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  • Dorian Winter

On Creation, Rejection & Digestion

When it comes to writing, I’ve always felt poised between the personal and impersonal, like on a kind of psychological tightrope. Submitting essays doesn’t tend to give me the panic-attack pang of rejection that submitting poetry or art does. It feels like I’ve pulled essays out of the encyclopedic palace of my mind (amongst a mountain of dusty archives), but conversely, it feels like I’ve pulled artistic work from the very veins of my heart. And having those strings pulled is devastating! Upon consideration of these feelings, I started to retreat from the abstract, the subjective - I find a lot of comfort in research articles and pieces with over 30 references, because at least there is something probable, something Likely that comes out of all of it. But when it’s just you, your spinal cord, and the canvas of a Google Doc labelled 'Poetry' - what is real, anyway?

As an avid reader of many literary magazines, I notice a few trends popping up. One of the main ones is favoritism for those who have recently been published, which makes a lot of heuristic sense - because these are the authors & artists who have previously been recognized and given their own space. Of course, you’d want to hear from them, since they have been heard before. I don’t have anything against this, but nowadays it can sometimes come as a surprise when I see a writer’s bio, and the magical work I see before me is their first publication.

The other trend I notice is a preference for the avant-garde-mimic, work that seems to be very experimental but is also extremely digestible. Which also makes sense. When you publish, you want the audience that reads (and gives their money/donations to you) to “get it”. You don’t want to confound or shake them up to a point of no return. But you might want to give the impression that you want to do that, like adding some visceral imagery, or inputting something vaguely striking that will be remembered during consumption, but not afterwards. But what this kind of creates is writing that aims to be a kind of writing, rather than writing that stands for the writing itself. It goes a little bit beyond mere ‘aesthetic mimicry’, and more towards the issue of the artist persona - will people listen to something they haven’t seen before? Or will they just pretend that this is the case?

Commenting on this phenomenon is funny, especially when it comes from me. I personally enjoy the resurgence of ‘canine poetry’, I like the sort of creativity that comes with cannibalism imagery (shoutout to all the cannibalistic media that has taken center stage these past few years), and I like religious imagery (when used thoughtfully). But I suppose what I take issue with is when people like these themes, and trends, and write something that feels like a shadow of it. I’ve had it happen to myself, you write a poem, or draw an artwork, that is trying to be something you’ve seen before, but new - and different. But it doesn’t really end up being different, because you forgot yourself while making it. All you ever wanted to be was that original creator, in hopes that the original crowd comes flocking. But this seldom works.

On the creation of ‘Antler Velvet’:

In mid-November, upon scribbling the start of my poetic oeuvre (about 80-100 mediocre poems), I realized that I might not find a place for a lot of what I had written. I considered self-publishing a book (which I have now illustrated) - but realized I had neither the marketing experience, or platform, for that to be a feasible and successful idea. My poetry is weird sometimes, it delves into the “visceral” and “unconscious” - they are mostly sensory rambles that come after experiences. But I don’t know if I find them original, or worth the time of those who aren’t directly inside my brain. After all, the jargon of my subconscious is not a well-spoken language - I think you either feel it in your bones, or it’s an unsalvagable paper towel made of words.

Instead of dreading what I would do with this PDF of my work, I considered whether other people felt just like this. And so, Antler Velvet was born. I intend it to be a magazine that incorporates ‘indigestible’ and often-ignored work. If I understand it immediately, I don’t consider it to be thought-provoking art. In my personal philosophy, I think art should make you think, make you time-travel, and make you astrally project beyond the page. When I read things and can already think of 1000 instances of that idea, I don’t disregard it - but I just wonder if it is something that needs to be reiterated. Sometimes old ideas become new thoughts on paper.

Looking towards the end of December submissions, and the sludge-pile-sorting that I’ll be passing onto my editing team in January - I can’t help but ruminate on what a magazine, or journal, really exists for? I guess I would want Antler Velvet to exist in that liminal space between a literary journal and a zine - something expressive but also uniformly contained.

A plug for submissions, by the way (we are open until 31st December):

What the point of this whole post was:

We are inching towards the new year, and I can already see 2024 as a big, green leaf that I should plan to take deliberate bites out of. One of my resolutions was to create more and consume less. It sounds easier on paper. But before you can jump back into creation, you need to think about what has been, and still is, stopping you (or has stopped you) from creating in the first place. It is usually insecurity, it is usually a lack of inspiration - it is rarely some supernatural ‘loss of ability’ that can never be repaired. I need to remind myself of that.

Consumption is not inherently bad (I hope to write an article on media consumption in more detail someday), but passive consumption is. Passive consumption of words, images & sounds is to the detriment of creativity. Keep in mind I say creativity, not leisure. Passivity can be beneficial to heal, but maybe not to truly reflect.

Active consumption, to me, is throwing away things like Goodreads lists (which stress me out anyway) and reading for the sake of reading. Active consumption could also be writing short Notes app paragraphs after visiting galleries, it could be taking the time to comment on someone’s article (a personal sneak!) to see where your mind resides in regards to the content. This is something that I’m not only big on personally, but something I want to carve into the ethos of the Antler Velvet magazine.

So I want you to come away and question your thoughts on creation, rejection, and digestion. How does creation feel for you? Does it come naturally? How does it feel to be rejected - do you fear it? Do you masochistically crave it? And what do you think you do after consuming media? Is it fully, viscerally digested, or just a vague aperitivo of the mind?

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