Traffic Report

Eric Sneathen on the new Traffic Report

At the end of her introduction to Bay Poetics (Faux Press 2006), Stephanie Young concedes, “Cake gets eaten.” This sentence conjures up an imaginary scene for me, as if I were in the kitchen after a house reading and someone sidled up to me, cheap red in hand, cupping their hands to my ear to say—I thought you should know: Cake gets eaten—revealing the nature of some great mystery. It’s what Fauna, the green fairy of Sleeping Beauty, confronted when she made a mess of that woodland cottage, crunching eggs into the batter and finally propping up her un-bakeable creation with a broom: the mystery of the cake. In the context of Young's introduction, the cake-mystery stems from the editorial work of shaping her anthology: "... I found myself in a social and shifting landscape, seated, as you are, before a towering layer cake smeared in icing. Where to begin?" (ix). These days, some of us may hope for beginnings, but, certainly, it feels like many more things are ending—the wager of the present: the wager of the cake.

 

I wonder, would it be possible to recreate Bay Poetics today? What and who would be included in it? How could it be (dis)organized? With these questions, I want to acknowledge the many ways the list of contributors of today might be different than it was when Young gathered her contributors' writing a little more than a decade ago. Scores of the original contributors have moved away. We have mourned, not always adequately, those have died. But I am not only interested in the inevitable changes to any list of Bay Area writers (as Stephanie Young stresses, a comprehensive list would be impossible to achieve, even within the ambitious scope of her Bay Poetics). Today, I'm curious whether or not 100+ contemporary Bay Area writers would even consent to have their work bound together into a similar panoramic portrait.

In pursuit of answers to these questions, and inevitably many others, I am excited to be co-editing Small Press Traffic's Traffic Report. I look forward to reading more about how folks are reading and writing regionally, reading and writing for, with, and against each other. Which histories, institutions, practices, and books have catalyzed people’s writing? How do people see their writing engaging—disengaging?—from the Bay Area, which many of us experience as a place of great instability, uncertainty, violence, and possibility?

In her introduction, Young describes her curating process: "I emailed poets with my idea of taking a picture. I started with my friends, and then the writers that were important to my friends. I followed lines of personal relationship because I was curious what formal or tonal connections might emerge between those who share their affection" (ix). If a new Bay Poetics were to be undertaken, would it be the lines of friendship that would be pursued? Does the matrix of affection yield an accurate and/or insightful and/or meaningful portrait of Bay Area writing today? How can we think critically about friendship, the way it is conditioned by precedent and norms, sometimes revolutionary, but oftentimes not? What does this have to do with living (not alone surviving) and writing (let alone writing “literature”) in the Bay Area—not only or always as friends, but together in all the permutations, all the constructions and cakes?