Douglas Kearney with Michael Martin Shea

9780819576088Best American Experimental Writing i​s an anthology series focused on dynamic literature from both emerging and established writers. Selections come from work published in journals the previous year, unpublished solicitations, and a blind submission pool, and the anthology is collaboratively edited by the series editors (Seth Abramson and Jesse Damiani) and a yearly guest editor. This year, the guest editor of B​est American Experimental Writing w​as the poet, performer, and librettist Douglas Kearney, who spoke with BAX managing editor Michael Martin Shea about the selection process and what experimental art can mean today.

Michael Martin Shea: Hi Douglas! Thanks for taking the time to chat about BAX. I want to start off talking about the editing experience itself. Did the process of curating this anthology lead you to question or expand your own notion of “experimental writing?”

Douglas Kearney: One of the submission guidelines stated—I’ll paraphrase it—that “experimental” could simply mean experimental for the writer in question. Of course, to s​olicit a​nd then select writing of this character requires some knowledge of the writer’s more tried approaches. Even so, I find the idea of experimentation as a potentially idiosyncratic act to be consonant with the idea that experimental is, first, a process and not an aesthetic—a notion I found resonant before Seth invited me to serve as guest editor. On the other hand, working on B​AX 2015 ​led me to consider how what might not seem legibly experimental to some readers might be clearly experimental in the context of the tradition from which the writer works. I’d love to explore that more now as a reader than selector.

The People: Episode 31 (Douglas Kearney and Tisa Bryant)

The People, with Insert Blanc Editor and Publisher Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Artist Ben White, features the voices and ideas of The People that make up the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the west coast, and beyond on KCHUNG 1630AM every 3rd Sunday at 3pm and podcast on iTunes as The People Radio. The People is me, The People is you, The People is we, and You Can Too! … like a Broken Record magically repaired. In this issue of The Conversant, we feature episode 31 with Douglas Kearney and Tisa Bryant.