Up from the Underground*

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Misc
Tags: , , , ,

You know the idiom. The running gag is that it’s the most literary table leg leveler ever, the muck on the towel after drying the dog from its romp through a muddy yard during a summer storm, the piece of toilet paper scraped from the sole of a shoe before leaving the bathroom to avoid being embarrassed while returning to the table at the center of the restaurant, the…well, you get the idea. Truth is, however, that this underground literary magazine is an (sub)urban legend and a gateway through which many up and coming authors can get their first taste of seeing their name and toil on inked-up paper that didn’t come from any printer of theirs.

Printed at the publisher’s own expense and distributed gratis anywhere within the wake of its editors’ travels, the idiom became a New Jersey literary staple for those seeking accessible, affective poetry from fresh voices. Its infamy was born out of controversy stemming back to one fateful day on Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus, wherefrom it was banned for perpetuity on the basis of being “pornography” (though an incident involving a paper mâché volcano might have also been involved). While this attempt at name sullying was an affirmation for a few, that same act proved to be an aphrodisiac for the many.

Under the magazine’s mantra of forgoing pretence “to focus on the simplicity and entertainment of the written word,” the idiom‘s editors have spent years building a readership base that has its bulk in the tri-state area but can be found all across the USA and even internationally. Now that the groundwork’s been laid and so many years of toil have netted continued interest and increasingly impressive submissions from amateur and professional writers alike, the idiom is coming up from the underground* and getting into the market-at-large. May god help us all and have mercy on our souls.

I once had an economics professor who proposed that it is impossible to get people to pay for that which they’ve already been getting for free. But the idiom‘s already proved that theory wrong with not one but two anthologies! And it’s not like one can’t see the struggle between love of sharing and desire to legitimize the rag; just look at the blog page that announces the paid subscriptions while also offering a link to a free PDF download and Flash-based, in-browser version! It is not clear whether or not the magazine will only be available in trade for greenbacks from here on in, if free vs. pay will be on a case-by-case basis, or if subscriptions are the only option to be priced, but I truly believe this could work. The editors have worked hard to establish the literary rag, most recently appearing (officially) at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and are working even harder now to make it, if not reputable, a pornographic literary force with which to be reckoned.

(Cover to Idiom Vol. 8 Issue 1, by Nicole Greenwood)

*Title and phrase taken from a song of the same name by Firewater

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