Letter from an Editor
It has been a pleasure receiving your letters and the first issue of Oyster Boy. First off, too, thank you for accepting my two poems. I will gladly send more, and I look forward to being a part of the next issue of OB.
Your correspondence is refreshing. It's a plus that our towns are so close; perhaps we can do some work together, from sending copies of each other's mag with our own when sending out, or doing co-broadsides . . . the possibilities of the small press world are endless.
It's also very rare to find a magazine as fine-quality as yours. Most editors haven't been very talkative yet, that I've encountered, nor have they expressed interest in beginning a brotherhood or community where we help one another out. Your ideas on putting OB and Cotton Gin on the Web sound great. Just let me know what I have to do; I'm completely for it.
I met some people (only a few) at the Underground Press Conference last summer who were dead set against trading. They were so adamant, it was funny. But some people would rather do money transactions than swapping, etc. so just let me know because I'm down with either.
So, I want to make sure I answer all your questions from both your letters so far since they were so full and interesting. I noticed in the first issue of OB, did you used to live and publish it in Gainesville? Did you go to school there? What led you to Chapel Hill? I like both issues very much, and it's great to see how much improved the production quality on no. 2 is. But, I think a good mag/chapbook/etc. can be lo-fi or really nicely produced, either, and both are great, as long as what's in it and what common threads hold it all together. So, both issues are nice to check out for good reasons. The Lucy Harrison story, the David Sapio bit is amazing! That is pretty much exactly what I am doing this summer. The first week of August, I'm leaving with my truck, my tent, and my savings account, to loosely follow this trail of cities I have planned in my mind. So it was good to check out the David S. letter/list of dates and places. Where did you have no. 2 done? Printed, I mean. I always use Kinko's . . . I do a lot myself, the collating, stapling, etc. to save money. Whatever I can because I never make any. Thanks for the $3, though. That's great. I'll try to get you a Cotton Gin audio tape in the mail soon, too. It's @ an hour of songs, which I try to have a lot in CG, or poems like songs or songs like stories or stories like songs, etc. It's got some spoken word stuff on it, too. It's all stuff that's been in at least one issue of CG. I haven't found another mag much like what we're doing around here . . .
So what I meant by my observation of Oyster Boy's work is this: there seems to be a common story, set on the move, pretty much on the run, from whatever, but this story of staying moving, and I've read it before, and I've seen pictures of it, and I've heard country singers sing about it, songwriters write about it, noisy garage bands groove to it. There's something, still, about America that says you can just leave everything or pack it up and start rolling, walking, flying, driving until you find something in the moving that you need or are looking for. I always, monthly, seem to be going away, to different places, old and new, but I have to. I can't sit still. And there's a lot of people like that. And some of them just do it, never document it, but others, those that live this way, whether once or repeatedly throughout life, those that are artists, they keep sharing this story, and, unless it's way too cliche, it almost always makes me smile, because it makes me smile. And it has a lot to do with gas stations, roads, highways, trucks, texaco stars. I keep coming up with these things, then I listen to old Rickie Lee Jones or Bruce Springsteen or Little Feet and I realize people are always singing this story, even back in the Bible. So that's pretty much where I was coming from when I said OB is full of American gas station highway stories. They come in all forms, but that's the best way I can put it, poem, picture, or prose. Hell yeah—use it if you like. I'd love to see that typed on some Oyster Boy flier or issue cover.
So, I hope that answers somewhat of your questions. I haven't learned enough literary criticism to speak of some of the genres you mentioned, or even some of the stories, other than Easy Rider. I got my B.A. in Visual Art in a small town in S.C., but this story I'm talking about has been coming up in all my pictures and poems for years now, and so I started Cotton Gin to showcase and share these stories with as many people as I can who understand it, too. I see a little glimpse of it everywhere, on the backs of 18 wheelers written by a finger in the dust, or on Hwy. overpasses, or on the sidewalk, or when a friend sings me a new song, or in your magazine. So I try to share that. "So you go on a little longer": from OB no. 1.
Chris Stafford, editor