(conducted by Calvin Evans and Dan Roussel)
Teju Cole, the Fall 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Writers House, is the author of five books. In addition to writing fiction, he is a photographer, critic, and curator. He was the photography critic of The New York Times Magazine from 2015 until 2019, and is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard University.
The Writer-in-Residence program is made possible with generous support from the Andrea ’79 and Ken Robertson Writers House Innovation Fund.
In 2017, you put on a performance piece called “Black Paper” for Performa 17. What was the creation process for this, and did anything surprise you about the response to it?
The impetus for that piece came out of the dismay of the November 2016 elections. I asked myself what a rapid response would look like on an artistic level. Art usually takes a long time to figure out what it thinks of what's going on. And yet, at the same time, it's always possible to respond rapidly. So, I started to look for a form. One of the first things that came to me, in January 2017, was the title “Black Paper.” It was this idea that there’s information hidden inside what you're looking at. Then I started taking a bunch of photographs, and then I was invited by Performa 17.
In the summer of that year, I had a photography exhibition that included a large collage work called “Black Paper,” but I already knew that the project was something that would have an ongoing life. Then I did the performance. I'd never done a performance piece before. It was very visceral, very personal. I think some parts of it worked very well. I really, really liked the soundscape I made. I'm not a professional musician, but I made a 42 minute soundscape that, for me, really holds up as a piece of work. The physical body performance aspect was okay, for that moment. I got some good reviews, and some not so good reviews. Interestingly, the not-so-good reviews were in very small places. And the really good reviews were in the New York Times and places like that. As an artist myself, I know that it was a work in progress. I'm now taking some of those complex ideas and working on a book that is also called Black Paper.
I remain curious to see what can be generated out of political darkness, but I also want to engage in these meditations on the color black, on shadows, and so on.
Hi to all you poets, prosers, and artists!
After the long wait, it's finally time for the big announcement: the Fall 2019 issue has been released!
To all our contributors (listed below), thank you for both your patience and your work as undergo another period of transition. Your work was phenomenal--the sheer size of the latest edition of The Merrimack Review is a testament to the quality of submissions this time around. And a very special thanks to Justin Li for both our cover art, and the semesterly header art for our website!
Featured contributors include: Caleb Bartholomew, Haley Barthuly, Lee Brady, Nina Chabanon, Mackenzie Coburn, Emma Converse, Joe Dahut, Benjamin Davis, Larissa Debski, Taylor Denton, Sean Desautelle, Aryanna Faulkner, Lauren Hallstrom, Annabelle Harsch, Omair Hasan, Sarah Huang, Rebecca Justiniano, Lilly Klahs, Justin Li, Tim MacKay, Anthony Miller, Kyle Moon, Mikayla Morell, Elizabeth Muscari, Michaela Norman, Dana Parker, W.T. Paterson, Pan Pratyusha, Alyssa Quinones, Caroline Richards, Colin Sowers, Elizabeth Stanfield, Sarah Wruck, and Misty Yarnall.
This issue includes an exclusive interview with Teju Cole!
And finally, please welcome our newest co-managing editor, who is taking over for Calvin Evans--Kerry Reynolds!
We hope you enjoy the latest issue of The Merrimack Review, and have a wonderful rest of the winter. Come spring, another issue will be out! Stay tuned for info on deadlines for Spring 2020. Until next time!
- Kerry R. and Dan R., Managing Editors