Birdsong Collective is a workshop community devoted to fostering and promoting art-in-process by various means, including this “flagship” publication, “a collaborative, bi-monthly lit/art/interview zine based in Brooklyn.” Within are nice quality color reproductions of art, including eerily nostalgic photographic pieces from Patrick Dyer, washed in color and light, as well as stories, poems, and a mash-up micro-interview of five questions dished out to five artists, including the poet Melissa Broder and the street artist FARO (neither of whose work, unfortunately, is included in this volume). Instead, moving at the speed of this nearly Twitterable interview piece, we have coverage of sex and relationships and comparisons of both, implicit and explicit, to art. But what else is there? In two pieces of visual art that exert an unexpectedly powerful pull, Julia Norton gives us soft-toned mountains, tinted in pinks and robin’s egg blue, fantastic otherwise abstract shapes laid out on wood panel, the grain visible, and marked, each one, with tiny traces of human presence, a “sanctuary,” a series of utility lines. The relation between these miniscule impositions and their real world corollaries, and the relation between these outposts within the image and the wider scale of raw rock and wild green foliage, is more than a nod at traditional Japanese screens. In fact, there is no white space here, no emptiness, only another layer (that grain of wood again) of wildness, planed down and sanded for domestic use. Not that these images are allegories, or anything so simple, but they are also far more than mere whimsical landscapes.
These pieces demand time, require some pondering, silent engagement. While this isn’t true about everything here, it holds for the best. The poignancy of LaJohnJoseph’s description of a baby brother’s “Buzz Lightyear all-in-one / ripped at the knee,” for instance, or Khalid El Khatib’s haunting story “When I Watched You Die” seize comprehensive attention from the reader. This latter piece shifts from italicized theorizing—grasping at making sense of the event—to the inescapably concrete details, such as how
The nurse collected your thousands of medication and dumped them all into a large Ziploc bag. She poured out vials of blue Percoset with vials of yellow Ativan and squeezed a tube of vasoline into the mix, kneading it together so that the colors bled and half melted pills clung to the side of the bag. She asked me to sign a legal document as official witness of the destruction…. I remember everything but your death.