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Literary Mixtape Vol. 9

Side A:

Side B:

February 18, 2024

I'm writing this today with a big giant thank you to Emily Costa, who told me she actually reads (and maybe likes??) these rambling jerk-off editor's letters I pair with the mixtapes. Sometimes writing them feels like shouting into a void of my own making, but it would also feel wrong to not write them at this point. Sunk-cost, am I right?

Emily was among many folks at AWP (and in my inbox, I see you!) kind enough to tell me they love this project. I don't say this to self-congratulate, but rather to counter in earnest that this project wouldn't be shit if not for the contributors and readers who make it great. All I do is read and copy and paste and spew a bit of nonsense on a Sunday blog. It's all you, folks.

I know I'm always banging on about connection in these letters, but today I'm hung up on presence, and time. I started the project to catalogue the way songs suspend moments in time, to force us to be present in ways we don't always appreciate until much later. All of art is like this, perhaps. Artists spend a lot of time navel-gazing and handwringing in an attempt to create something that might just stop time and awe a listener, a reader, an audience. Maybe we succeed; maybe we're shouting into voids of our own making. But there's always love in the attempt.

There's been a lot of virtual ink spilled in the last week on the 'comedown' for folks who attended AWP, and the impact it had on those attending. (None more succinct and beautifully rendered than Adam Voith's photo essay on his Substack Wrists Like Steel.)

I'd argue that what folks are lamenting is an abrupt fostering, then loss, of connection – a moment in time where we were all relentlessly present with each other, celebrating the art we make and share. For those with FOMO, I'd also argue that this isn't only available to those with the means to attend conferences. I feel that same connection every time I read or listen or watch work that someone's spent a lot of time on. You've spent hours of your life labouring to stop time for others, to create a moment of presence. That's a fucking revolutionary act in an increasingly disconnected world, a world drifting into isolation and the fascism and brutality that result from it.

All of this to say: Keep making your shit. Keep sharing it. What you make fucking matters. Matters more than ever, maybe. Don't you dare get cynical. And don't for one second think that magic starts and stops at the doorstep of a conference.

It starts with you, you beautiful bunch of assholes. Don't ever let it stop.

(Forgive me my corny bullshit, I'm all jacked on caffeine and sugar and I. believe. in. youse!)

This week's mixtape has got some repeat offenders and new voices to M7, and I'm thrilled to introduce 'em to ya.

Milton's "Staring at the Sun" is a brief poem soaked in morning-after regrets, a bus ride spent crawling out of your skin with doubt and shame and sharp feelings left tickling a frozen tongue.

Michael Russell's "Dancing with a Stranger" is exactly the kind of moment I was hoping would find its way to my inbox when I started M7. It's a communion of earbud euphoria and sweat-soaked summer blackout fostered in the span of three-odd minutes.

Mark Bouchard's "puppy" is a little ode to devotion and the kind of quiet, constant love that sits at your side and braves your bark (and bite) for a lifetime of companionship.

John Waddy Bullion never ceases to surprise with his range and humour. Following on the heels of his M7 debut featuring a cowboy getting hit upside the head with a frying pan, "Midnight Marauder's Tour Guide" is an acid-tongued take on AI, imagining Amazon sucking the presence out of a song in conversation with a virtual Tour Guide.

Danielle McMahon breathes fire in "Add It Up", a quick hit of adolescent rage that scowls at the world and spites a devil in the bathroom mirror.

Nobody does nostalgia quite like Aaron Burch, who spends "Chick Magnet" quite literally searching for his younger self reflected in the cover art of an MxPx single, a self suspended in time and a Pennywise hat. (They say pics or it didn't happen, so thanks for the proof!)

All my love, pals. Hope you spend a bit of today fuckin' with time.




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