What We’re Reading: Paper Darts, Volume 4
Paper Darts, Volume 4
Holy. Balls. Reading these art-literary-laden pages caused my brain to have an orgasmic aneurism. This is not a book for those prone to panic attacks, or with epilepsy. There is so. Much. Going. On. Thankfully, it’s all good stuff going on. The design is oozing out of the spine with loud, bold, beautiful, and busy pages. There is literature, art, music, and interviews, oh my! It’s not a magazine to read in one sitting, lest you overdose on the senses.
An art and literary magazine, Paper Darts made an interesting statement to start not with a literary piece, but with an artist interview (after some art, of course). Making it clear that they’re not just literary, Paper Darts is experimenting with everything; there are 94 pieces of very diverse art, 28 literary pieces (with an emphasis on short fiction), and 18 interviews with designers, visual artists, writers, and publishers. This volume of the magazine is bigger than ever. While it’s great to see an up-and-coming magazine bursting at the seams with excellent content, there are moments when my brain simply stopped absorbing, and everything started blurring together. For example, the blurbs describing each artist can get distracting, especially when it’s hard to tell an art blurb from a new piece of literature. However, I think that can also be an admirable trait that Paper Darts does well: blurring the lines between art forms, giving each the same weight, and letting the viewer/reader decide what to look at and/or read. Stories bleed into each other, as do interviews, to the point where it sometimes takes a second glance to figure out who is talking to whom. It starts to feel like one big conversation between every piece of art, literature, and interview, which is something more magazines should strive to achieve, in my opinion.
The print editions embodies a very different design approach from their web presence. The web feels cleaner and more stream-lined, with plenty of use of white space. This print issue is a gorgeous hot mess of artsy design that you can dig into with your hands and charged brains in every possible way.
For being such a long issue, the pieces are all actually very short. There is something from every genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry), but the short fiction is what stood out to me the most (which is saying a lot, as I’m typically the one scanning for poetry). Their literary aesthetic of publishing off-kilter, humorous, quirky short fiction is where they are strongest editorially, and is what matches their voice and image most effortlessly. That’s not to say the other genres aren’t good; I fell in love with some poetry by Janaka Stucky and there are some great essays from Leslie Jamison (who has a nonfiction book of essays coming out from Graywolf Press called The Empathy Exams: Essays on Pain, and was recently awarded the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize). There’s a definitive emphasis on Minnesotan writers, including Peter Bognanni, Dylan Hicks, Matt Rasmussen, and many more. This edition of the magazine also includes their first ever Short Fiction Award, judged by Amelia Gray, called “Stuck Landing” by Jill Summers, featuring two red-headed, freckled twin gymnasts (but not the creepy kind) colliding with the world around them.
What always keeps me coming back for more from Paper Darts is that they manage to stay incredibly unique, which is hard to do in an over-saturated market. They also maintain their brand of spunk while moving into new territories, both editorially, design-wise, and more. Keep a finger on their pulse, it will bring you good things.
What literary magazines have you found to be unique and daring?