Discussion → Experimental Writing

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    Roxane Gay
    Sep 11, 01:05pm

    At PANK,we're interested in all kinds of writing but we definitely want to be a home for experimental writing whenever we can because there seem to be so few venues for that.

    Lately, I've noticed that writers often seem to believe that nonsense and/or "edgy" writing is what makes writing experimental and in my responses to them, I have found myself saying, "We like experiment with a purpose."

    That has me thinking about what experimental writing means because it isn't any one thing. I thought I would open the discussion up to you all. How do you define experimental writing? What experimental have you read and enjoyed? Disliked?

    Let's talk.

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    David Erlewine
    Sep 11, 01:31pm

    Great question! I for one feel very hesitant even thinking about writing something "experimental". Even my stuff in elimae...I don't really consider it "experimental".

    I'm quite curious to hear what others think.

    The examples that come immediately to mind (as working well for me) are Matt Bell's "Chainsaw (n.)" (elimae) and "An Index of How Our Family Was Killed" (Conjunctions). Both made/make me take a look at how myopic my view of fiction writing was/is.

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    Robert Swartwood
    Sep 11, 03:30pm

    I guess for me a synonym of "experimental" is "nontraditional," though in a way that's not right either. A nontraditional story is one that doesn't, um, follow a traditional format. I guess. Which then (again) brings into the idea that there are rules to be followed for a story to be considered traditional, and I don't quite like that. I've written some strange stuff -- like "The Amazing Adventures of © and ®" which appeared in elimae, and its sequel "The Killer Inside ©" which is forthcoming from Wigleaf -- but I would consider those stories more nontraditional than experimental.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be so much "experimental" work out there nowadays that it's becoming almost common.

    Good to know PANK likes experimental stuff, Roxane. Makes my decision easier on which story I'm going to submit to the story contest :-)

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    Robert Swartwood
    Sep 11, 03:46pm

    (BTW, what I meant when I said there seems to be so much "experimental" work out there nowadays that it's becoming almost common, I meant work that, years ago, would be considered experimental. Now so much of that type of work is out there that it's not so much experimental anymore than it is nontraditional ... again, that's if you agree that there is a difference between the two.)

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    Scott Garson
    Sep 11, 03:49pm

    to draw in the matchbook thread: a couple of people were saying that for them Eudora Welty is experimental. for me she is for sure, in context of her time, and maybe even still. if you look at her first book--for so many of those stories, there's no clear antecedent. "Powerhouse" is an example that jumps to mind. I mean, nothing is ever entirely new, but Welty--she was building these stories without a model. For me that's the chief feature of 'experimental' writing: you don't know what you're doing; you can't think of another story that works anything like the one you're writing feels like it may work...

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    Ann Bogle
    Sep 11, 04:12pm

    Great definition, Scott. "For which there is no model."

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    Robert Swartwood
    Sep 11, 04:44pm

    I second Ann: Great definition, Scott.

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    Roxane Gay
    Sep 11, 05:02pm

    Robert, I definitely hear what you're saying. There is a lot of experimental work going on which is great to see and I do think there's an increased tolerance and almost expectation of work that doesn't fit a mold. Experimentation is not so much my wheelhouse as a writer, though I am definitely trying new things these days to push myself. As an editor, though, I really dig being surprised, seeing something done with words that I don't expect. I do think it is pretty funny the writers who self-identify as experimental but then turn in work that is quite quotidian.

    Scott, your definition so aptly describes how I perceive experimental writing. I may have to borrow that. I have never read Eudora Welty. I will definitely check her out.

    David, I too was taken with Matt's story An Index of How Our Family Was Killed. I don't know if I would classify it as experimental (for myself), but one of the many things I loved about it was the nontraditional format and how a great story was still told.

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    Reynard Seifert
    Sep 11, 05:12pm

    i really like experimentation in writing; hell, i like it in everything! but there's also a part of me that feels like sometimes (in fact, most of the time) it can go beyond what a reader (read: not a writer who also reads) wants to read or will enjoy.

    there's a lot of experimental writing that i can appreciate on the level of form. as a writer, i'm like, oh awesome! but as a reader, i'm like, this isn't about anything at all. the greatest experimental writers, in my opinion, are merely adjusting their form to match their content.

    moreover, i feel that the problem with much contemporary literature in general and online writing in particular, is the simple fact that it seems directed at a readership comprised of writers, not readers. whereby stories lack the stuff of stories; that stuff that helps us understand and make meaning out of our weird lives.

    man, i love iced coffee!

  • Rg.thumb
    Roxane Gay
    Sep 12, 01:36am

    Coffee is delicious.

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    Tantra Bensko
    Mar 05, 04:55am

    I wanted to promote it, and help people think about what Experimental Writing is, without actually being definitive myself about it. The authors in Exclusive Magazine all discuss why theirs epitomizes that. http://exclusive4.weebly.com/

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