I'm Katie, and I'm delighted to be taking over the Inquirer's books blog for a couple of weeks. Frank was kind enough to mention that I do a print zine on language called The La-La Theory, so I think I'll take the opportunity to tell you about the third annual Philadelphia Zine Fest, which is taking place next weekend.
Last year's fest was a success, and an absolute blast. Zinesters and other artists came from all over the country to pack themselves into the stuffy Rotunda (remember how hot it was last summer?) and share their work. Zines are handmade, one-of-a-kind, self-published journals on every subject imaginable, often traded for other zines or sold for not much more than $1 a copy. I still have copies of Christoph Meyer's lovely, spooky little story, "The Heart Star," with its linoleum block print cover; "The Glovebox Chronicles," a multiple-collaborator collection of road trip stories; "Suburban Gothic" Issue 3.5, a tiny photocopied account of depression; and "The Joy of Tuna," a totally insane photo/word/recipe collage devoted to the wonderment that is canned tuna fish. The zine movement is often considered an early-90s phenomenon, and indeed, that's when it was in the public eye for a hot 15 minutes. But clearly, here in the 21st century, the lively, delightful spirit of the DIY revolution is alive and well.
The La-La Theory takes its name from the oddball term Danish linguist Otto Jespersen (1860-1943) gave to one of the theories of the origin of language: that it was borne of the human need to express love and poetry. Unlikely, theory-wise, but awfully nice. One issue is called "Mrkgnao!", and it's about the ways different languages express animal sounds. (That weird word is the sound Mr. Bloom's cat makes in Ulysses.) I'll also bring a few copies of Word Math, a collection of found poetry I made for last year's fest. Found poetry is exciting because it takes the DIY idea to an even higher level. Essentially, the idea is to make (well, find, really) poetry from any non-poetic context: street signs, rearranged sentences from a physics textbook, you name it. Here's what poet Tom Hansen said about the creation of found poetry:
"Most found poems begin their lives as passages of expository prose. Their intended purpose is to feed easily digestible information to the reader. Nothing could be less poetic. But suddenly poetry is discovered embedded within the prose. The discoverer is someone alert to the possibilities of irony, absurdity, and other incongruities." ("Letting Language Do: Some Speculations on Finding Found Poems," College English 42, 1979)
In other words, the discoverer—the poet—can be anyone. Like me. And you.