Sunday, July 31, 2005

The ULA Experiment

The ULA campaign is a test to see whether or not a new and different stream of writers can be accepted by the mainstream. Of any of the arts, LITERATURE most of all should be open to new aesthetics, new modes of operation, new ideas.

Instead we face artistic intolerance, as exhibited in recent postings on this blog. We've faced it from the beginning. Skeptics sought to stifle this baby of rebellion in its very crib. And for what? For us lowly people daring to BE writers? For demanding respect? For exposing corruption? For making noise? For promoting ourselves and our activities?

Some want the ship of literature to float placidly along without change, dead in the water, creating no waves. They defend a status quo which has failed the culture and failed this society. The mere existence of a genuine alternative bothers them greatly. But as long as we can keep this alternative alive, literature is filled with possibilities.

We face peaks of criticism at periods when we're most alive-- as we were at the Medusa July 16th. Contrary to the wishes of the skeptics, the event was filled with energy. The house wasn't packed (though in the darkness, with the shouts of the audience, it seemed to be), but it was full, every seat taken. Several people stood toward the back. That many members of Philly's lit/art community were there was evidenced by the fact I recruited two members of the audience to read, when poet Daniel Bolger became sick and left and two other scheduled performers didn't make it. (Miz Olivia, one of the late additions, is prominent on the local spoken word scene. Her presence was token of the friendly respect given us by local writers.)

Was the audience all-friendly? Not at all! There were many attempts at heckling, which came to naught because we enjoy that kind of thing. Some insults were from a self-important character at the bar wearing sunglasses (! symbol of his blindness?), some from local activist Professor Malarkey (with whom I had a cooperative conversation after the reading); others, stray remarks from people I couldn't see. And of course, Crazy Carl heckled everybody.

All-in-all, the evening was a great experience; centered around the humility and wisdom of Jack Saunders; filled with positive energy, so much so that many of the non-ULA readers stopped by the ULA's tables at Zinefest the next day just to hang out and say "hi."

The weekend was the essence of underground cooperation and camaraderie. It kick-started ULA momentum-- was not an end, but a new beginning. As we begin to welcome more new members into our organization, our task is to keep our momentum going; to build upon it, so that we become an unstoppable force of cultural change.

I don't know why the skeptics are critical, when I've seldom been so optimistic about what we're doing and where we're going. Recent events have proved that my criticisms of the Harper's editor were right. Our fan site has never looked brighter. Undergrounders are lined up to join our ranks.

SOLIDARITY-- this is the key point about what the ULA is doing, what we most showcased; participation and immersion in a positive literary vibe. All-for-one one-for-all fellowship and support of our mutual underground campaign. It's a feeling far removed from the isolated attitude of ill-will given us on this blog by demi-puppet writers who take it out on us because they exist on imaginary islands of self-centered self-importance, intolerance, and artistic snobbery. WE PROVED we're open to all writers. Even our constant targets could've attended and read, or heckled us, or mocked us (as a fake Rick Moody did by cassette tape). They would've been embraced-- if only for the evening!-- by our community of writers. The ULA, after all, wants to open doors and tear down barriers-- which is why we ask establishment writers not to hide in barricaded hotels at ultra-expensive black-tie dinners, or surround themselves with security guards while reading from a highly-placed stage, but to mix and mingle with the rest of the literary clan. To not put themselves always ABOVE the rest of us, a pose hierarchical and untrue, the essence of fakery.

Could the skeptics be worried BECAUSE things are going well for us? I suspect this is truly the case.

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