Golden Handcuffs Review. A Talk with Lou Rowan May 16, 2009 – Tags: ,

The 2009 Spring/Summer issue of Golden Handcuffs Reviewis now out. The issue features sections on ‘Nathaniel Tarn at 80′ and Luisa Valenzuela at 70’ along with contributions from more than forty artists and writers, among them Rebecca Brown, Pedro Calderon, Gwendolyn Diaz, Alice Notley, Pat Nolan, Toby Olson, Brian Strang, Rosemarie Waldrop and Raul Zurita.

I had a chance to check in with Lou Rowan, the editor and guiding light of GH, to find out more about the history of GH and how things are going as a publisher of a literary/visual magazine in these times.

Book Patrol: Merriam Webster defines Golden Handcuffs as: special benefits offered to an employee as an inducement to continue service. How did that end up on the masthead?

Lou Rowan: I decided to call it that because of a walk I took with Toby Olson in Philadelphia in the early 80’s. I regaled him with business terminology (we’d been colleagues as writers and teachers, and I moved into business in 1980, as the “barbarians at the gates” were taking their stances), and he particularly liked “golden handcuffs,” saying that if I ever did a magazine again, I should call it that. And he helped me start it with work of his, and introduced me to Robert Coover, who contributed to the first issue.

BP: What brought about the Golden Handcuffs Review? Something you always wanted to do or did you perceive a hole out there that needed to be addressed?

LR: For me the “hole” was a well-circulated journal consistently printing experimental work. There are journals “open” to the new: I wanted to do nothing but. We encourage scientists to experiment, and don’t ask them to dumb things down. Literature should be as much an of exploration as any other serious calling. I love entertainment, and we’re scarcely prissy about what we call literature, but just as one has to do some work to see modern art, read philosophy, or come anywhere near string theory, so serious writers can demand an imaginative engagement with their work.

BP: One thing that stands out for me about GH is that it is as much about offering writers and artists a forum to respond to each others’ work as it is to share their own work; offering a more holistic approach to the creative life. Do you see this as the one of the “special benefits” of GH?

Indeed, the “Response” section is what I work hardest to fill up. I always have in mind the “general reader,” and I’d like that elusive being to know as much as possible about what goes into a story, poem, essay–but to know it from a fresh source, not from conventional and academic criticism, which historically has been uncomfortable with much of the best contemporary writing, especially in this country.

I noticed that the latest issue begins with a “Plea” for advertisers and subscribers. Clearly, with the economy in the tank these are not the easiest of times to be publishing a literary magazine. Are you working on any creative solutions to get through these times?

LR: We shall become a 501 C3 non-profit, to encourage donations. We shall search for grants. Also, if we could get a few hundred more subscribers, we’d be in good shape. I can’t tell you how many people crow over Golden Handcuffs without bothering to write a check for $20. Also, I would like to sell the GH archive and that of a journal I did in the ’60s and ’70s to a library.

BP: Economics aside. What’s on the horizon for GH?

LR: The next couple of issues will include Italian fiction. Addressing literature and politics: it’s rare anything in Golden Handcuffs takes on politics directly, but when Bush and gang began to wall off our southern borders, I thought it time to include as much Central and South American work as possible, and have done so with the capable guest editing of Mark Axelrod. And the cover of #8 took on our ignorant and un-generous (un-Christian?) attitudes toward the foreign. I anticipate issues partly devoted to Asian and African work also. We shall continue to explore contemporary photography–a wonderful Frenchman Gilbert Garcin will appear soon. The next issue will be dedicated to two greats who died recently: Robin Blaser, and the artist John Manning.

There’s only so much you can do with a semi-annual journal, but we’ll continue to mix the two or three generations of contemporary U.S. and Canadian writers and artists with the same from around the planet.


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