Friday, November 24, 2017

Six Questions For Bil Sabab, Editor, Brave New Word

Brave New Word is an online magazine about experimental art and writing. Since experimental writing is in an ever-obscure state, writers and artists need to have reliable place to show their works and get exposed. And that is what BNW is all about – showing different kinds of experimental art without imposing editorial politics onto the artist. BNW is like quicksilver – there can be conceptual writing, visual poetry, asemic writing, transcripts of sound poetry, flarf, spoetry, image macro, codework, collage, cut-ups, cyphertext – anything. BNW is about showing and sharing things to the world. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Bil Sabab: I wanted to do a perfect experimental art and writing magazine – the ultimate example of capabilities of the form. Because outside of “The Otoliths,” there are barely any mags that really are trying to push boundaries. “Ex-Ex-Lit” is probably the closest, but aside from the aforementioned – none. My problem with the majority of magazines and blogs which deal with all things experimental is that it is not really daring to do something completely different – they just show some stuff. I wanted to do a magazine with cohesive structure that would transcend all the parts to a new level – so that every issue will be not only an assorted collection of various pieces in a certain sequence but a work of art in itself.

It all started in 2012 when Andriy Antonovskiy invited me to his joint called SEKS-Ua ( At that point it was just a LiveJournal group where members posted some stuff – historic pieces and their own. It was inert and nobody seemed to be interested in doing something collectively. For some reason, it was notorious on the Ukrainian segment of LiveJournal. It was a heat magnet for those who defended traditional Ukrainian culture (so-called “sharovarschina”). Those outside detractors seemed to hate the group so much they flooded the comments section with incredible amount of hate speech. Every day Andriy and I were deleting tons of really nasty comments with threats and insults of all styles. It was ridiculous. However, no other conversation was going inside the group. It felt dumb.

So I decided to take matters in my own hands and find proper audience for the concept. The group evolved into a full-blown blog on Blogspot by the end of the year ( and from that point it was more oriented on English-speaking audience with occasional u-turns to Ukrainians.

My original intention was to make a big playground for artists and writers. For a while it worked well – but it was a mess in every conceivable way. Just a whole lotta posts about everything and nothing in particular. Something I didn’t really want to do. After a while I got bored with it, and now it is a zombie blog albeit with huge audience.

But the idea of making coherent experimental magazine thrived, and I was looking for a place to realize it. By the end of 2015 I was invited to edit "The Kitchen Poet," and it was a testing ground for some of my ideas. However it was plagued by lack of communication with the rest of the team, and so I quit in June 2016. I’ve posted some stuff and that’s about it. Later that year I was talking with Matt Margo about some everyday stuff. We were kidding around, and that’s where I dropped “Brave New Word” first. I thought it was the corniest, campiest title that can be ever conceived. But it grew on me, and later it became an actual title of the magazine.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

I like a basic structure of a submission letter: short bio-note, photo, pieces for consideration and some comments on the works (the latter is optional). I tend to keep my own literary tastes to myself when I’m considering the piece. I think about whether or not that particular piece is interesting from thematic and formal standpoint on its own and whether or not it will add something to the current issue. Aside from that, I don’t like when writers are trying to adapt and bend themselves according to editorial politics. I think it’s wrong. BNW prime directive is to let writers to be themselves.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

I’m tough so I can get through even most incoherent submission letters. A couple of times it resulted in finding really worthy pieces. But usually the main turn off is when somebody is sending something completely inappropriate for the magazine – pornography (the one piece that still haunts is eleven-page score for lesbian 69 mutual fisting pumping stomp), or plain bad writing and insists on it being experimental and thus accepted. I don’t like to get into conflicts but usually such people don’t like to be rejected and this results in really ugly replies. That is really weary.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

BS: At first – when the submission was small – I was trying to thoroughly explain why this or that piece was rejected. But things started to roll and it became counterproductive, so usually I’m just saying “no”. After all BNW is not the only mag in the world – there are others worth trying.

SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and what question would you ask each of them.?

BS: I don’t like spiritism (but I’ve met Ezra Pound once while tripping on acid, he was annoying) so I’ll stick to the living. Three is not enough. I’ll take five. I would to have a dinner with Amanda Earl, Gary Barwin, Jez Noond, John M. Bennett and Yuriy Tarnawskiy. It would be “My Dinner with Andre” kind of conversation. Not even closely about art – because it would be an overkill. Just some hang out babble-ramble about nothing in particular.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

BS: I guess it’s a bit rude to complain that you’re not asked about something you wanted to be asked. If that not happened – there’s no point in forcing it into existence.

SQF: Thank you, Bil. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

BS: I appreciate the chance to tell people about my little project and thankful for you giving that opportunity.

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