Three Thing Thursday: Multitasking, Jazz, and NDQ

Whether Three Thing Thursday is becoming a tradition or a routine depends, I guess, on your point of view. But once again, my week has become hectic and strangely the end of the week is more busy than the start. As a result, my world is pretty fragmentary and all that I have left are snippets of ideas, thoughts, and projects that swirl about my feet as I race from meeting to meeting.

Thing the First

One of the things that I love most about academia is the opportunity to multitask. By this I don’t mean having to flip back and forth between a bunch of open tabs in a browser and a stack of grading while preparing a class and writing an article (although that can also be fun!). What I mean is the inevitable overlap between projects that is so productive for new ideas. For example, I have learned a good bit about how archaeology works in practice through my work as a publisher. Thinking about the technical aspects of making a book has helped me to think more clearly about archaeology as a process of knowledge making that extends not just from the “survey unit” through the database to analysis and interpretation, but continues through the presentation, distribution, and reception of our arguments and data. Without working simultaneously on data collection in the field, computer aided analysis, writing, and publishing, I wouldn’t have entirely grasped this. Working both in the Bakken oil patch and in Greece and Cyprus has likewise informed my thinking on both projects, pushed me to read more widely, and muddied many ideas that I would have confidently said that I understood had I not tried to transfer them from one context to another.   

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to have to deal with just this kind of overlap as I continue to plod ahead with my book on the archaeology of the contemporary world and write a paper for a conference on “Cyprus in the Long Late Antiquity: History and Archaeology between the 6th and the 8th centuries.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it harder to switch gears between project without a good bit grinding and clunking, but maybe that makes the need to switch gears all the more important.

Thing the Second

Recently, I’ve been very quietly working on new project for The Digital Press. What I write here doesn’t really constitute an announcement as much as an acknowledgement that this is something that might very well happen.

Over the past two years, I’ve discovered that I really like jazz. As with so many things in my life, this has slowly grown beyond a kind of casual interest or the vague appreciation of the odd John Coltrane or Charles Mingus album. My interest in jazz is on the very of becoming a full fledged obsession. To be clear, when I get obsessed with with something, it rarely follows a orderly trajectory. I’m not someone who tends toward the exhaustive. Anyone who knows me will admit that I’m a flâneur even when I should adopt a more rigorous approach. Fortunately my flânerie often leads me down some pretty interesting corridors and my interest in jazz led me to try to understand Sun Ra. 

Sun Ra’s discography is particularly baffling. It’s not only immense, but also complicated as his career spanned a range of labels including his own “El Saturn Records” label, Impulse!, and about 40 others. When I first started listening to San Ra’s music, I quickly became baffled especially when I encountered the myriad of re-releases and dodgy bootlegs of his live shows. One of my regular stops as a Sun Ra fan, however, became a series of blog posts called “Sun Ra Sundays”.  

This week, I’ve started a project to publish formally the Sun Ra Sunday blog in collaboration with its author Rodger Coleman (and thanks to some help from Irwin Chusid and Sam Byrd!) I’m pretty excited about being able to bring this to a wider audience, to give it a bit of a formatting, to get it circulating in paper, and to give it a good copy and content edit. Stay tuned.  

Thing the Third

It’s almost time to submit NDQ issue 87.1/2 to the University of Nebraska Press for typesetting and layout. That means this weekend, I get to spend time reviewing and re-reading the amazing contributions to the next issue. It’s one of the absolute best parts of my job at the University of North Dakota, and while I love to work on my own stuff, it’s never as rewarding as promoting the work of others. We posted the first peek at some of the 87.1/2 contents today over at the NDQ blog. Go check it out and stay tuned for more!

Three Things Thursday: Survey Archaeology, Western Literature, and Poetry from a Former Student

My body is gallantly fighting off a cold the week, so I don’t quite have the energy for a long involved post. So, instead, I’ll offer a little “Three Thing Thursday” as I try to keep the balls in the area down the stretch run of the week.

First Thing.

A colleague shared this article with me over the weekend: Kimberly Bowes et al. “Peasant agricultural strategies in southern Tuscany: Convertible agriculture and the importance of pasture” from The Economic Integration of Rural Italy. Rural Communities in a Globalizing World, ed. G. Tol and T. de Haas. (Brill 2017): 165-194. The article uses examples from her Roman Peasant Project to explore the interplay rural land use and the interplay between pastoralism and more settled agriculture. This team of scholars excavates five sites known from intensive survey archaeology from small ceramic scatters. Two were small seasonal or short-duration “work huts” and combining the modest architecture with botanical, palynological, and faunal material collected from the excavations, they were able to suggest that these structures served land that was likely used as pasture. Pasture plays a key role in strategies associated with ley agriculture which allowed fields to go fallow for years in order to restore the soil and stabilize yields. These small structures (and the small ceramic scatters), then, which a survey might have suggested represented the intensification of conventional agriculture, may, in fact, represent a less intensive strategy associated with ley farming.

Among the more interesting observations from this article are a two sites identified by low-density artifact scatters which produced no structures, but did reveal field drains dating to antiquity and probably the Roman period. These field drains consisted of cobble filled trenches. This is exciting to me both because I was unaware that field drains were used in the Roman period, but more importantly, there is relatively few publications that discuss drain building practices in the Roman period. The use of cobbles to slow the flow of water and to prevent the drains from carving deep channels in the fields offers some evidence for why the builders of the “South Basilica” at Polis may have created a “French drain” on the uphill, south side of the church to keep the rush of water down a natural drainage from undercutting the south wall of the basilica. It’s not a perfect analogy but suggests that my argument may not be entirely wrong.

Second Thing.

I’ve been reading John Beck’s Dirty Wars: Landscape, Power, and Waste in Western American Literature (Nebraska 2009). I really like the book. Whatever it’s academic merits (and I’m not really qualified to judge that), it has intrigued me. Beck uses literature to explore the character of the post-war, Cold War Western landscape through an emphasis on Japanese internment, the militarization of the landscape (and the Mexican border), the use of the west as a dumping ground for toxic, nuclear, and otherwise unpleasant waste, and the almost simultaneous emergence of the suburban ideal (cf. J.B. Jackson’s “The Westward Moving House”). Beck makes clear that works like Cormack McCarthy’s Blood Meridian while situated in the past (in this case, the mid-19th century) nevertheless speak to the present situation in a Western landscape shaped by Cold War militarism and its consequences. Elsewhere he weaves together the critiques of Rebecca Solnit, Ellen Meloy, and Terry Tempest Williams which emphasize the role of industry in the refashioning of the Western landscape. While I am embarrassed not to know these works well, I can’t help but wondering whether they influenced somehow my own effort at a similar critique in my The Bakken: An Archaeology of An Industrial Landscape. Don’t be surprised to see these works appear in the ole bloggeroo over the next few weeks. Solnit and Meloy remain priorities for my weekend reading list.

One of the reasons that Beck has excited me so much is that he has pushed me from thinking about archaeology of the contemporary world as a historical and social scientific window onto the contemporary American experience, toward thinking about the archaeology of the contemporary world as a distinctly cultural engagement with late-20th and early-21st century American life. This isn’t meant to deprecate the important work done by people like Jason DeLeon or Shannon Lee Dowdy or Bill Rathje, but to reframe their interventions as much as part of a much larger current of cultural critique. Instead of archaeology treating the contemporary experience as the object of study, archaeology of the contemporary world is (or at, very least, represents) the American experience. If we prioritize the notion of contemporaneity and suggest that it subverts the most common forms of disciplinary and historical detachment, then it makes sense that we can’t study or locate archaeology outside of American culture in the present. This, of course, remains a work in progress.

Third Thing.

I’m very excited to redirect your attention to the North Dakota Quarterly blog this morning. The blog features a poem from Amalia Dillin. Our hardworking poetry editor, Paul Worley, selected this poem for publication without knowing that Amalia was one of my former students at UND where she majored, I think, in Classics but also took history classes. She’s put those classes (and a bunch of her own hard work) to good use as a writer. You can check out her stuff here (although it’s very different from her poem)!

Go read the poem, it’s pretty great and I think summarizes neatly the anxiety that many of use feel in our media saturated lives. 

NDQ 2019 Year in Review

As readers of this blog know, one of my most meaningful side-hustles is being editor of the literary and public humanities journal North Dakota Quarterly. As part of that deal, I post weekly on their blog. Often it’s a poem, story, or essay from a volume of NDQ. Sometimes it’s an update on the next issue. Other times it’s something unique to the blog for an editor or a contributor.  If you sort of like what I do here and want to explore some of my other interests, do check out the NDQ blog.

I always urge folks to contribute, subscribe, or otherwise support (by, for example, sharing links when we do post), with the same little paragraph: 

It goes without saying that NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. Please consider submitting to NDQsubscribing, or downloading our previous volume.  For some content from NDQ 86.1/2, click here, and for content from our most recent issue, 86.3/4, click here. You can download volume 85 for free here.

This past week, I linked to the 15 or so most popular posts on the NDQ page posted over the past year. There’s a ton of great stuff, but the readers of this blog might be most interested in these:

“Lullaby For Bones,” “Saint Pocahontas,” and “Trickster Story” by Jenny L. Davis is a great series of poems that explore the relationship between indigenous academics and their past.

Shadow Matter” by J. A. Bernstein is a haunting story of academic life.

“Tourism Theory” and “Theophilus Luatima at the End of the World” by George Fragopoulos speaks of tourism and the end of the world, which are familiar themes to anyone who visits the Mediterranean.

Images of Austerity” by Wyatt Atchley comes from our work at the Wesley College Documentation Project.  

David Pratt’s “An Olive Grove in Crete, 1941” refracts with Greek history.

~

Here are the rest of the most popular posts from 2019. 

The Gay as Pariah” by Sharon Carson (and also check out her essay “Trickle Up Art”)

“In Your Mind You Go to Water” and “Missio Mei” by Kimberly Becker.

Double Helix” by Ronna Wineberg.

Green Scarf” by Judith Ford.

The Rain” by Marcus Amaker.

An Interview with William H. Gass” by Crystal Alberts (also check out her essay “Festscrift”)

Indians of Alcatraz: 50th Anniversary of the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz (1969-1971)” by Gayatri Devi.

Chronoscope 126: The moon, the closest orbit” by John Walser.

~

And here are three post that deserve more attention:

Paper Man” by Paula Brown.

Clutch” by Clay Matthews.

“american idols” and “the last of the polka dots” by Evan Anders.

Wide-Ranging Wednesday: ASOR, Alcatraz, and Failing Gloriously

I’m heading out west today to the annual meeting of ASOR in San Diego. As per usual, I’m pulling together a gaggle of books to keep me company on the flights and during down times at the conference.

For the flight, I’m going to read Joyce Carol Oates On Boxing as I prepare myself for a winter of rather remarkable fights starting on Saturday with the Wilder vs. Ortiz heavy weight tilt, December 7th with Joshua vs. Ruiz, and on December 14th with Bud Crawford, Mick Conlan, and Teofimo Lopez in action. I’m pretty excited.

I’ve also packed along a copy of François Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2015) as I think about the practical, methodological, and ethical time of legacy data. Along similar lines, I’m carrying with me the intimidating works of Reinhard Kosselleck, but I’ll probably start with Niklas Olsen’s History in the plural an introduction to the work of Reinhart Koselleck (2012) before dipping my toes into Futures Past: on the semantics of historical time (2004) or Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories (2018). This was mostly prompted by Laurent Olivier and Marek Tamm’s Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism (2019).

As per usual, at the 11th hour I added David Staley’s Alternative Universities: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education (2019) to my Kindle on the recommendation of Richard Rothaus.

The flight to San Diego will also be a great chance to think through some strategies to promote the newest book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota that is set to be published on December 1. Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays is a series of reflective pieces on his life as a digital archaeologist and a digital humanist in the first decades of the 21st century. The book is part archaeological autobiography and part commentary on ways to make academia a safer place for failure.

Advanced copies of the book are in the wind and the feedback has been really positive (which I’m sure is as much a relief to Shawn as it is to me!). We were both really excited to read Quinn Dombrowski’s thoughtful review of the book on the Stanford DH blog. Check it out! 

And stay tuned to this page for a sneak peek of the introduction next week.   

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t nudge folks to read Gayatri Devi’s short essay on the North Dakota Quarterly blog on the 50th anniversary of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz. For many reasons, this event has not garnered the same public awareness as other episodes of protest in the late 1960s. That it occurred at the same time as protests by African Americans, anti-war protestors, and other movements that exposed the hypocrisy in late-20th century American political, economic, and cultural life, offers a clear reminder that the story of Native Americans remains deeply entangled in the complex critiques of contemporary America. It is hardly surprising then, that Tommy Orange’s There, There (2018) which is set in the Native American community of contemporary Oakland, looks back to the occupation of Alcatraz as a key moment in both the novel and that community’s story. Reading Tommy Orange or Dean Rader’s Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI (2011) over the Thanksgiving is a nice way to ignore the white-washed portrayal of Native Americans so closely associated with that holiday.  

North Dakota Quarterly by its Cover

Twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, by universe comes to stop as North Dakota Quarterly streaks across the sky. Suddenly, I’m managing the editing and production workflow for 90-100 pieces of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction carefully selected by genre editors. These go to copy editing and get organized into a volume before heading to typesetting. Once the volume is typeset it comes back to me and I circulate to my authors as page proofs. They almost always fine little mistakes and these all have to go back to the publisher for final revisions.

This process is time consuming and exhausting, but also very rewarding. The back-and-forth with authors reminds me of the often-intense personal and emotional investment in creative work of all kinds. The genuine excitement – even among seasoned authors – to get their work to our audience is invigorating and reminds me to take the time to enjoy my own creative work. There’s nothing more fun than opening my inbox and seeing a new issue of NDQ is alive.

One of the final steps in the production process is selecting a cover design for the new issue. Part of the charm of editorial board is that almost all the designs proposed by our publisher find some enthusiasm. As many as there are editors, there are preferences. 

Here are the three finalists for the cover of the upcoming issue. All feature a photograph from our art editor, Ryan Stander.

NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. If you’re interested, please consider submitting to NDQsubscribing, or downloading our previous volume for free.  

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NDQ 86.3/4 by the Numbers

When every issue of NDQ is sent to the publishers, I do some basic numbers work just to try to summarize the issue a bit. It’s probably best if you don’t check my maths too carefully, but based on my casual reckoning, NDQ 86.3/4 will feature 5 essays, 6 stories, 14 photographs, and 132 poems. I posted the table of contents last week (and over the next couple of months we’ll continue to post some content from the issue here. What we’d really like you to do, however, is to subscribe!

Since we know something about our contributors, it is possible to crunch the numbers and try to get a different view of our next issue. (For some context on this kind of thing is useful, I’ve written a little essay here). A quick (and undoubtedly fuzzy) survey of first names (and bios) has produced  contributors are 57% men and 43% women, but the contributions themselves are split 51% by men and 49% by women.

In terms of regional distribution of our authors 14% of our contributors were from New York, around 10% are international, and Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California are represented by around 5% each. 4 contributors are from North Dakota and Texas. Over all, we have 31 different states and provinces represented. 

To put those numbers in context, I started to look back at the submissions that we have received over the last year or so. Our data isn’t perfect, because in some cases our editors keep their submittable inbox clean and periodically delete reviewed content that’s either been published or rejected. That being said, we still have almost 2000 submissions to consider (around 1100 fiction submissions, 400 poetry submissions, and 200 non fiction submissions). 

These submissions reveal that far more submissions come from men than women. For fiction the spit is 68% to 27% (and some that I could not determine), for poetry it is almost identical: 67% to 28%, and non fiction is 58% to 37%. To be clear, I recognize that gender (and more specifically, the gender of names) is not the only or even necessarily the best metric to understand our submitters, but the gender imbalance was a bit striking.

As far are regional numbers go, New York and California represent the most common place of origin in the U.S. for all three genres (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). The second most common place of origin for poetry, however, is outside North America; this is the third most common place of origin for non-fiction. Fiction contributions are far less likely to come from outside of North America. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are a common homes for many contributors in in non-fiction and fiction. For poetry, we appear to be a popular destination for poets in Alabama. We attract a substantial number of fiction submissions from Illinois and non-fiction submissions from Virginia. North Dakota poets are better represented than fiction or non-fiction authors. Otherwise, our submissions come from across the U.S. and Canada.  

It goes without saying that these numbers do not reflect the diverse identities of our submitters and contributors and gender and place of residence may not even be the most important ways to understand who our authors really are. Race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and a range of other identities based on backgrounds, experiences, and human complexity makes us who we are. At its best, the poems, stories, and essays in NDQ reflect this complex diversity, and we recognize that our submitters, contributors, subscribers, and editors do as well. Looking at the numbers, however, is a useful tip of the iceberg.    

Issue 86.3/4 Table of Contents

Many readers of this blog know … or at least suspect … that I have a side hustle as editor of the century-old literary magazine, North Dakota Quarterly. It’s not a great hustle, by the way, in that it doesn’t pay me anything, but it’s increasingly become something that I enjoy almost as much as writing this blog.

This week issue NDQ 86.3/4 went off to our publishing partners at the University of Nebraska Press. We’re pretty proud of this issue and excited to get it into the hands of our readers. 

Look for this issue to appear in mid to late November. As a bit of a tease, find the table of contents below, and, if it looks cool to you, consider sharing this on social media or at least telling your friends, partners, colleagues, and random strangers. It goes without saying that NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, subscribers, and, of course, editors, to thrive.

If you write, please consider submitting to NDQ, if you read, consider subscribing or downloading volume 85 for free.  If you just want to know what’s up, then check out our blog with lots of cool content here.

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Table of Contents

Poetry Editor’s Note
Paul Worley

Seeking Beatrice
Ryan Stander

Therese and Isabelle
Rock Isle at Low Tide
Patrick Meighan

Pencil
Toccata
Cicadas
Flower of Stone
Elina Petrova

Lifeblood
Wild Cat
Night Candles
Scott T. Hutchison

I Was Walking
Waking to Winter
Becky Kennedy

The rain
Marcus Amaker

Weed
Matthew J. Spireng

Forgetting
John Talbird

Glass
Mark Parsons

Hometown Visitor
Remembering My Children
David R. Solheim

American Bounty
The wolves have done their worst
John Sibley Williams

How We’ll Walk
Kevin Rabas

Waking in the city
Ira Rosenstein

The Anna Nicole Smith Poem
When Plato Shows Me the Sun
Danielle Nicole Byington

Harper and Marisol
Megan Howell

After the National People’s Congress Approved the Constitution Amendments, Which Removes Presidential Term Limits and Allows Xi to Rule China Forever
Kuo Zhang

A Drone Is Nothing Like the Sun
Jeanette Beebe

“Who Am I That I Am Not on Trial or in Prison?”
Ace Boggess

Dorothy at Fifty
Joel Allegretti

From Recent History
David Dephy

Nine Months After the Burning of Club Boccaccio
McAllen, Texas (1979)
Marlene Galván

Comfort Food
Victoria Bañales

Unvarnished
Amalia Dillin

Today at the thrift store
Bush League in Youth Soccer
Kevin J. McDaniel

Jorgia Wants a Chapter
Storey Clayton

Faust
The Other Sister
Harry Newman

This Goes On
The Bowerbird
Angie Mason

Picture-Happy Mind
Ibis
Peter Specker

Chameleon
Robin Gow

Dead Deer
Mattias Carosella

Not a Love Song
Cloudscape
Donna Pucciani

Homeward
Midnight Navidad
Lorraine Caputo

Heat Waves in the Ice Age
Wind Power
Robert S. King

Heat Wave with Sunflowers
Michael Rogner

Somnabulant Nation
Five and Infinite
Precipitation
Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Scientific Methods
James Sallis

To Call Your Own
The Cancer, Mija, is a Revenge on the Body
Spanish Lessons/ My Tongue Does Not Form the Shape of My Mother’s Tongue
Christine Amezquita

Courageous Living
Ella Alkiewicz

Baby Teeth
M. M. Adjarian

Stress Test
Gaby Bedetti

birthday
Corbett Buchly

Conception
Jodie Mortag

Cycle Unbroken
Anna Whiteside

A Week of Zen
Wendy Wisner

Child Who Won’t Sleep
Where There Is No Darkness
The Voice of Blood
Catherine Carter

A Poem to the Killing Virgin
Aaron Wallace

There is no beyond
This poem is not
Here is the watery grave
Peter Grandbois

Secreto/Secret
Espejo de agua/ Mirror of Water
Palpitante semilla/ Pulsating Seed
Xánath Caraza (translated by Sandra Kingery)

When the Water Recedes
Bonnie Larson Staiger

Byron elégeti Shelley tetemét a tengerparton/Byron Burns Shelley’s Corpse on the Shore
Gábor Lanckor (translated by Gabor G Gyukics)

Collection: Yala (Land)
For my people
Nuestras Abuelas
Camino/Way
Nii (Hermano Luna)
Sue Haglund

Untitled
Nate Preus

provenance
choose not
commandment
Ignacio Carvajal

Divide the Days
John Leonard

Defunct
Gale Acuff

Felix Culpa
Virginia Wiles

Saving Eros from the Middleman
Miriam O’Neal

The Last Freight Train
Lori Horvitz

Dangerous Currency
Loose Tooth
Sara Dovre Wudali

On Moving Out of My First Apartment
Michael Homolka

Stairs
Brandon Krieg

The Car Wash
Gilian Neiditch

Abel
Matthew Sisson

The Museum of Egyptian History
Don Raymond

Swallow, Do Not Chew
George Ryan

Copper Jazva
Elaine Reardon

Semillas de esperanza/ Seeds of Hope
Flores para el corazón/ Flowers for the Heart
Xun Betan (translated by Sean Sell)

Badlands
The knots we knit
C. R. Resetarits

Threads from the Heart Sky
Michelle Donahue

Playing with Cages
#4506
Clelia O. Rodríguez

The Photographer
Sofiul Azam

Burst
Self-Portrait as ICE as Teenager
Little Dream
Nicholas Reiner

Lullaby For Bones
Saint Pocahontas
Trickster Story
Jenny L. Davis

Ensnared In Heaven’s Nets
Kathleen Gunton

Obelisk
Jane Blanchard

We, the Many
Marie-Andree Auclair

Anemia
Circulating
Vivian Wagner

Magician’s Assistant
David B. Prather

Brief Elegy for William Harrold
Kenneth Pobo

Obituary: Salvatore Cacosa
John J. Trause

A short poem for my wife, my mother, and my unborn daughter
Special Education, ACT prep, and Hephaestus
Writing with the Devil
John McDonough

For my daughter
Tradition and the Individual Talent
Olivia Lawrance

Red Schwinn
Nicholas Mohlmann

Wearing Sadness
Kip Zegers

Appetite
After Chemo
Norita Dittberner-Jax

Ordinary Language Philosophy
David Hargreaves

critical invitation
Carl “Papa” Palmer

Sonnet for a day like today
Sonnet at that time of year
William Joel

A Tax Thicket: 26 U.S.C. §§
Thomas E. Simmons

End Notes
Rob Kenagy

North Dakota Quarterly

I’ve been trying to stay on top of the North Dakota Quarterly website and blog this summer. This involves making sure that we have at least one post a week and keeping track of changes to our subscription website at University of Nebraska Press and our submission website via Submittable. Fortunately, I’ve also had some help from colleagues on the editorial board who have offered some thoughtful “Short Takes.”  NDQ 86 1 2 cover  1  dragged

This week’s posts at NDQ are pretty special. On Tuesday, I posted the introduction to our special issue on the late William H. Gass and, today I posted a rather long (by interweb standards) interview with the author. In the interview he touches on Gass’s friendship with William Gaddis, the Beats, and some of the leading lights in post-modern literature in the late 20th century. Both are by Crystal Alberts. 

These two article introduce a special section in this issue of NDQ that is a tribute to William Gass from some of his closest colleagues and admirers. It’s definitely worth checking out and while I’m proud of every issue of NDQ, I’m particularly proud of this one. Check it out.

Ephemera

I’ve been thinking a good bit about ephemera lately and how to distinguish between things that should be kept and cherished and things that have value in the moment, but there’s no particular reason to keep them in our lives and world. I always think of newspapers and magazines as ephemera. They are useful to read on a lazy Sunday, but are best kept (and slowly altered and recombined and sifted) in our memories than on the end table in the living room or in a stack near the most comfortable chair in the house.

A few things promoted me to think about the ephemeral.

First, one my goals for North Dakota Quarterly was to make the entire run of the journal available on various online platforms. The idea is that people could delve back into the Quarterly and find overlooked gems or return to reflect on an essay or story. To that end, I’ve linked to a bunch of the NDQ archive online and made it available via the HathiTrust, the archives has seen a good flow of traffic, which is heartening, but only about 5% of the visitors click through. 

One of the things that I’ve come to realize about little magazines is that they have an ephemeral quality to them. The desire among some members of my editorial board to produce NDQ in paper was grounded not in the persistence of the medium, but, in someways, in its ephemerality, in parallel with magazines and newspapers, compared to the easy persistence of digital formats. 

Second, I read a few posts lately about the carbon footprint of websites and the emerging low-tech green web. I’ve toyed with the idea refashioning my blog as a static site. This is partly because static sites are lightweight, quick to load, and widely compatible with even the most simple devices and use less energy. I also wonder whether I a very lightweight static site would complement a version of my blog where I produce a single post per day and that post to overwrites the previous days post. This would create a more ephemeral quality to my web writing. The ideas and text would be accessible for a day and then vanish (or move onto a more permanent home in an article or a conference paper or something else).  

An experiment like this would both be liberating for me (as I could be more provocative when I am less worried about the archive of my site being easily accessible forever), but I also could write more in the moment with less responsibility to trace some kind of coherent arc of thought.

Less selfishly, it would also celebrate the vibrancy of media ephemerality not as producing idea that don’t persist, but as a way to create ideas that only persist within the person who reads them and are not burdened by reference to a particular text. 

Finally, I started think more about the tension between possessions and things. The idea that we possess a thing implies its persistence. An embrace of the ephemeral, on the other hand, privileges the momentary utility of an object. As various popular voices have urged us to minimize our possessions and maintain a trim and tidy personal space, it seems to me that they’ve drawn greater attention to the value of ephemeral objects that are useful and then passed on or discarded once they’ve served their immediate purpose. On the one hand, this might create a world where there are fewer things encroaching on our space. On the other hand, personal austerity rarely is possible without access to a wide range of services and objects that are ready to use, but also at arm’s length. Useful and ephemeral things appear in our lives and disappear back into the margins when their purpose is fulfilled. (I’ve argued, playfully, that pickup trucks are like that. Despite being a symbol of bourgeois excess, they are often useful, and truck owners often share their vehicles with a community of friends and neighbors who, for various reasons, do not want to burdens of truck ownership.)   

Download NDQ 85 for Free

One of the things that makes me a kind of terrible publisher (and editor) is that I love to give stuff away. In most cases, this doesn’t matter because the editing and production of the work in question is a more or less sunk cost.

In other cases, it DOES matter. We’re giving away volume 85 of NDQ. The hope is to attract subscribers, contributors, and supporters (even if they just buy a paper copy of NDQ 85 having found the download engaging enough to read). My hope is that we can develop enough of a subscriber base over the next two or three years to allow us to release every volume of NDQ as a free download. Here’s I’m following the idea of unlocking the commons that folks like Jason Kottke and Tim Carmody have bandied about lately. In a nutshell, the idea is to encourage folks to subscribe not to get access to content, but to support making content available for more and more people. I want to work with our new publishers at University of Nebraska Press to set some realistic subscriber targets for making at least one issue a year available as a free download. Since many of our potential subscribers are also contributors, I feel like there is a real benefit to expanding the access to the Quarterly and developing a sense of community among readers, contributors, and subscribers.

So here’s my official blurb on making volume 85 available for free download. Check it out, if you want. I think it’s pretty great, but, as I said, I’m kind of a terrible publisher (and editor). 

Little magazines like North Dakota Quarterly are so resilient and enduring because people contribute to them, people subscribe to them, and people read them

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To celebrate all the people who have helped to make North Dakota Quarterly possible, we’re very happy to release the entire volume 85 as a free download. Go here to download it. (If you’re not sure you can handle the commitment of a free download, you can sample some of the great content in this volume here.) 

We also have reopened poetry and non-fiction submission until the end of the May with another reading period scheduled for September 1 – November 30. Send us your poetry and non-fiction! Fiction will remain open throughout the year as always. Go here to submit.

As NDQ moves forward, we’d love to be able to share the contents of each issue for free, but to make this happen, we need have a healthy base of subscribers.  So, if you can and you like what we do, please subscribe. Also, while you’re at it buy a copy of NDQ 85!