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Friday, June 8, 2012

The Best Literary Journal Covers of the Past Few Years (According to Dave)

It's Dave again.  Welcome back to my literary journal art exploration. 
See other posts in this series here.

Black Warrior Review always has some of the best cover art.  I knew that something of theirs would make my list and I thought it would be difficult to choose, until I saw issue 38.1.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with music videos.  At that time, I lived in Idaho.  My room was in the basement, next to our one and only television and VCR. I would sneak out of my room at night, or sit in front of the TV durring the day (until my mother kicked me out of the basement), watching as many music videos as I could.  Somewhere, there are stacks of VHS tapes floating around with scores of videos I recorded from the time I was eleven to the time I was about sixteen.  On one of those, sandwiched between the B-52’s and Sonic Youth, is REM’s video for their song "Night Swimming."  It’s dreamlike and dark and peppered with teenage lust. This Black Warrior Review cover calls to mind that video and my basement, and mixes it with something new and heartbreakingly real. The dress alone, drifting in that dark, blue-green water, is beautiful and alluring.  It flows through space, and becomes a body in and of itself.  It's alive. 

The stomach next to it (I think it’s a stomach) turns the image around.  It becomes something else.  Something unsettling.  The stomach is not violent.  It’s not grotesque.  It’s human, and it’s organic, but it’s not supposed to be on the outside.  It's not supposed to be seen, and it makes me stare. 

Farren Stanley from Black Warrior Review told me that the theme for this issue is "interruption."  She said, “In this flash of arrested moment, a reader or writer or viewer of art is challenged--forced, even--out of the standard feedback loops of thought and utterance and into a completely new response. On the cover, what is beautiful is also repulsive; what should soothe can also create unease.  The in-between space into which the viewer, reader, and writer is forced is an unpredictable and exciting space where anything can happen.”

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