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September 14, 2009

Once More into Submission Stacks

by Colleen Coyne, Editor-in-Chief

In the middle of a sticky, bumpy bus ride this afternoon, I overheard a girl on her cell phone complaining that it was going to snow soon. Today it hit 82 degrees, but this is Minnesota, and it's almost fall - so anything is possible. Far more exciting than the imminent threat of nasty winter weather, fall also brings a new school year and (drum roll, please) a new year of dislocate. We held our first full staff meeting of the year last week, and we can now add ten new lit-loving grad students to our masthead.

Our reading period has been open since July 15, and submissions are plentiful (but we always want more, of course!). This year's guidelines reflect one major goal: now that we've been on the scene for five issues, we want to grow even more and lock in our reputation for high-quality work that pushes the limits of genre, redefines and re-appropriates conventions of content and form, and makes us feel physically as if the tops of our heads were taken off. Ms. Dickinson may have been talking specifically about poetry in that last one, but we know that feeling can happen when we encounter any piece of writing that surprises and excites us.

This need to carve out our niche seems natural. We live in a world that is constantly asking us to define ourselves, to outline our parameters and stick to them, personally and professionally--and sometimes even creatively. This can be a huge burden for writers, writing programs, and journals, but it's also an opportunity to both inhabit and challenge our own identity, to (re)evaluate its accuracy and resonance. On the dislocate staff, we're often faced with the question: why "dislocate"? We even ask it of ourselves sometimes. It's an odd term, a fact proven to me during a recent Google search. That is, if you Google "dislocate" (go ahead, try it out), this journal appears on the first page of results--whew--but a scan of the other returns reveals a bevy of assorted oddities:

* a clip, from Britain's Got Talent, of a man who can dislocate his neck.

* lyrics to the song "dislocate" by Alaskan metal band 36 Crazyfists, which chants "spilling the guts, spilling the guts, spilling."

* a handy list of limb-specific suggestions for "what to do if you dislocate your thumb."

* the earnest message board posts of someone wishing they possessed the superpower of being able to "dislocate and relocate joints at will...kind of like a flesh transformer."

* a quote by Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset: "By speaking, by thinking, we undertake to clarify things, and that forces us to exacerbate them, dislocate them, schematize them. Every concept is in itself an exaggeration."

I'm feeling flarfy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flarf_poetry)! But in addition to giving me the urge to collage hilarious search returns into an even more hilarious poem, these results represent some of what's shaped our mission statement. Well, maybe not the dislocated-neck guy. But certainly that last one--the idea that we're striving to make sense of the world around us, and the only way to do that is to take ourselves out of our comfort zones, to view things through a slightly distorted lens, to embrace the attempt as well as the result of grand gestures of experimentation--fits us well.

And so we go into another year, and we hope that you're coming along for the ride, that you're ready, as we are, to open yourself up to new ways of writing and new ways of looking at the world.