At long last, 5_trope 23 is here--and I hope I can be forgiven for feeling like we have begun to forge something out of the clay that is truly remarkable. A journal composed at what Lionel Trilling called "the dark and bloody crossroads" between the aesthetic and the political, not to mention the experimental and the analytical. Many of the writers showcased here have been on our docket for some time. 5_trope's history has been peppered with brief hiatuses, and there was another one this summer--the demands of family, moving and the academic life became too much for this editor in the summer months. Nevertheless, each issue for me feels akin to a new beginning; it was Gertrude Stein who commented that to compose was to perpetually "begin again"--and this new beginning marks an internet poetry that embraces this historical moment at the same time as it poses a stiff challenge to its conventions and modes of thought.
A few of the writers in issue 23--Davis Schneiderman and Susan M. Schultz, to name only two--take as their subject and form the 21st-century media landscape itself. Schneiderman's piece may take the form of a jeremiad against "television"--but like many of us, he also recognizes that we of necessity love television, that its penetration to the heart of culture means that we must turn to it in order to understand ourselves. Schultz takes the form of the blog and unlocks what has been a latent poetry that has lurked in its recesses all along--its backward trajectory that offers its reader a meditation on memory and the amnesia of postmodern life par excellence.
For these and other reasons, I was tempted to call this the "media" issue--because in the end, media interpellates us, tells us who we are, shapes what sort of person we may become. And a kind of meta-question is suggested here--a conundrum that permeates the media landscape. Can print survive on the internet? Is the web merely a landscape of text, or must it become "multimedia" in order to survive? But in truth, most of the content on the internet is text, in one form or another. Consider that this is the age of the blog, in which producers and consumers of text now occupy the same body, not to mention the same conversational space. Or the age of the message board, the chat room, the fan site, MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia, the list goes on. This issue, inasmuch as it is a "media" issue, is about that connection between the production of culture and its consumption--and from this emerges yet another "dark and bloody crossroads," at which stands our reader, simultaneously writing, reading and written about. We used to believe that things were not real unless they happened on television--but the internet has taken that mantle and run with it--virtuality is, as Baudrillard predicted, the new reality--if you don't believe me, try googling yourself.
The title of this issue, "One second before cluster bombing," is taken from Davis Schneiderman's piece, and I chose it in part because it embodies the historical moment that we find ourselves in--always on the brink of the next great happening, so attentive to the flow of time around us that history itself has become a flattened and barren landscape in which events move by too quickly to provide one another with context.
It's therefore strange that so many online journals are proceeding blithely along as though there had not been a cataclysmic alteration in our media landscape in recent years. So many are producing the same middle-brow, in-flight magazine fare that the few bright lights--Diagram, elimae, McSweeney's--stand out as lighthouses guiding us into the future, in which everyone will be a writer for 15 minutes and will produce their own cultural context against a background so overcrowded as to seem barren. It's an elite company, and we don't pretend that our light shines as bright or extends as far--but we feel that we're doing something different and new at 5_trope--so we've decided to light the lamps.
gunnar benediktsson, ed.