Just over a year ago, I launched The Disappointed Housewife with an eye toward gathering nuggets of writing that perhaps couldn’t be found elsewhere. I had some particular kinds of works in mind, works that took the generally accepted rules of form and style and bent them into new shapes like literary balloon animals. I wanted visual material that leaned toward presenting text in new ways. I wanted parodies and faux forms, playfulness and ingenuity with language, found literature, art in the unexpected. Bottom line—I wanted to see different writing than we tend to see in most established literary journals.
Of course, there are lots of online journals out there publishing offbeat material. More than I ever knew and way too many to count. They help writers build respectable resumes and offer outlets for work that doesn’t fit the mold. They’re like little colonies of idiosyncratic thinkers, and I’m proud that The Disappointed Housewife is now among them.
But after a year of reading our submissions, I’m surprised to find that most of the material coming in is still fairly conventional. Unfortunately, I have to pass on much of it because these works can appear in almost any mainstream literary outlet. Understandably, writers who just want to get their stories and poems out into the world submit to any journal that will give them a fair shot, and The Disappointed Housewife is certainly one of those. Offbeat writing is not in every author’s wheelhouse. Still, I’d like to see a lot more experimentation, skewed perspective, warped humor, and boundary stretching than the first year has produced.
Among the published work I’ve been most attracted to in 2018 are the dramatically original poems of Jake Sheff, the board game by C.B. Auder, hidden poetry by Rosa Jivani and Nathaniel P. Mahar, the parody of New York Review of Books personal ads by Mike McGowan, memoirs by Kat Knuth and Cinthia Ritchie, the spoofy script by Nicole Walkow, the phone text exchange by Jim George, the updated Shakespeare sonnet by Wim Leflore, and a mélange of flash fiction by Boaz MacNutt, Phillip McCollum, Audrey Kalman, Avouleance, Cathy Ulrich, Salvatore Difalco, Natalie Plotkin, Marisa Crane, and many others.
Now and then I see something that’s almost there, as far as our unusual tastes here at The Housewife are concerned, and I’ll suggest some possibilities to the writer. Don’t be afraid of submitting something that you think could work for us but might not quite strike you as offbeat enough. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the right presentation, such as the slide show, “That Guy,” by Lori Cramer or the poem, “October,” by Jonathan Stark. When I see potential in the content, I’m happy to brainstorm with the writer to find just the right way to make it perfect for The Disappointed Housewife.
Like the hidden poetry to be found in old books like Ivanhoe, art—or accidental art—can be camouflaged in existing text, or in manufactured text, such as the remarkable “Bodies,” a text collage from a neural network by Hanuszkiewicz Marcin.
Or consider “Triumph,” a word cloud by Elizabeth Krause, which found a disturbing dominant theme in Donald Trump’s inaugural address.
Note how Jack Shannon found the instructions of a Casio watch so mind-blowing he had to superimpose a poem over them.
In the story, “The Payphone Project,” Giles McDonald muses on how few pay phones there are today and shows us maps of their locations in some Ohio cities, presumably accurate.
Jake Sheff offers lost production notes—on vintage paper—for a documentary that likely never saw the light of day.
William Jackson contributed provocative verse using strikeouts, musical notes, strategic underlining, and other typographic features.
Hallie Dickerson used a random phrase generator to create a surprisingly coherent and cogent poem.
Tina Parker channeled insane asylum inmates to create her powerful series of poems inspired by the 1887-1948 patient records of Southwestern State Hospital in Marion, VA.
The possibilities are literally endless. Art is out there, ready to be mined.
When you find some, send it in to The Disappointed Housewife. See our submission guidelines here.
And by the way, I expand on many of these themes in my own long essay, “Gatecrash: Liberating Creativity in the Age of Boilerplate Fiction,” which you can download as a pdf file here. It’s free.
The Disappointed Housewife