Talking

Can you noodle a synth?


Dostoyevsky Wannabe's love-affair with Glasgow continues unabated as we talk to Spam Zine about all things vaporwave, post-internet, forming a co-op to sell poetry from a tin and erm...noodling synths.

A Spam Zine mail out making poetry cool again.

Please tell us straight away how SPAM began? Is there a founding myth of the type we might otherwise read about as to how a band might have started?

Denise and Maebh decided to start SPAM because none of the poetry or literature publications they saw around resembled what living in the 21st century is actually like (i.e. immersed in internet ectoplasm). Doing or promoting good literature also always seemed to go hand in hand with taking oneself *very* seriously, which we weren’t comfortable with; poetry publications especially seemed very conservative, dusty, and quite predictable in all honesty. So we thought - let’s just do it ourselves (classic cardinal signs - Cancerian and Capricorn).

We wanted the publication to be experimental (in the sense of a mutable place in which to try new things, and in the sense that we only like rhymes ironically - ‘as a way out of the room’ to quote Eileen Myles); we wanted it to be post-internet (because it had to be relevant and relatable, and ‘contemporary’ doesn’t sound contemporary at all); and we wanted it to be a zine (because there is something about the word that says ‘affordable’, ‘unpretentious’, ‘democratic’, and calls for intervention: collage me, rip me apart, actually read me without being scared of ruining me).

Next thing you know, Denise and Maebh are bribing a cobbler on Glasgow’s Byres road to let us use his hand-crank sewing machine (shout out Phoenix Multi Service Ltd) to stitch 100 copies of SPAM 1, its 48 pages all photocopied using about 10 incredibly noisy printers in the Glasgow University Library, pissing off poor souls trying to study for their exams. And all this thanks to Jason Macphail of Voidoid Archive (since it’s time for shout outs) who funded this whole insane endeavour out of pure love for the arts. And we’re still going; who would have thought.

Who are you? Who does what? Or do you all do a bit of everything?

SPAM was founded by Denise Bonetti and Maebh Harper, but the editorial team now consists of Denise, Max Parnell and Maria Sledmere. Denise and Max met studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Maria submitted to our issue #2, ‘Glitch’, when she saw a mention of Tom McCarthy in the call for subs. Tom McCarthy, it’s a very poorly-kept secret, is probably our collective favourite novelist (one year, we toyed with the idea of selling Satin Island-themed postcards for Valentines). We could listen to him talk about repetition, glitches and Mallarmé all day in those sultry tones, which could make ASMR of like glossing Derrida. We should probably all get tattoos with that non-word buried in Remainderrecidual. After realising they had both written or were writing their dissertations on ol’ Tom, Denise knew Maria’s vision of the world would align with SPAM’s. We published Max’s pamphlet of tasty meal deal poems, And no more being outdoors / And no more rain in 2017 and he quickly joined the team after that.

Tom if you’re reading this plz hit us up we’d love to talk business <3 

As it stands, we’ve had a funny sort of summer with everyone busy with academic commitments (Max finishing a novel for his master’s dissertation, Maria doing her PhD) or travelling the world on a motorbike, Kathy Acker style (Denise). Still, we’ve kept busy. A lot of the actual editing work is shared, and everything we do is based on shared values about what kinds of poetry we want to publish, what borders of genre, form, modality and identity we want to challenge and what themes we want to focus on. We used to get together and read all our zine submissions in cafés or the uni library, much to the chagrin or amusement of everyone around us. Nowadays we’re more dispersed (this year we were based between Glasgow and Cambridge) so we tend to organise and discuss submissions via google sheets, facebook chat or Skype. 

Frankly, we all do a bit of everything (especially email), but loosely Denise is kind of the creative director and editrix-in-chief. Maria handles most of the online content and promotion, including SPAM Cuts and other nonfiction work. Max is in charge of deliveries and distribution. Certain responsibilities such as event organisation and editorial supervision just depend on who’s around. However, we all chip in with the poetry side and the themes for each issue are teased out collaboratively. Being on the same page from day one is probably what’s given the project longevity. It’s good that we can feed our individual work and interests into the kinds of publishing and curatorial roles we have at SPAM. We’re all interested in the intersection between technology and literature. Max branches out into A.I and translation, Denise into time, space and mediation and Maria into anything anthropocene

Why the name SPAM?

We loved the idea of starting a magazine for the leftovers, the rubbish, the things that normally get filtered out and no one has room for. Email spam is that, but it’s also very much a post-internet concept, a corollary of information overload (which we’re all about). It’s also a brand name, of course, and as editors we’re all fascinated with today’s corporatespeak, the corporate textual detritus that submerges us all. We contemplated ‘JUNK’ at some point - but wow, I’m so glad we didn’t go for it in the end. Can you imagine being marked with the promise of such testosterone (dry heaves).