New Poetry: Foundlings Vol. I and Ghost City Review Vol. II

Sunday night marked a special occasion for the Buffalo literary scene: a new poetry magazine was born, in a fete of tears and sausages, IPAs and whiskey-waters, howls and man-hugs and microphone drops. Maybe a few in the audience went out after to evangelize — which is good, because we’ll have to go quiet for a while. We’re not done – last night made that much clear to all of us. We just have to set forth and find new foundlings for volume two.

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It feels weird even now to call Foundlings something “special,” because the zine started, in a conversation on the balcony of Pearl Street last September, as a very personal project: Max Crinnin and I, dissatisfied with the way the Zine System puts out literature and inspired by some post-Beat zines of the 70s, decided, just for ourselves, to carry out an Aesthetic Project that might, as a side-effect, ennoble the too tedious lives were then living. S. James Coffed joined us in spirit and then in practice as we spent many nights around a table, before a box of scraps spanning plant sketches, love letters, business  cards, deposit slips, and a pre-DSM encyclopedia of neuroses, all the while thinking that this might amount to some 50 copies shared with our friends.

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Then Darren Canham joined as Art Director, and some of our more daring ideas were suddenly and quietly made reality. It became more than a vanity exercise, then more than a “young man’s” magazine, then more than a “Buffalo” publication. In the end it managed, I think, to live up to its name. Seeing the bar fill with an unlikely assemblage last night – high school and middle school teachers, travelers, college students and insurance agents, media mavens, counselors and pharmacists, financiers, programmers, and one Merchant Marine – I realized we had made something that might not merely be printed and die – that though we had brought it to life, others might help to sustain it, and already were sustaining it. Even before the first round of readings was through (and, yes, there was a second, late and hop-headed and sloppy), I could see that the zine had done what I’ve come to see as literature’s ancient duty: creating new meaning in the abyss between reader and writer – doing the impossible – shooting the gap – flashing in lightnings of empathy. When a mentor and I closed out the Sterling Tap and Wurst that Sunday night – edging on midnight; the other poets and drinkers had long since departed – one of the only other two patrons called down the bar to me. “Are you selling that thing?” he said. And then, almost timidly: “I’d like to buy one.”

Foundlings, indeed.

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One of the things we’d most hoped would result from putting Foundlings out into the world would be to attract other poets and tap into the community here in Buffalo, while at the same time starting to build a platform that would reach outside the city. We did that early on, meeting Justin Karcher, a contributor to volume one – and then others who helped along the way: J. Rigney of Second Reader and Jon Welch of Talking Leaves, and Ben Brindise who came out to support the launch. Through Karcher, I also got to connect with the awesome folks at Ghost City Press (the Syracuse outfit who published Justin’s Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (which you can buy here)). I was lucky enough to become one of the eight Buffalo poets who’ll be traveling – in spirit – down the 90 to take part in Ghost City Review Vol. 3. I’ll have two poems in the digital journal, which you can download (for free, though donations are cheered) May 3rd.

So: while you might not hear much from the Foundlings editors over the summer, as we settle into new jobs and new cities, we’ll be back at it before too long. We were talking covers, spreads, and epigrams over drinks last night – and now, more than a few people know what happens when we sink out eye-teeth into an idea.

Get ready for more poem-things.

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