Esopus: Journal Extraodinaire

One day at work I was browsing blogs, and I came across KA and The Discerning Dilettante,and as I was browsing I saw that she had links to Esopus Magazine, where she works. So I immediately subscribed because did you click on that link? It may be the coolest website for an art-y (because just literary, it is not) journal I have ever seen. Plus, to know someone cool enough to work there?  Yeah. Then I wrote her an email about something I wanted to comment on one of her posts, but couldn’t because of my janky work computer and told her I had subscribed and then told her I was jealous of her life, as you do.

The opening of this particular edition says:

Life is like one of those puzzles that come in a box. It is full of queer peices which seemingly bear no relation to one another, and yet there is a way of putting it together into a perfect whole.
– Myrtle Reed

That is the perfect description of both life and this magazine (which I would definitely describe as more of a journal because it’s such fantastic quality). The article is called “Notes On Composing In The 21st Century” by Anthony Cheung. Now if that doesn’t scream dull, I don’t know what does. Who cares about composing? But I started reading, and apparently I do. This sentence, in the first paragraph, was really what struck the final blow:

The idea that a composer could be living and thriving among us was absolutely foreign to me, as my concept of a musical creator was of a half mythical creature endowed with indescribable genius, who frequently went deaf or mad or otherwise met his demise under mysterious circumstances.

Wait. You mean that’s NOT an accurate description? And you mean there ARE composer who are alive today, making amazing music like Mozart and Beethoven? And this guy, who is apparently a composer, had at one time the exact same thoughts as I do right now while reading this? This is good stuff. Anthony went on to say:

While in the mode of precomposition, the actual materials of a new work begin to reveal themselves: a consistent harmonic language (which is often the most audible stamp of a composer’s identity), rhythmic and melodic considerations, etc. If the piece does not depict external sources, its internal structure can still be influenced by existing forces.

And we’re still talking about music? Because, to me, that sounds like writing a novel.

Esopus is so multi-dimensional it has freaking pull outs and fold outs, it has you interacting with itself, like an art instillation that just walked its way into your living room. You wanna know what’s at the end of the journal? On the very last page? A CD of 13 composers, compiled by Anthony Cheung. Because why just talk about composing when you could also show people exactly what you were talking about with actual music? That’s a big fat Duh right there.

An article on sticky note art. STICKY NOTE ART how badass is that?

It has film reviews. And how do you do a film review in print? Do you write and write and write about it, trying to describe action and emotion from one medium to another? No. Esopus hits the nail right on the head. You write a little, and then you show 100 frames of the film. That’s how you review a movie, and suddenly I don’t understand why anyone anywhere has been doing it any other way.

And then there is the fiction. Oh the fiction. The first thing I flip to in any publication. Katherine J. Lee (who apparently doesn’t have a website? But there is a lovely etsy store artist with the same name…) wrote Reading, a story that had me crying the first time I read it, and then choking back tears the second time I read it out loud to Kamel. It’s the kind of story that I aspire to write. That maybe one day I can weave my words as beautiful as she has, drawing parallels as effortlessly, as seamlessly. This story had me saying, “One day, one day, one day.”

I wake up half an hour before Chicago, when a woman goes into labor. We make an emergency stop in Irving Park, near where I used to work, and where an ambulance is waiting at the station. The whole car listens to the baby cry for twenty minutes before the mother’s stretchered off. The woman across the aisle whispers, “That tiny person stopped a train.”

What I’ve learned about Esopus is so much bigger than this one magazine (journal, collection, whathaveyou). Bottom line, this is what print should be. Let me repeat that for clarity: This is what print should be. In an age of distraction, in a multi-media universe, why isn’t every print medium rocking fold outs and audio discs and curious art? This isn’t just words on page, as powerful as words on page can be, this is a whole world of expression. A multi-sensory experience that is possibly the most honest thing I’ve seen in years. It’s quality and intrigue. It’s culture, not just from one corner of the country, not just brimming metropolis (though yes, it is printed in New York), but from the midwest, and San Francisco, and from some guy who worked at Crate and Barrel and was bored and made a lot of beautiful doodles on sticky notes.

And absolutely the best $24.00 dollars ever spent… ever.

12 thoughts on “Esopus: Journal Extraodinaire”

  1. I think the Katherine J Lee who has the Etsy store is the same one ( Her “about” section mentions a love of fiction. She also seems VERY COOL.

    Much like Esopus. Which I want to buy immediately.

    They just had an event in SF, too. But you missed it! Not to break your heart… 🙁

    1. I knew this! But wedding stuff is sucking up all my time. Projects and emails and blahblah. But soon. Maybe one day in the future i’ll make a surprise visit to the Esopus offices and bring cookies for all. Because that’s how much I love them. I’m willing to share COOKIES.

  2. This looks like something I would want to save for a whole day to myself, to just be with the works and the contributers and the conversation in my own head. My birthday is coming up (I’ve been hinting at a typewriter to the hubs, but I think I’ll change my tune), but our periodicals library is taking over the apartment… Good thing it’s published twice a year!

    1. Get the typewriter and buy this for yourself! It’s SO totally worth it. I cannot wait to pour over my other edition I just touched on, but didn’t have time to prperly review. Weeee!

  3. Wow. What a review.

    Thanks lady!

    And yes, it is the same Katherine J. Lee. And we’re are physically printed in Winnipeg, though our office is in NY, so some love for Canada and the middle of the continent there. 🙂

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