October 2023: Volume 10, Chapter 12

Volume 10, Chapter 12 is now open for submissions.
The picture is the starting point, the text is up to you.
One image, one hour, 50-500 words

Image by Marc Schlossman

Dear writers, readers and friends,

We are here with the final issue of Visual Verse. The end of an era; the start of a new one. At this moment, Visual Verse has published 11,234 pieces of original writing from 3,330 writers all over the world. We are yet to learn of another publication that can boast such a prolific output and the myriad of styles, perspectives and ideas that Visual Verse enshrines. Indulge us while we say a few words from the heart, announce the legacy plans for Visual Verse and introduce our image and writers for this month.

From Preti Taneja:

Ten years ago I couldn’t get published. I had a novel draft and over 30 rejections for it. I went to Berlin to see my friend, Kristen. She sat me down over bagels and told me to stop feeling sorry for myself. The first thing I needed was an editor (she was right). The second thing was a project that would remind me why the process of making art is more important than the outcome, that there is joy in community, and that writing is nothing but attempts to say – and sometimes we need a prompt to achieve that. Of course, she was right. She had a project in its infancy with the designer, Pete Lewis, and it needed an editorial collaborator. That’s how Visual Verse was born. Kristen would select the images, I would commission the lead writers, Pete would design a beautiful website and together we would curate a free literary space that people could be inspired by, and surprise themselves with. Its generative constraints: the hour, the word count, would provide a gentle pressure. The image would
be the starting point…

In that first month, we received about 30 submissions. Every day I’d get up and check the inbox, read and publish. Since then, the community has grown to over 150 submissions a month. The team has grown, too, with a rotation of volunteers, assistant editors and guest curators who have stepped in to help out and bring their own eye to the site.

We are so grateful for the camaraderie and commitment you have all shown. Some of you post each month and we’ve got to see your work develop and become familiar with your style. There are names in the archive who were unpublished or relatively unknown when they first submitted but have gone on to become some of the most exciting and award-winning writers working today: Isabel Waidner, Ashley Hickson Lovence, Eley Williams, Nisha Ramayya, Glen James Brown, Will Harris, Megan Hunter, So Mayer, Adam Biles, Alex Pheby, Maame Blue; there are poets such as Sandeep Parmar and Richard Georges, Karthika Nair and Rachel Allen, Anthony Anaxagorou and Inua Ellams, Rishi Dastidar and respected names in international literature: Niven Govinden, Kate Briggs, Jennifer Croft, Nikesh Shukla, Ivan Vladislavić, Chika Unigwe and more. Long after we stop publishing, the list provides a testimony to early 21st Century writing and aesthetics, our concerns, hopes and responses to political moments from the
Johnson-Trump-Modi era, the Black Lives Matter movement and the avoidable tragedy of the Grenfell Fire to the stress of the global pandemic: it offers a treasure box to explore.

The images and writings within Visual Verse are testimony to a decade that has seen so much, and to the group of writers who have defined it. Many of the poems and short stories you’ll find collected in anthologies by writers on our site began life as VV experiments and have grown into bigger things. As my own life has changed with house moves, writing and publishing two books, beginning full-time teaching and more, the writers of Visual Verse have been constant friends. Reading the site each month never fails to refresh my creativity; it helps to remember that when we face the blank page we are all in the same moment of fear and potential as each other…

From Kristen Harrison:

“We are all in the same moment of fear and potential as each other…” – I love this sentiment from Preti. It epitomises the pain and beauty that artists share and the glue that has bound our unique community for ten years. I am blessed to have had this project take root the way it has and to have become connected to so many brilliant minds. My own art does not exist unless it is in conversation with others and the rare alchemy that brought myself, Preti and Pete together, to create conversations with you, is something that I will spend my life searching for again. The holy grail of creativity.

Visual Verse has survived the past few years thanks to the incredibly generous time and energy of our editors Isabel Brooks and Lucie Stevens, and editorial assistants Zaynab Bobi and Ashish Kumar Singh. These people, and those who volunteered before them (Tam Eastley, Jordan Fleming, Luke Smith, Nahda Tahsin, Wes White to name a few), have been the lifeblood of Visual Verse during a period of grueling external challenges. Their work enabled us to continue publishing an incomparable quantity of writing each month and I will be forever grateful to them.

To that end, I have handed over our final issue to our current team of editors so that you can see their extraordinary talents for yourself. The image prompt is a detail from a documentary photograph by our long-time friend and patron, photographer Marc Schlossman (https://www.marcschlossman.com/) . It is abstract and challenging; chosen to push your writing boundaries one last time. As Ashish said, this image is as much about what is unseen as what is seen. I relish these kinds of images as they frustrate the heck out of you writers, and ultimately yield the best and most unexpected writing. The brilliant responses from our leads are proof.

We begin, on page 1, with our co-founder Preti Taneja (https://twitter.com/PretiTaneja) . Preti is a writer and activist. Her first novel We That Are Young (https://www.galleybeggar.co.uk/paperback-shop/we-that-are-young) (Galley Beggar Press/ AA Knopf), is a translation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, tracking the rise of fascism in contemporary India. It won the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize and was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Prix Jan Michalski. It is published in translation worldwide. Her second book is Aftermath (https://www.andotherstories.org/aftermath/) (Transit Books/And Other Stories), a creative non-fiction lament on trauma, terror, prison and grief, following the London Bridge terror attack in 2019. It was a Book of the Year in the New Yorker, the New Statesman and The White Review, and was shortlisted for the British Book of the Year. Aftermath is the winner of the 2022 Gordon Burn Prize awarded ‘for literature that is forward thinking
and fearless in its ambition and execution’.

Isabel Brooks (https://twitter.com/izzy_maude14) has just finished an MA in Creative Writing at UEA, and is half way through a novel. She read English at Cambridge and grew up in Suffolk. Her astute editorial judgement has been a huge asset to Visual Verse and it is a thrill to finally be able to showcase her brilliant writing.

Ashish Kumar Singh (https://twitter.com/Ashish_stJude) (he/him) is a queer Indian poet whose work has appeared in Passages North, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Grain, Chestnut Review, Fourteen Poems, Foglifter, Atlanta Review and elsewhere. Currently, he serves as an editorial assistant at Visual Verse and a poetry reader at ANMLY.

Zaynab Iliyasu Bobi (https://twitter.com/ZainabBobi) , a Nigerian-Hausa poet, artist, and photographer from Bobi, is currently an undergraduate at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. She is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Sixteen Songs of Loss (Sundress Publications Chapbook Competition, 2023).

Lucie Stevens (https://twitter.com/LucieStevens_) , who has been my right-arm woman since 2015, isn’t able to contribute this month as she has a big UN editing job consuming her, but I want to say a special thank you to this remarkable and talented woman. Her skill and mindset have kept the car on the road when the rain is pelting, visibility is low and the driver (me) is unfit to be behind the wheel… so to speak! Thank you, Lucie.

The Future of Visual Verse:

A collection of art and words such as ours cannot simply disappear. We are thrilled to announce that Visual Verse will be taken into the archive at Newcastle University’s Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA) in the UK, which Preti is Director of. We’re grateful to the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics for recognising the incredible resource the archive offers, and working with us to preserve it. Thanks to this support, the Visual Verse website will remain online at visualverse.org for the foreseeable future so you can continue to read, enjoy, teach with and be inspired by it. You can also continue to access (and link to) your work in the archive (https://visualverse.org/images) . There are no active plans to publish new issues of Visual Verse but that is not to say it won’t happen.

All copyright to your work remains with you. But if you do republish your VV-inspired pieces elsewhere, we hope you’ll give us a wave!

So, this is a thank you, dear readers. It has been a beautiful journey and we’re so proud to have shared it with you. We will write again at the end of the month, once publishing of the final 100 pieces is complete.

Kristen and Preti
and the VV crew

Editor’s Roundup: January 2021 #23

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