writers through their sending work unsolicited?

DB We’ve found many writers this way — and we encourage such submissions!

SFBG Who would you love to receive an unsolicited submission from?

DB and SL Lessee … Bernadette Mayer, Susan Howe, Raymond Pettibon, Dennis Cooper, Bhanu Kapil, Will Alexander, Rob Fitterman, Samuel Delany, whoever’s reading this …

SFBG What motivates you to write?

DB Ineluctability.

SFBG Do you like photocopiers? What tips do you have for people who want to use them?

DB and SL Man, we fucking love photocopiers. And materiality. What is done by hand. We are not about the Internet. We are about a physical object that contains many people’s work passing hand to hand.

DB My only real advice is, make sure to print a sample set before you run off 100 copies.

SL We are also not opposed at all to people borrowing their friends’ copies of Try, bringing it to the copyshop themselves and making more. Not many people have thought to do this, surprisingly, but we’d love it if they did.

SFBG What are you obsessed with at the moment?

DB Obsolete technologies. Prophecy and the logos. Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. The contents of our next issue.

SL Quiet reading and writing time. Cooking greens. Study groups.

SFBG Has the experience of putting together and distributing Try changed your view of writing in the Bay Area, and if so, how?

DB We’ve always thought of Try as an attempt to provide a mirror within which a very dynamic writing community may see itself — and, hopefully, be seen by future readers. If anything, we’ve become convinced in the past year that the local scene is even more vibrant and populous than we’d previously imagined, which is very hard to believe.

SFBG What are some of the more enigmatic or strange contributions you’ve received?

DB We’ve received bar reviews, anonymous cartoons, scribbles on napkins, ATM receipts, rejection letters from MFA writing programs, texts in braille, faxes from different time zones … and lots and lots of amazing poetry.

SL We’ve also found on the ground or stuffed in library books drawings or pictures that have become our covers or part of an issue.

SFBG What would you like to see more of in Try?

DB We initially imagined Try as a testing ground for work still underway, or else brand new, provisional, still-to-be-revised — and we’d still love to see more of that kind of writing.

Try magazine is on hiatus until January, 2010. Write to Try at 3107 Ellis, Berkeley, CA 94703 or at trymagazine@gmail.com.